Interview: Lake Street Dive Discuss the Joyful Rebellion of ‘Good Together,’ Their Spirited & Spontaneous Eighth Album

Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez
Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez
Mike Calabrese and Akie Bermiss of Lake Street Dive join Atwood Magazine to discuss all things ‘Good Together,’ particularly the interesting and innovative writing process behind the band’s eighth album.
Stream: ‘Good Together’ – Lake Street Dive




Songs don’t break down entrenched historical barriers, but they support the idea of starting small. It’s very metaphorical, and I hope it’s what we do as a band.

We all know that frowning uses more muscles than smiling.

Facebook moms are in luck that this fact is scientifically accurate (at least according to my Google search). Apparently, it is physically harder to be upset than to be happy, so this must be true of emotions too, right? Lake Street Dive would disagree.

It is not easy to be happy, especially in this world. We are big blobs of distraction glued to our cell phones, or whatever else your grandpa complains about at the dinner table. Lake Street Dive call the ethos of their latest album Good Together (out June 21 via Fantasy Records) “joyful rebellion.”

Good Together - Lake Street Dive
Good Together – Lake Street Dive

Good Together maintains the upbeat and jazzy temperament that Lake Street Dive fans know and love, for instance the chorus of “Better Not Tell You” and the verses of the title track. However, the record celebrates and incorporates dozens of sounds, influences, and stories, more so than previous works. It was made with the help of an all-knowing twenty-sided die, which dictated musical choices for each song.

In fact, this spontaneity is sprinkled all over the record. “Walking Uphill” is a power ballad full of the band’s signature symphonic, chromatic, bombastic goodness. Vocalist Rachael Price directs the gentle keyboard and drum accompaniments into an intense and explosive bridge where the band whispers “Slay me, play me, say we haven’t got a clue, may be right, but I just keep filling my cup,” making for a standout moment of the record. “Get Around” features a gritty and gravelly groove, the product of an impromptu warm-up lick of keyboardist Akie Bermiss’ creation.

Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez
Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez

Lake Street Dive should not be shrugged off as easy, feel-good music.

In fact, it is an intentional and courageous product of musicians who are not afraid to work together. “Joyful rebellion” is by no means intuitive. A smile is deceptively simple, as Lake Street Dive – comprised of Rachael Price, Bridget Kearney, Mike Calabrese, Akie Bermiss and James Cornelison – demonstrate all too well.

Mike Calabrese and Akie Bermiss of Lake Street Dive recently joined Atwood Magazine to discuss all things Good Together, particularly the interesting and innovative writing process behind the band’s eighth studio album.

“We took a twenty-sided Dungeons & Dragons dice. Each of us rolled for three different categories: Chord progression, tempo, and time signature. Whoever rolled those factors had to be the captain of the song,” Calabrese explains. “The band became the instrument of the captain, people got to bring their personalities to it. The captain would take the song, write words to it, and present it to the group.”

Read more in our interview below!

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:: stream/purchase Good Together here ::
:: connect with Lake Street Dive here ::
Watch: “Dance With a Stranger” – Lake Street Dive



A CONVERSATION WITH LAKE STREET DIVE

Good Together - Lake Street Dive

Atwood Magazine: Congratulations on Good Together! It is a classic Lake Street Dive good times groove fest. But this record was a bit different. There was a new writing process that your lead singer, Rachael, describes as “terrifying”. Would you agree?

Akie Bermiss: It was a vulnerable experience. This was like a face-to face, “So, what do you want to write about? How should we start?” In that way it was a good “terrifying.”

Michael Calabrese: Terrifying but full of possibilities. (laughs)

Can you get into the nitty gritty? How did it work, exactly?

Calabrese: We took a twenty-sided Dungeons and Dragons dice. Each of us rolled for three different categories: Chord progression, tempo, and time signature. Whoever rolled those factors had to be the captain of the song. The band became the instrument of the captain, people got to bring their personalities to it. The captain would take the song, write words to it, and present it to the group.

Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez
Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez

What if there was dissent? Does the captain decide?

Calabrese: Well, you did what the captain said. Akie rolled what became “Good Together.” Bridget rolled “Far Gone.” And Rachael rolled “Walking Uphill.” It was interesting because I don’t really consider myself a songwriter, I just always want to perform.

Why don’t you consider yourself a songwriter? Insecurity?

Calabrese: Yes. But my first songwriting teachers were Bridget, Mike, and now, Akie. Rachael Price is like a goose, she’ll sit on something for years and reveal this golden egg. It’s hard to call yourself a songwriter when you’re in a band with these talented people. (laughs)

It is interesting because you tried a different strategy but it still sounds like a Lake Street Dive record through and through. It’s not a sore thumb, for lack of a better phrase, in your discography.

Calabrese: We are still all into the same stuff. Obviously was the last record we recorded with Mike Olson. We had already had Akie in the band, contributing to the writing. The reason Akie did so well and why I think he agreed to join the band in the first place is we appreciated the same things.

We didn’t have any trumpet on this last record except for Jon Lampley who is part of the Huntertones, who Akie also plays with. We can’t replace McDuck, and nobody could. We get James in the mix now who expands the guitar world that we have. So we thought if we can’t have a person who has their own voice on the horn instrument, why don’t we bring in the Huntertone voice. That was a chemistry that is already a thing and that Akie understands very well. Eventually we will just be a full fledged Earth, Wind, and Fire band.

We need an Earth, Wind, and Fire equivalent in music today. Actually, we really need those outfits.

Bermiss: I was just about to say. I am actually wearing a catsuit under this right now.

I knew it. You’re brimming with confidence.
You guys aren’t a happy go lucky band necessarily, but you do tend to make upbeat music. How do you maintain this optimism?

Calabrese: I don’t know. I think if you don’t feel it, you have to create it. I don’t live in optimism, and I don’t think any of us do. There are two camps: “music changes the world” and “music doesn’t change the world.” I tend to fall into the former. Songs don’t break down entrenched historical barriers, but they support the idea of starting small. It’s very metaphorical, and I hope it’s what we do as a band. I think even the thought of us writing together was an act of optimism. It wasn’t easy, we literally rolled dice to give us ideas.

So it’s not as easy as it sounds; it’s a practice.

Bermiss: Yes. We also wanted this album to have an optimistic field. We talked about the idea of “joyful rebellion.” We wanted to acknowledge that there is a reason to infuse ourselves with joy.

Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez
Lake Street Dive © Shervin Lainez

I love it. Akie, what did it feel like walking into this dynamic years ago?

Bermiss: Oh, I have no issues with self-esteem or self-confidence at all. It wasn’t intimidating at all! No, it was a very intimidating thing. The band was already perfect, so it’s like how do you add to this without destroying this? Add piano but don’t screw up this thing that is already working super well. But there was this immediate simpatico. I felt folded in.

Did the writing process end up a joyous experience? Would you do it again?

Bermiss: Totally. To do it with friends was awesome.

Calabrese: Absolutely. It gave us some totally awesome songs!

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:: stream/purchase Good Together here ::
:: connect with Lake Street Dive here ::



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Good Together - Lake Street Dive

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? © Shervin Lainez

Good Together

an album by Lake Street Dive



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