Ani DiFranco: A Righteous Mom Soldiers On

Ani DiFranco turns 47 a week before her Sept. 30 show at The NorVa.

She has a couple of kids, ages four and 10. They’ve radically changed her work life, though not in the ways you’d expect. She’s working on a memoir, chipping away at telling her past rather than writing anthems for the present. And she’s headed back out on the road after a summer with family at home in New Orleans.

Out there on the road, she still has plenty to say. “Binary,” her new album, is uncompromising (natch), powerful, and catchy. It’s among the best of her career. The song titles make clear what’s been on her mind: “Binary,” “Pacifist’s Lament,” “Deferred Gratification,” “Alrighty.” She wrote it before the election, but it could be a reaction to Nov. 8.

During a wide-ranging interview from her home in New Orleans, still suffering flooding from the summer rains, she talked about politics, of course, as well as her changing perspective on work. As always, words, her words, often spoken in a thoughtful torrent of ideas, form center stage.

Sit back and join the journey.

First up, “Binary,” her latest creation that surprised her with the discovery she could still write a line that made even her pause.

She sat down to write “Play God,” a demand for reproductive civil rights with the idea of doing something different, she says during a long, captivating interview.

“It started out…This is going to sound weird, because nobody could ever imagine what’s in my head, but I was listening to Missy Elliott tracks. And Muddy Waters. I just watched some documentary. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I could write a thudding, bragging song not typical for me, more typical in the hip hop world,” she says. “So that’s where I started. I was on my own at 16. Fuck you all…”

I was done at 16
Using my momma’s key
It was all on me
It was all on me
Weren’t no free rides
Weren’t no IOU’s
I pulled my weight, yeah
I paid my dues
And I showed up to enlist
On the first day of recruits

But then she was in a hotel room writing on tour and those things — the things that have weighed on her and made her a beacon for 25 years — began percolating. “The song mutated as I was writing into a reproductive freedom anthem,” she says. “I sort of leapt from taking care of myself since I was 16 so I’m not a dependent and should not be treated as such. I’m a full contributing member. I deserve all my civil rights. As a woman, my civil rights include reproductive freedom.”

Just leave this one thing to me
‘Cause I’m my brother’s keeper
Every chance I can
I pay my taxes
Like any workin man
And I feel I’ve earned
My right to choose
You don’t get to play God, man, I do

 

 

“I remember when I wrote the line ‘You don’t get to play god. I do.’ I stopped and I had one of those moments that I hadn’t had in years. Oh shit. Can I say this?” she says. “What’s going to happen to me? It kind of pleased me that I was having one of those moments again. I felt like that was a good sign.”

There are good signs throughout “Binary,” her 20th album and the first since 2014’s “Allergic to Water.”

DiFranco’s lyrics and statements get most of the attention, but she’s a songwriter without bounds. As usual on the new disc, she is a sonic shapeshifter, slipping from deep grooves to chamber folk to indie rock. She says it’s hard not to think about how the songs will sound on stage when she’s composing.

“So when I’m writing a poem like “Binary” the second thought in my head is how can I make this danceable so I can pull it out on stage so people will not be like this is five minutes of waiting for the next song,” she says. “Put a little groove behind it and you can get away with sending poems to the world and hopefully nobody will notice.”

Is she influenced by music she hears? What is she listening to these days?

“I guess I would say I’m not listening to a lot of stuff these days, once again the arrow pointing back to the kids,” she says. “I get to listen to whatever she’s listening to – my ten year old. Growing up with two musicians, luckily she knows some shit. Lately she has been absolutely obsessed with the “Hamilton” soundtrack. I have been too, I think it’s an amazing piece of work.”

She writes “from my spleen” and then takes the tunes in to her band. She’s more collaborative these days. “I never approached music with I want to make a track that emulates something I’ve heard. I tend to come from a more primary, primeval place,” she adds, laughing.

Primeval with the deep dive inspired by science. Listen to her talk about the title cut, “Binary.”

“I’m really interested in neuroscience, quantum physics, all the stuff that’s really beyond my ability to understand,” she says. “I take intuitively away from these things what I can and I have been really intrigued lately by approaching feminism from a scientific perspective. I find it really refreshing to talk about patriarchy, for instance, in terms of brain science. We have this masculine side of our nature, each of us. We have a feminine side, each of us. In balance, I think our species realizes its potential. Out of balance, we have eternally what we see around us, these kind of nagging social diseases. “

For DiFranco, having children has changed the balance of her work life, though, of course, not in the ways we often take for granted. For one thing, she’s been home for the summer “the proverbial kids out of school family break shit.”

