Lake Street Dive returns to Belly Up
If You Go …
What: Lake Street Dive
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, July 11, 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $35 and up
Tickets: Belly Up box office; http://www.bellyupaspen.com
Viral online videos, every so often, give us something more enduring than a cute cat in a costume. Exhibit A: YouTube fame helped the world discover the impeccable four-piece soul-pop band Lake Street Dive.
The Brooklyn-based outfit, three years ago, uploaded a clip of itself playing a slowed-down cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” driven by Rachel Price’s vocals and tinged with group harmonies, trumpet and stand-up bass. Recorded on a street in Brighton, Massachusetts, the clip went viral — clocking more than 3.1 million views to date — and helped the talented quartet break through to the masses.
“After that we saw a lot more people at our shows, more people interested in hearing about the band,” Price said last summer during the band’s debut tour stop in Aspen. “That was the gateway to people discovering our music.”
Lake Street Dive has toured pretty much nonstop since then, and returns to Belly Up on Saturday. The local club show comes the day after a sold-out Red Rocks Ampitheatre performance with the Avett Brothers, and a few weeks after a well-received set at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
The band — named for the dive bars on Lake Street in Minneapolis that they envisioned playing — is riding a continuing wave of breakout buzz and critical acclaim for their 2014 album, “Bad Self Portraits.” Lake Street Dive’s four members all met a decade ago as students at the New England Conservatory of Music, where trumpet and guitar player Mike Olson — the Minneapolitan among them — put the band together. The record (the band’s third) showcases a danceable style that incorporates elements of alt-country, gospel and rock, led by Price’s soaring jazz vocals on pop-soul standouts such as the title track and “You Go Down Smooth.”
“When we released the album, it was a whole new game for us,” Price said.
Last year, the band completely sold out a spring tour that brought them to high-profile TV gigs including “Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Colbert Report.” Because they’d already been a band for 10 years, and all quit their day jobs several years ago to focus on Lake Street Dive, when they broke out nationally last year, the band’s members have been able to take the new attention — and pressure — in stride.
“We felt like it was time for this to happen,” Price said. “It was confirmation that it was going to keep working, so it’s been reassuring, at times overwhelming, but overall its been a positive time for us. … After (last year’s tour), we were like, ‘OK, we have something now. We need to keep building on it.’”
The band’s members all write songs separately, then work on arrangements for them as a whole. Performing live, they tend to improvise within the songs.
A lot of the media attention around Lake Street Dive has characterized its music as jazz that’s palatable to pop music fans. Its members all did study jazz at the New England Conservatory, but Price scoffs at the idea that they’re jazz just because they have a stand-up bass on stage.
“When people say that, we think it’s funny,” Price said. “We don’t feel like we play jazz music whatsoever, but we understand based on our instrumentation and the way we play together that people get that from what we do.”
In jazz, she said, “you change things up night to night and you mess with things and keep parts as spontaneous as possible. So even though we made a switch to hookier, poppier songs, we still have free sections of improvisation. We do maintain an aesthetic that comes from the jazz tradition.”
On the current tour, Price said, they’re playing the “Bad Self Portraits” material along with some new songs they’ve been working on and, usually, some rearranged cover songs. Recent shows have included their sometimes sincere, sometimes tongue-in-cheek on covers as varied as Van Halen’s “Jump” and Annie Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass.”
“We still play a handful of covers, and we’re trying to add more, slowly but surely,” she said. “It’ll always be part of what we do. It’s a good exercise to cover a song — you learn about what makes a song good.”
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The Virtual Aspen Music Festival’s Sunday concerts have been going from strength to strength in a year without audiences in the seats.