‘Good Together’: Lake Street Dive rolls the (20-sided) dice and ‘Dances With Strangers’

‘Good Together’: Lake Street Dive rolls the (20-sided) dice and ‘Dances With Strangers’

Lake Street Dive is more than “good together,” they are down right joyous.

The musicians are celebrating 20 years as a band; released an album, “Good Together,” on June 21; and just a few days after that shared their new song, “Dance With A Stranger” on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert.”

It’s the first time that the band has led their audience in a dance, but it seems natural for the ever-evolving, genre-bending group that started at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston in 2004.

“More and more over the years, but it’s been very slow, we’ve engaged more with the audience,” says drummer Mike Calabrese. “We’re not one of those bands who really does that naturally, so it’s kind of taken us some years to have a reason to do it.”

Bassist Bridget Kearney got the idea for “Dance With A Stranger” while attending a solo writing retreat in Kingston, N.Y., where she ended up attending a square dance at a VFW hall. She felt inspired by what she saw: a group of people spanning multiple generations and all walks of life dancing together and having a good time. She wanted to bring the same energy to a Lake Street Dive show.

“It’s a perfectly simple instructional song to get people moving. And we’re going to try it out,” Calabrese laughs. At the time of this phone interview, Calabrese isn’t sure how audiences will take to the song. He’s looking forward to sharing it in Northwest Arkansas, though, after hearing how much we love a square dace.

Lake Street Dive’s newest album started off as a game. To get their creative spirits up, the group turned to Dungeons and Dragons for songwriting cues.

“It really came out of a place of group writers’ block,” Calabrese says. Traditionally, he says that the band’s members — which also include Rachael Price, Akie Bermiss and James Cornelison (Mike “McDuck” Olson departed in 2021) — would write songs on their own and then bring them to the band.

In this case, they all sat down together and took turns rolling the 20-sided dice (provided by the group’s trumpet and bass players) as a catalyst for making decisions about the songs — which chords to try, what tempo to play in and even what time signature to try

“Whoever rolled all these numbers would have the band put together the sound of whatever the rolls came up with and was in charge of reordering the chords if need be or changing the feel slightly,” Calabrese explains.

“Then we would get a vamp [repeated rhythm] going and just play on it together for a little bit until it felt good. Then we would record it, and the person who rolled would take the recording, loop it, and try to write something over it individually.”

Calabrese says it wasn’t their primary songwriting method.

“It was more like an exercise, really. … Not every set of rolls was successful, but a couple turned out really well. There are three songs on the album that started off as as dice rolls, including the title track, ‘Good Together,’” he adds.

The playfulness and willingness to dance with strangers falls into the band’s philosophy of “joyful rebellion,” which Calabrese describes as a sort of challenge to choose happiness.

“You get any 3,000 people in a room together and in a couple seconds, you could get them to fight over just about anything, right? Part of the joyful rebellion idea, in a sense, is nothing new for us. It’s just almost like more of a re-commitment and like an intention.”

He credits the band’s sense of joy for helping sustain them over the last two decades.

“You lose your vitality and your sense of purpose and the energy that sustains you through hard times if you lose your joy,” he says. “Outrage burns you out, and despair cuts your cords of compassion.”

Instead, he says, the band wants their listeners to undermine the status quo of fear, despair and outrage.

“We dare you to focus on joyful things.”



Lake Street Dive:

Good Together Tour

WHEN — 7 p.m. July 17; gates open at 6 p.m.

WHERE — The Momentary in Bentonville

COST — $59 with premium and VIP options available

INFO —themomentary.org/calendar/lake-street-dive/

FYI — The tour also includes The Lemon Twigs.

Categories: Music