“I do think my children had a pretty powerful effect, but it’s not really that sort of sort of archetypical perspective change that parents talk about like suddenly I’m worried about the future. That was always on my mind. I’ve been pretty politicized and worried about all of that,” she says.

“My kids had an almost opposite effect of wrenching me away from everything. The worry, the fun, my work. I’m fortunate enough that I live my work. Until I had kids I never had a reason to stop. I was just sort of on my hamster wheel of creating songs and driving around and playing them for people.”

“I think my kids forcing me off of my little treadmill gave me a measure of perspective of what I was doing or not doing,” she adds. “It forced me to infuse my process with a lot of patience and a lot more time. I think that improved and certainly informed my songwriting. I think it also affected my performance. I’m definitely in an era when I’m more grateful to be on stage. “

“There’s nothing like being a parent to make your love your job all over again.”

She says she probably would have eventually awakened. “I think I sort of squeezed my towel very dry on stage for many years and I made much too much of myself available to the public,” she notes. “I needed to step back a lot more than I did and fill the well like you say. I think the records I’m making these days are better in general.”

“I’m able to step back from a three day (recording) session for six months and realize what I did,” she adds. “Those six months never happened before kids for me.”

She’s learned to stop being that teenager who operated on her own, who did everything herself. Tchad Blake, who has worked with The Pretenders and Andrew Bird, produced the new album. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver lends a hand as well. “Now that I have a team of people who can do things better than me, I’ll never go back,” she says.

 

The focus of her work offstage these days is something only she can do. She’s been shaping a memoir. “It’s a little bit of a strange moment for me,” she says.


After the election, she started getting calls for an anthem for the times. It felt odd not to respond, but the book comes first.

“You can only create so much at any given time and also keep children alive and all that,” she says. “So I have not not been writing a lot of songs because I’m trying to make a book. Oddly it’s a book about the past. In the moment there’s a lot going on politically in the present to speak to, but I’m writing about the past. My hope is if i can finish this book somehow it will serve some purpose in this moment.”

What’s the difference between writing songs and writing a book?

“Kind of night and day,” she says. “Songwriting is like an event. You have to sort of position yourself with the sun and the moon and the moment and something comes through if you’re lucky. Writing (a book) so far I’m a novice, but it’s just like whittling. It’s almost like manual labor compared to a song. It’s just a daily chipping away at this slab of stone or hunk of wood and trying to retain the vision long enough to sculpt something.”

Stepping away has caused a reconsideration of her back catalog. She sat down recently to learn an old song, “Willing to Fight,” that seems right for her fall tour. What’s it like going back to those early tunes?

“It’s really, really painful,” she says. “I have so much regret about my recordings. I feel like a lot of decent songs got kind of fucked over in the recording studio by me and my choices…I had my own very tweaked-out destructive emotional self at the helm. So it’s really hard for me to listen back to recordings that sound kind of hysterical or shrill or haphazard. Every mistake that can be made in terms of sonic quality or performance or production, I’ve made them. It’s tough for me to go mining into my own history.”

DiFranco started writing songs when she was 14 and became emancipated at 15. She opened Righteous Babe Records while still a teen.

She seems born with something to say. What tugged and pulled and cajoled her into music instead or prose or poetry or some other form of art?

“From this vantage point I see music as the universal language of the right brain, the intuitive emotional part of our consciousness,” she says. “Words can take you only so far. The music can take you the rest of the way. The music can tell you what the words can’t.”

 

 

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St. Paul and the Broken Bones Go Deeper

stpaul2Jesse Phillips, the bass player and one of the songwriters for St. Paul and the Broken Bones, arrived home in Birmingham, Alabama, from a show in West Virginia about 7 on this morning. A couple of years into the band’s startling run as headliners, he says he still wakes up and has to normalize a life that includes appearing on late-night shows, opening for The Rolling Stones, getting a call asking it Steve Winwood can come to a show, and playing Elton John’s Oscar party.

The band burst into stardom when barely out of its infancy with “Half the City” and the hit single, “Call Me” in 2014 then returned with a more ambitious, funkier and more socially-conscious sophomore disc, “Sea of Noise.”

The new album explores deeper, stepping back to take a look at the environment, race relations, gender identity and other political themes.  Paul Janeway, the band’s lyricist, channels Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. He cites reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption — a memoir about systemic racial inequality in the Alabama legal system — as a pivotal moment while he was working on the album. He explores issues in the songs, but doesn’t offer solutions. “I can’t tell what side I’m on / I can’t tell what’s right or wrong / We ain’t ever gonna sing one song,” Janeway sings.

