Beat caught up with Mike “McDuck” Olson to get the skinny on what to expect when they return later this month.
The charismatic guitarist and trumpet player admits that his life now is a far cry from the early days of his career, and the late nights spent playing to drunken punters at the many dive bars in his home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Our band name is a tribute to the street some of those bars were on,” he says. “But really it was the live music scene in Boston where we cut our teeth in the beginning.”
All four members of Lake Street Dive met while attending the New England Conservatory of Music, and McDuck says they knew standing out from all the other bands in the area would be a challenge at first. “Boston is a very complicated scene. There are many established bands that have played the same venues for 30 or 40 years, but there are also lots of temporary bands because there are so many colleges around there, to find success there you have to be committed.”
Despite the fact that Price and Kearney were involved in other projects when they formed in 2004, McDuck says their ability to adapt their style – they can play everything from ‘60s-inspired soul, to classic pop, old-school swing and Southern rock – and their willingness to experiment earned them a fan base. “We got a lot of help and creditability through the bluegrass Americana scene for whatever reason. The Americana music fans took us under their wing. We would play the folk clubs in Cambridge [Massachusetts] but at the same time we would play the Americana bars and garnered these followers through that scene,” he says. “The fans were very loyal. They would attach themselves to our band, buy our t-shirts, and come back every time we played.
“We get a lot of younger bands or musicians ask us ‘How did you make it?’ and I always say it’s something you could never create. We were just at the right place, at the right time, and it continued to grow from there.”
Now more than a decade on, Lake Street Dive have visited hundreds of cities around the world, and played countless festivals and big name venues, and McDuck maintains he wouldn’t change a thing. “We wouldn’t be what we are as a band without experiencing the really bad [gigs],” he says. “They’ve all played a part. I remember playing shows when no one was listening and everyone is too drunk to hear.
“There was this one in particular, a venue called the Toad where the crowd was louder than the PA. The hallmark of knowing that you’d won over the crowd at this bar was if you could make people stop talking or even make people face the stage – anything to distract them from the business of drinking – now that is a major win in the Boston bars.”
No doubt when Lake Street Dive arrive Down Under for the second time they anticipate to win over the crowds at their Victorian shows. “We’ve worked really hard to add a lot more variety in our set.
“We will be playing a lot of our latest album, Side Pony, and we will play some new covers that haven’t even been recorded, and we have added some old favourites from Bad Self Portraits. We can’t wait to playthem for y’all.”
By Natalie Rogers