The soul-pop sensibilities of Lake Street Dive

Courtesy photo

Lake Street Dive.

By Katie Klingsporn Herald staff writer

When the members of Boston band Lake Street Dive started playing music together 10 years ago, they were students at the New England Conservatory of Music, where their intensive education entailed performances of heady jazz at venues like concert halls and museums.

The band was put together by trumpet player Mike Olson as an outlet for looser, less jazzy music. But it took Lake Street Dive a little while to discover the key to what would become its signature soul-pop sound: abandoning jazz for pop.

“We didn’t really have a direction when we started,” said lead singer Rachel Price. “It wasn’t until after we played together for a few years that we realized that we all have the same taste in music, which wasn’t jazz, it was a lot of ’60s and ’70s pop and Motown . ... Once we realized it, we sort of mentally made a switch.”

Since they uncovered their shared pop passion, Lake Street Dive has doubled down on its distinct style, which mixes Motown hooks, layered vocal harmonies, acoustic stylings and Price’s powerful vocals in a way that is both catchy and unmistakable.

The direction has paid off; in the last year, the band has ridden a cresting wave of popularity that has included shout-outs in Rolling Stone, an appearance on “Late Show with David Letterman” and sold-out shows.

Lake Street Dive will play in Durango on the Smiley Building lawn. The concert, which is being presented by KSUT Public Radio, will open with special guests The Brothers Comatose.

Lake Street Dive, which features Price and trumpeter Olson along with Bridget Kearney on upright bass and Mike Calabrese plays drums, play a strain of pop that is hook-heavy without relinquishing fine musicianship.

Mixing nostalgia into sophisticated harmonies and grooves, Lake Street Dive shimmies a line between the past and the future, and brings the flexibility and spontaneity of its jazz background to the pop realm. But it’s Price’s on-stage charisma and agile vocal stylings that make the band really remarkable.

After forming in 2004, the band independently released its first album, “In This Episode,” in 2006, following that up with “Promises, Promises,” in 2008. The band then hooked up with Signature Sounds for the 2011 release of its self-titled album. Its big break came soon after, when members gathered around a single mic on a street corner in Boston to play a cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” The video of that performance has been viewed more than 2 million times.

The release of its fine LP, “Bad Self Portraits,” in February 2013 helped catapult Lake Street Dive into the big year of media attention it has had: festival slots, appearances on shows, sold-out concerts where fans sing every word back to them. Price said it’s been fantastic.

“At times, it’s overwhelming, but it’s also like, we’ve been a band for 10 years, so to have these confirmations ... it feels good,” she said. “It feels like the right time for it to happen.”

Because all four members of Lake Street Dive write original songs, it creates a lot of diversity in the music. Price thinks that’s part of what is catching on with fans, along with a recent push to add more vocals.

“I think it’s exciting to see a band with sort of four equal contributing members,” she said. “And everybody sings. If you have four people singing in harmony, people respond.”

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