 The band’s career almost didn’t happen. Phillips and Janeway, the band’s lyricist and captivating front man, had decided to make music a hobby and find adult careers. They got together in the studio for fun and those sessions quickly led to the formation of the band, including a three-piece horn section that included a couple of guys still in college.

The group comes to The NorVa on Sept. 12. Phillips swatted away the morning-after cobwebs to answer a few questions.

You guys struggled and almost quit. Tell me about that.

It was one of those things. Like a lot of people do, I’d been playing in bands since I was 15. I was around 30 by this time. Paul hadn’t been doing this for quite as long as me. But it was getting to the point where we were looking at growing up and devoting our energy to most of things do, which is usually like a career of some sort and not playing in rock and roll bands. Neither one of us was looking at quitting music. We were just sort of turning our attention to another more grown-up things. Paul was in accounting school. I’m not sure what I would have done. I have a lot of family who work in forestry up north. I would have probably done that or gone to grad school and become a librarian.

Around the end of the other band Paul and I were in together, which was called The Secret Dangers, we decided to continue working together on a for-fun basis and go into a studio here in town. We started going in once a week with an engineer playing around. The idea was just to record a few things for fun to sort of have a document of our time together, our musical friendship. That recording project ended up turning into St. Paul which turned into a real functional band which turned into a touring entity which got alarmingly serious quickly and it just seems to keep going.

I read where you met in a record store. 

Not quite. I worked in a musical instrument store here in Birmingham. The way I met Paul was through another guy who worked at the store who was a drummer. He was playing with Paul at the time.

What kind of music were you playing in the early days?

I’ve always been in rock and roll leaning bands. Some were more blues-oriented. Some were more pop oriented. But they were always certifiably rock and roll. This band is probably the furthest away from being a straight up rock and roll band I’ve ever been in. It’s fun because you have so many voices to play with in the band. A three-piece horn section. Hammond organ. All sorts of stuff.

A band out of Alabama ought to have a soulful sound. You ever think about that legacy?

We’re very aware of it. A couple of guys in the band are natives of the Muscle Shoals area. The keyboard player lives next to the Muscle Shoals in the tri-cities area. The guitar player is from Florence. They’re pretty much straight out of that legacy. They’re the next generation of guys working in that world. I came at it as an outsider, but I think because I was an outsider in some way I almost appreciated more what was happening and what had happened there than people who grew up there because they sort of took it for granted.

I’m somebody who moves to Alabama and (finds) there’s this tiny town where you can throw a rock and you can hit a legendary musician who has played on more hits than songs you know how to play. A lot of those guys still hanging out up there and they’re pretty supportive. It’s a neat thing to be graciously incorporated into that although we have a lot of proving to do before we can ever be measured on the same scale as those guys.

How was that early sound different from now?

My standard line is early on we made up for what we lacked in finesse with effort. It was always balls to the wall playing with our pants on fire kind of vibe. The band still retains some of that intensity, but it’s a more well-oiled outfit these days. There’s a little more give and take, push and pull, not everybody has to be making racket all the time.

When we made that first record we had maybe played 12-15 shows. By the time we got to the second one we had played maybe 500 shows. So a pretty substantial difference how it feels to play together.

You are a bass player in that soul tradition.

I came by being an R&B bass player accidentally. All of a sudden, you find yourself in this position and you really start listening. I like guys like David Hood and Duck Dunn from Memphis and Muscle Shoals. They made sure all the notes they played were really good notes put in just the right place. They didn’t really play too many of them. That’s a really good lesson to learn. I’m clearly still not anywhere near any of those guy’s levels, but it’s been really cool to study what they’ve’ done and try to build on that.

Tell me about the songwriting. You and Paul?

It’s more of collaborative all-the-way-around-the-band thing these days.

I think the main concern for us going into the second record was we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to be perceived as a retro soul novelty act. We kind of wanted to spread our wings and fly and explore some different territory and maybe lean on some strengths in the band we didn’t have the opportunity to explore the first time.  By doing so you establish yourself as a different kind of musical entity. After releasing our second album we can go in a lot of different directions on the third, fourth and fifth one. if we had done the first record over again with slightly more resources or fidelity or whatever I think people would have liked it, but then that would sort of been the thing we did for all time, what people expected us to so. The parameters we had to operate under would be more solidly set in stone.

I read one review that called “Sea of Noise” protest soul. I’m not sure about that, but there’s a long tradition of socially-conscious soul.

There’s a real proud tradition of making more socially conscious music, but it’s still fun. It’s still butt-shaking.

Was there a song that for you crystallized where you were going with “Sea of Noise?”

