Lake Street Dive

Lake Street Dive have pushed the possibilities of pop music as a unifying force, not only through their eclectic sound—a boldly original cross-pollination of soul, folk, jazz, classic pop, and more—the five-piece’s all-embracing ethos has also made them a beloved live band known for building a potent connection among every crowd. In the making of their new album Good Together, vocalist Rachael Price, bassist/background vocalist Bridget Kearney, drummer/background vocalist Mike Calabrese, keyboardist/vocalist Akie Bermiss, and guitarist/background vocalist James Cornelison reinforced the deep sense of purpose behind their output, often turning their attention to the many factors driving us apart today (e.g., unchecked technological growth, culturally imposed isolation, the cult of relentless self-optimization). Born from a mindset they refer to as “joyful rebellion,” Good Together arrives as a body of work both gloriously defiant and primed to inspire unbridled dancing and ecstatic singing-along.

“There’s a lot to be angry about in the world right now, a lot of pain and rage and divisiveness, but it isn’t sustainable to constantly live in that anger—you need something else to keep you going,” says Calabrese. “Joy is a great way to sustain yourself, and we wanted to encourage everyone to stay aware of that. In a way this album is our way of saying, ‘Take your joy very seriously.’”

In keeping with that spirit of communal uplift, Lake Street Dive’s eighth full-length marks the first time they’ve ever worked together in the earliest and most vulnerable stages of songwriting. Back in early 2023, the band’s members met up at Calabrese’s home studio in Vermont and spent nearly a week generating new songs, catalyzing the process with the help of a 20-sided die (a holdover from the many Zoom-based Dungeons & Dragons matches held by Bermiss and Kearney during lockdown). “The captain of a particular song would roll the die, and the result would decide the chords, the meter, and the tempo for that song,” Kearney explains. “We’d take those elements and jam for a while, go our separate ways and come up with lyrics and melodies, then come back together and workshop everything. It ended up taking us to new places we never would’ve gotten to otherwise, in terms of things like harmony and tempo and groove.” Along with expanding their musical palette and expressive range, that highly collaborative approach helped the band reach a new level of intimacy. “In the past we’d written pieces of songs and shared them with each other and built them up from there, but we always had the space to listen and reflect in total privacy,” says Price. “At first it was terrifying to write together in the same room, but as soon as we got started it felt so fun. We very quickly realized, ‘Oh, we need to do this again and again.’”

The follow-up to Obviously—a 2021 LP acclaimed by the likes of Rolling Stone, who noted that “[a]t a moment when pop strives for lo-fi, solitary-world intimacy, the jazz-pop-whatever band refuse to think small”—Good Together finds Lake Street Dive working again with Grammy-winning producer Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, Gary Clark Jr.) and recording at his Phantom Studios in Tennessee. With its sonic landscape encompassing everything from R&B to funk to Brazilian pop, the album opens on the radiant synth of its title track: an exultant duet between Bermiss and Price that arose from a happy accident. “‘Good Together’ came from a dice roll where I was captain, but when I went to go work on the production I cut it up wrong and ended up with a very weird time signature,” Bermiss recalls. “It somehow worked anyway, and Bridget came up with the narrative of two people from dubious backgrounds and trying to start over together.” One of several tracks featuring the horn section from Brooklyn-based jazz band Huntertones, the result is a left-of-center love song celebrating the thrill of defying expectation and following your heart’s desire.

Next, on “Dance with a Stranger,” Lake Street Dive once again prove their undeniable gift for crafting feel-good songs with an illuminating message. “I went on a solo writing retreat in Kingston, New York, and ended up attending a square dance at a VFW hall,” says Kearney in discussing the song’s origins. “It was a group of people from all generations and all walks of life, all there dancing together, which made me think, ‘What if we could write a song that helped to create that kind of connection at our shows?’” Lit up in lush grooves, glistening textures, and exuberant gang vocals calling out instruction (“Left, right, front, side/Find somebody new and then/Take them by the hand and/Say you understand”), “Dance with a Stranger” ultimately achieves the singular feat of inducing a carefree euphoria while gently fostering empathy.

Although much of Good Together emerged from Lake Street Dive’s incisive observation of the outside world, many songs mine inspiration from the intricacies of their own lives. To that end, “Walking Uphill” took shape as Price thumbed through her journal from seven years earlier, then transformed a series of underlined passages into a gripping meditation on the work of self-repair. “It’s about the idea of toil turning into something beautiful, so we wanted it to sound intense and gritty but with some catharsis at the end,” notes Price, whose vocals shift into exquisitely raw abandon in the track’s final moments. Originated by Calabrese, the luminous and summery “Seats at the Bar” puts a sweetly playful twist on the classic love song, unfolding in tropicália-esque rhythms and the breezy but elegant percussion of guest musician Abe Rounds (Andrew Bird, Blake Mills, Emily King). “When my wife and I first met she was in the wine industry, and sometimes I’d visit restaurants with her and we’d end up staying for dinner and sitting at the bar,” says Calabrese. “It was fun to write a love song about bucking trends in our own little way—sort of like, ‘Enjoy your fancy table with your fancy tablecloth; we’ll be over here eating french fries and having a good time together.’” And on “Twenty-Five,” Price delivers a stark and lovely ballad steeped in tender reminiscence of a long-ago romance, her voice accompanied only by Bermiss’ gorgeously understated performance on piano. “It’s about a great love that was never meant to last, but you still end up carrying it with you for the rest of your life,” says Kearney. “I thought that was a beautiful sentiment, but it also ties into the theme of the album and the whole question of, ‘How can we as a species continue to love one another, in spite of all the challenges we face?’”

All throughout Good Together, Lake Street Dive reveal the immense expanse of their musicality and expressive imagination. On “Better Not Tell You,” for instance, the band presents a ’70s-funk-inspired dance track Bermiss originally penned from the perspective of the three witches in Macbeth, while “Far Gone” serves up a bouncy piece of psych-rock exploring what Price sums up as “this existential crisis where we’re all realizing we’re addicted to technology before we even got a chance to take a step back from it.” Closing out the album with the dreamlike grandeur of “Set Sail (Prometheus & Eros)”—a Bermiss-Price duet featuring a spellbinding string arrangement from Rob Moose (The National, St. Vincent, Bon Iver)—Lake Street Dive also endlessly tap into the palpable camaraderie that’s fueled the band since they formed in Boston back in 2004.

Lake Street Dive continue to fully embody the effusive sense of togetherness and mutual care embraced throughout Good Together. “At this point our tastes in music differ more than they ever have, but we’re still able to bring all those influences together with a real love and respect for the diversity within the band,” says Price. “I think the main thing that’s kept us going over the years is that very strong foundation of friendship—everyone has a voice, everyone gets heard, and we’re all really careful about looking out for each other’s happiness.”