There are some bands that just a few beats into the first song you know you are in love. Lake Street Dive is one of those bands. Last year, there was a promotional concert held for the film Inside Llewyn Davis; that concert featured magnificent performances by T. Bone Burnett, Justin Timberlake, Mumford & Sons, Punch Brothers, Chris Thile, and others. But one band, Lake Street Dive, stood above the rest and made jaws drop to the floor, wowing all the attendees and musicians in the room, as well as Stephen Colbert himself and the people of The Late Show with David Letterman. Since that concert Lake Street Dive have been well on their way to being the next breakout band.
After just releasing their new album, Bad Self Portraits, we caught up with Mike 'McDuck' Olson from Lake Street Dive to talk shop.
Give us some background on Lake Street Dive...
Most of the old stories are online in a million different variations and retellings, but in short, we are four great friends that have been on the road for ten years, playing shows and making records, toiling in obscurity, until just very recently. It's been a crazy decade, but it's paid off!
What can one expect at a live show?
Our shows are pretty straightforward. We don't do a lot of flashy stuff, there's no pyrotechnics, no laser lights, just the four of us playing as best as we can. We let the songs and the performances (especially Rachael's voice!) be the flashy parts. Most LSD shows have a smattering of covers but mostly our original music, and a hand full of silly stories!
What has been your biggest accomplishment as a band thus far?
We've done a few big things recently, like playing the Colbert Report, the Letterman show, Carnegie Hall, the Inside Llewyn Davis show at Town Hall with T Bone Burnett, but the thing that excites us most is rolling up to a new club in a new city and having people show up for the show. We've spent the last ten years with live shows as our bread and butter, never even dreaming about TV appearances or anything like that, so playing to packed clubs still live in our minds as the bar by which we measure our success.
I've heard all four of your take part in the writing process. Can you give us some insight how you make that work?
Generally speaking, we write the skeleton of the songs individually, mainly the words, the chords, the basic form, etc, then bring it to the rest of the band, which is where the magic happens. We arrange together, meaning we come up with background vocals together, we each tweak the parts of our individual instruments, and often suggest ideas for changes in lyrics or the form as the song evolves. Everyone in the band has such a strong personal style and voice on their instruments, that the songs truly take on a life of their own once the band starts working on it together.
Any advice for local bands in Cincinnati trying to make their mark?
When possible, play regularly. We had a weekly gig at a tiny bar for a while back in Boston, and we were really able to hone our craft playing live every seven days, and were able to create a buzz, and started seeing the same people coming out to our shows. It forced us to play better and write more so people weren't seeing the same songs time after time, and attracted the attention of other venues; gigs beget gigs. It doesn't matter how crappy the venue is, if they give you a regular gig, just do it. You play better, you feel better about your shows, and hopefully, people will start showing up.
Lake Street Dive
20th Century Theatre
Tuesday March 4th