We caught up with Lake Street Dive member Mike “McDuck” Olson ahead of their show at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival to discuss their new direction and working together.
Lake Street Dive pride themselves on amazing live shows built around strong musical backgrounds, and have been playing together for 14 years. For their new album Free Yourself Up however, Lake Street Dive both welcomed a new member and decided to self-produce in studio. The result is an album closer to their live shows than ever before, while bringing a deeper collaborative spirit.
You named your new album Free Yourself Up after the fact that it was your first time self-producing, what led you to do that, what did it offer you and what unexpected challenges did you face trying to do it?
Olson (trumpet, guitar, vocals): We had a long list of potential producers and we were planning on hiring someone to help us make the record. We even tried out a few in the early stages of the record. Then we went down to the studio to practice and make some demo recordings for the album. Over the course of that demo process, we had such an amazing time that we were saying we should self-produce our record.
The unexpected benefits it had, was that we ended up producing each other. We were all heavily involved in helping Rachel with performances and helping one another, rather than having an outside voice dictate the entire band. It just ended up meaning that we were on all the time – compared to the previous album, where I brought a book to the studio and took breaks.
You increased collaboration on the writing side more than before, what prompted this change and how did it affect how the music turned out?
O: Writing collaboratively allowed songs I wrote to take on new life beyond the crutches I’m aware I rely on. The musical side is way easier for me than lyrics, so I always have this musical fallback that I hate, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We’d identify those weaknesses and go to someone else in the band who was strong there, that allowed songs to go in totally new directions. Having a political side to the songs is also a reflection of that. In receiving a song from someone else in the band, we’d be inspired to go in different directions.
Akie Bermiss has become an essential part of the band recently, how did he come to join and what difference does he offer to the band?
O: We’ve always loved having keyboard instruments in our records, but it was always something that we’ve played ourselves. It’s so integral to the sounds we love, so last year we kicked around the idea of bringing a keyboard player on the road to fill out the sound. Akie is a friend from New York, and when he came out with us it was like meeting your truelove. It was so complimentary that it took pressure off of us and the rapport was so good we brought him on more tours and eventually in the studio for the new record.
He was contributing ideas and played parts that were indispensable to the songs. After all that we had this talk and decided “The four of us have been the core since the beginning, but our craft is being elevated by this fifth person. We’d be letting them down not to acknowledge that.”
Given how explosive your live shows are, how did you also want to capture this on the record?
O: The live show has always been our bread and butter, and it’s how we connect best with our fans. It’s what keeps us going on a spiritual level. The only change has been the emphasis we put onto our studio records.
Back in the day we just wanted to capture what we did live as best we could, and our first few attempts fell flat on that. It was disappointing to us to not have records that reflected our live shows, but now we embrace the studio as a completely different side of music making.
We embraced the differences on this new record more than ever before, without sacrificing what makes the live shows so good. A live show is two hours but a record is a legacy, so we want to make something that people will appreciate for years to come.
– Visit www.lakestreetdive.com for releases, videos, more info and tour dates