Monday, 28 July 2014 11:40

Lake Street Dive Captures the Soul of Jazz

Written by  Carly Plank
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Lake Street Drive Lake Street Drive COURTESY PHOTO

Lake Street Dive
Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids
Aug. 28, 7 p.m.
$27 public/$25 members
meijergardens.org, (616) 957-1580

Four jazz students with a shared love of ‘60s pop united in 2004, making a name for themselves playing dive bars in Boston and Cambridge. Ten years later, the members of Lake Street Dive are National Public Radio darlings and late-night television veterans who released their third studio album, Bad Self Portraits, earlier this year.

The road from jazz to a unique blend of radio-friendly, soul-based pop came naturally as the band gained experience on the road. While attending the New England Conservatory of Music, the four members realized they grew up loving the same music.

“In the days before we could just plug our phones into the car stereo, we used to burn CDs," said Bassist Bridget Kearney. "We would pass around the computer and we would each add three or four songs to a playlist. When we played the CD, we found that there were different versions of the same songs.”

Another turning point for the band occurred when Kearney won the 2006 John Lennon songwriting contest, scoring funds for CD production and studio time.

“That was an early boost of confidence that was really necessary to get us over the hump,” Kearney said. “We felt like we were just another college band at the time—we played when we could.”

Although Kearney’s song gave the band an opportunity to record, all four members are songwriters. In the studio, the band builds around basic chord and lyrical structures until a song is completed. And because the band consists of only standup bass, trumpet, drums and vocals, creative arrangements add depth to an already sturdy, old-school sound.

“We use a lot of background vocals to fill in the parts that would be taken by a keyboard or another guitar in a different band,” Kearney said.

The group seamlessly transitioned into the realm of pop music, paying homage to The Jackson 5 and Hall and Oates, among other influences, on the 2012 EP Fun Machine. But after nearly 10 years, Lake Street Dive is still a band on the rise.

“It’s easy to be excited about numbers on a screen, but it was exciting to see those numbers translate into tangible changes in attendance at our shows,” Kearney said.

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