Lake Street Dive And The Chemistry Of Harmony

Jul 7, 2014
Originally published on February 18, 2016 9:03 am

Lake Street Dive is two men and two women, all in the neighborhood of 30, who met at the New England Conservatory of Music. As a group they use jazz instrumentation, more or less — trumpet, stand-up bass, guitar, some drums — but they play pop and soul, and draw a big following doing it. In fact, a video of them performing on a Boston street corner has been viewed more than 2 million times.

"If you put background vocals on anything, people are excited about it," drummer Mike Calabrese says, referring to the lush vocal arrangements that dominate the band's latest album, Bad Self Portraits. "There's something about humans singing in harmony that is just inherently joyful."

The members of Lake Street Dive spoke with NPR's Steve Inskeep throughout Monday's episode of Morning Edition, touching on their early shows (in which the other bands were sometimes the only audience members) and how they found their pop sound after an experiment with free jazz. Hear more of their stories at the audio links.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This next story starts with one of the hits from 1969.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANT YOU BACK")

JACKSON FIVE: (Singing) Oh baby, give me one more chance.

INSKEEP: The song is "I Want You Back" by the Jackson Five. People who weren't even born then know it now. And more than 40 years later, a group called Lake Street Dive transformed it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANT YOU BACK")

LAKE STREET DIVE: (Singing) Oh, oh - baby, give me one more chance. Won't you please let me back in your heart?

INSKEEP: Their video performing this song on a Boston street corner has been viewed more than 2 million times. We are hearing Lake Street Dive throughout today's program.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT ABOUT ME")

LAKE STREET DIVE: (Singing) Well, my oh my - my oh my. Don't you realize?

INSKEEP: We sat with all four members at the sound check before a show in Washington, D.C., and we asked how they write or transform songs. The drummer, Mike Calabrese, says it involves using the human voice.

MIKE CALABRESE: If you put background vocals on anything, people are excited about it.

RACHAEL PRICE: Way more fun.

CALABRESE: Yeah, way more fun. There's something about humans singing in harmony that is just inherently joyful.

LAKE STREET DIVE: (Singing) Before the motion grows, your plan proceeds to say, what about me?

INSKEEP: The lead singer is Rachael Price of Tennessee, who says she grew up singing in harmony.

PRICE: I mean, I have siblings and everybody sang in the family. So I was singing in choirs from a very young age, like, probably being brought to choir rehearsal when I was 2 and 3.

INSKEEP: School choir? - church choir?

PRICE: Both. My dad conducts the high choir, which is our religion. Essentially, we take the Baha'i writings - there are quite a lot of them - and we set them to music.

INSKEEP: An old video shows Rachael Price at age 12, singing at a Baha'i choir.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

PRICE: (Singing) You - because your love is the beacon that lights my way...

INSKEEP: In that video, you hear an early version of the style in which Rachael Price now sings with Lake Street Dive on an album called "Bad Self Portraits."

LAKE STREET DIVE: (Singing) You might think you understand what turns a boy into a man. You've got to search alone and worthy.

INSKEEP: And we're hearing Lake Street Dive throughout today's program.

LAKE STREET DIVE: (Singing) But that'll make a lonely girl that has the top and rules the world - A king who chooses his crown over his queen. Before he gets the notion he doesn't need you - before the motion grows, your plan proceeds to say, what about me? - say, what about me? Look at all the heads I'm turning in the street. Well, my oh my - don't you realize...

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.