Side Pony, recorded in the winter of 2015, has an exhilarating feel from start to finish. For listeners familiar with Lake Street Dive, it's a natural evolution of the band's sound. The arrangements offer a knowing nod to the past while the lyrics tackle the pitfalls of modern romance in a manner that's often more playful than rueful. And lead singer Rachael Price's vocals have a teasing swagger to them. Neither her heart nor her hairstyle will be messed with. A side pony, for Lake Street Dive, is really a metaphor for their philosophy and personality as a band, one that seamlessly incorporates R&B, pop, '60s-era rock, and soul into a unique, dance-party-ready mix. As bassist Bridget Kearney puts it, "When we were settling on the album title, that one just stuck out to us as embodying the band's spirit. We've always been this somewhat uncategorizable, weird, outlying genre-less band. That's the statement we wanted to make with this record: be yourself." The members of Lake Street Dive-named after an avenue of seedy bars in guitarist and trumpeter Michael "McDuck" Olson's native Minneapolis-met in 2004 as students at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music. Powerhouse singer Price fronts the quartet while Kearney and drummer Michael Calabrese comprise the rhythm section. Lake Street Dive's major label debut, Side Pony, will be released by Nonesuch Records on February 19th, 2016.
Lake Street Dive have been performing since 2004 after meeting as fellow students at the New England Conservatory in Boston. The band was hand picked by Minneapolis trumpet/guitar player Mike Olson and named after an actual neighborhood of seedy bars in his hometown. Vocalist Rachael Price came from outside Nashville, Tennessee, bassist Bridget Kearney was an Iowa native, while drummer Mike Calabrese called Philadelphia home. "I wasn't only impressed with their musicianship," says Olson, who acquired the nickname "McDuck" while at the conservatory for his reclusive ways. "They were also a lot of fun just to hang out with. The first four years of rehearsals were more like glorified dinner parties."
It took a casually made video featuring the band gathered around a single mic, performing a cover of Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," shot on a Brighton, Massachusetts, street corner to grab the public's attention-its YouTube views now hurtling past a million views. What followed next moved very quickly-T Bone Burnett tapped them to perform on the Another Day, Another Time concert at NYC's Town Hall, featuring music from and inspired by the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, taped for Showtime. The New Yorker raved of their Town Hall performance: "I can't imagine then, that Lake Street Dive-a quartet led by an amazing young singer, Rachael Price-won't be getting some air time soon." Rolling Stone called the band "unexpected showstoppers".
And just like that, Lake Street Dive went from playing for a small devoted following, to selling out venues and planning an initial European tour, with dates on several late-night TV shows in the offing.
While "I Want You Back,"was spreading like wildfire on the Internet, the band had little idea what was happening. They were ensconced at Great North Sound Society, a recording studio located on an 18th century farmhouse in Parsonsfield, Maine, two hours from Boston, with producer/engineer Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter) a location so remote, cell phone reception was spotty and web access non-existent.
And as things are rapidly growing for Lake Street Dive, the nine years that they spent focusing on their musical development has left them with one constant to strive for. "We are named in homage to dive bar bands," says Calabrese, "we were, are and always will be a dive bar band. Whether we're playing for 10 people or 10,000 we want them to have that feeling."