In Full Swing

music lakestreetLake Street Dive has blown up since last year’s Santa Cruz show

As lead singer Rachel Price opens her lips for one of Lake Street Dive’s breakup or love songs, she croons tales of love, heartbreak, and disappointment.

“I get your messages, I read them all aloud,” she sings in the opening lines of “Stop Your Crying.” “My friends just roll their eyes, shake their heads, make a frown.”

It’s a song about hopelessly thwarting the advances of a loser ex-boyfriend she’s bound to fall for all over again. She reels the listeners in close, letting them hang tighter and tighter on each word about a women’s relationship gone wrong.

But there’s a catch.

The song, like many of the band’s, is actually by written one of the swing/jazz group’s two male members—drummer Mike Calabrese, in this case.

“Some of that stuff is taken directly from what Rachel or Bridget [Kearney] has said to me, just a way of talking about the way they thought about a boy or a relationship that I had never thought of before,” Calabrese says of his songwriting approach.

Lake Street Dive’s writing is shared almost equally between upright bassist Kearney, Calabrese, and guitarist/trumpeter Mike “McDuck” Olson on its latest, Bad Self Portraits.

There’s a lot to like about the band, whose popularity has exploded since they performed at the Crepe Place less than a year ago. (They return to Santa Cruz with a show at the Catalyst Oct. 6.) All four members are accomplished jazz musicians—having met at the New England Conservatory of Music a decade ago. Their harmonies blend beautifully.

But high on the list of what to love about this band is the sometimes-sensuous, sometimes-sensitive songwriting from gentlemen musicians Olson and Calabrese—writing that matches with Price’s persona as the band’s front-woman.

Calabrese admits to GT that Kearny and Price get him to open up emotionally more than his guy friends do, and that helps when writing new tunes.

“When girls are around—it’s a stereotypical gender thing, which I hate to agree with, but you don’t feel as vulnerable to tell a girl how you’re feeling,” Calabrese says. “And then when they share back, you just learn a lot about what it is to be another gender. My head’s in that space a little more, a little more from the other side.”

Onstage in San Francisco, Price praised Calabrese’s ability to listen to women’s stories and synthesize them into beautiful tunes, but the praise goes both ways.

Calabrese says that Price blows him away with her ability to make songs from various writers feel and sound like her own each night.

“When people say they love Rachel, they love the sound of her voice, they love the passion. But one of the more subliminal things is that she’s singing words from all these different perspectives, all these different songwriters, and is actually able to convey them in a convincing way,” Calabrese says. “Rachel finds a little bit of herself in every song that she sings, and is able to emote that, which is one of the most impressive things about what she does.”

All the hard work is paying off in 2014. When Lake Street Dive played its sold-out Crepe Place show last October, it was obvious the quartet was going places. Kevin Bacon had just tweeted a video of them playing Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back”—their biggest accolade at that point.
Then in December, they shared a bill with Jack White, the Avett Brothers, and Joan Baez for a Showtime concert celebrating the music of Llewyn Davis, booked by T-Bone Burnett.

Next came a call from The Colbert Report, which Lake Street Dive performed in February. And the television tour continued with The Late Show, Conan, and the CBS morning show.

The one big splurge the band has taken recently is a new touring van. Instead of cramming into a small white van as they drive around the country, they’ve been able to sleep on the way to their shows, but they haven’t had a second yet to dwell on their successes.

“We’ve been busy enough lately where we just don’t have time to think about it usually,” he says. “We can just focus on each day as it comes, play our asses off at every show.”

Lake Street Dive will perform at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 6 at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz. $20/adv, $25/door. For more information call 423-1336. PHOTO: Lake Street Dive’s new album has gotten rave reviews, and Rolling Stone called the band one
of “Artists You Need to Know” in January. 

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