I think my personal favorite is song called “I’ll Be Your Woman.” It started out as sort of a cross between a Bill Withers vibe with a William Bell “I Forgot to Be Your Lover” sort of thing. And then it kind of took on a life of its own once Paul had the lyrics down, bending identity and changing perspectives. I feel like it came together really well. All the elements I was hoping would gel on that record did so on that song. The string arrangement adds to it and it still has this heavy rhythmic thing on the bottom end. The lyrics are excellently done. I have to give Paul props on that one.

 That William Bell record from last year (“This Is Where I Live”) is incredible. 

That guy has not lost a single step. We played the Otis Redding 75th birthday in Macon last year and we got to back him up on a tune. As soon as the guy opens his mouth, it’s a whole different ballgame. He still sounds exactly the same. This low earthy rumble comes out of his mouth. It’s rich and silky. He should be ten times more famous than he is.

 You guys opened for The Stones. You played Elton John’s Oscar party. It’s been a wild ride.

It is a funny thing. I’ll tell you why. As I said. I’m one of older guys in the band. It (success) didn’t happen until I was in my 30s. The process of resolution when you’re a bit older is different.

I definitely have had that that moment in the last couple of years where I’ve woken up and been in bed getting my brain together for the day. Ok, this is what we’re going to do. You have to go through this normalization process. We’re opening for the Stones. We’re going to play Elton John’s Oscar party. Or we’re hanging backstage with John Paul Jones. Steve Winwood’s wife called me to ask if they could see us in Nashville. I was like, of course you can.

You do have to normalize and once you get through, you’re like ‘Holy shit that was crazy’ then allow yourself to bask in the afterglow a bit. It’s been pretty surreal for me. I’d been working music retail and coffee shops for last decade.
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Squeeze Returns Stronger Than Ever

squeeze-2016 Ok, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, the songwriters in the sublime pop/rock band Squeeze, repeatedly were labeled the next Lennon and McCartney during the 1980s.

It was not a publicist’s hype. Their songs were catchy. It seemed like you’d heard them before from the first spin. The melodies wormed into your head and stayed for days and days. The lyrics explored everything from meditations on love to fractured internal monologues. The sophisticated songs shifted from slow burns like “Black Coffee in Bed” to the wacky, pulsing “Pulling Mussels from a Shell” to the Stones-country-era twang of “Labelled with Love.” The Velvet Underground’s John Cale and Elvis Costello produced albums for them.

But they never became superstars. And then it came apart, as it does for so many groups. Difford is sober and has been for years, but in those days he had a rapacious appetite for booze and drugs.

Difford and Tilbrook didn’t speak for nine years. Difford focused on management and writing for others. Tilbrook toured, paying his dues again, solo and with a Squeeze-like group, The Fluffers.

They got together, then broke up. Then tried to write again and failed.

“I thought after that after the last time we split up, I was pretty sure that was it,” Tilbrook says by phone.
It wasn’t. Television — the BBC — brought them together one more time.

When the BBC decided to turn the autobiography of TV reporter, host, and DJ Danny Baker into a comedy series, they approached the duo.

Difford and Tilbrook had not written together since a try at one song in 2004. They gave it one more try and this time, they reconciled. Slowly. “I’d come on as a writer. I respected what Chris had done (since then),” Tilbrook says. “It was important to have that time apart and the experience of learning something new. Still it was hard to get started. It was hard to get properly working in the same room. That took a while.”

Their first song, “Cradle to Grave,” became not only the title to the album first Squeeze album in 17 years, but the title of the series. The producers were thrilled.

So was Tilbrook. “I thought that’s right up there with everything we’ve done,” he says after finishing the tune. “It had a sort of joyfulness to it, a bounce to it, things that are quite important to Squeeze.”

Over about six months, the two wrote about 25 songs, most for the television show, which is based in the 1970s when Barker is going to school as a young boy. The time coincides with the period that when Squeeze was forming after Tilbrook answered an ad that Difford posted on a sweet shop window in southeast London.

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“The BBC series gave us the impetus, A, not only to write, but, B, we created a more nostalgic record than we would have otherwise,” he says. “See, we shared a lot of those experiences. It was fun. Our job was to look back on that time.”
From the bouncy beat of “Cradle” to the keyboard disco opening of “Nirvana” to the soulful story of a wedding in “Open” to the New Wave-y groove of “Honeytrap,” the album sits easily alongside “East Side Story,” “Argybargy,” and “Sweets from a Stranger.”

While the songs were inspired by the script, they also stand as album tracks. In fact, Tilbrook notes that “Open,” about a wedding on the show is really about Difford’s wedding. “I knew what it was when I read it,” he says. “It’s about Chris’s wedding where he and I both disappeared. It’s a very emotionally-charged occasion. To see him settle down with his wife. It was just lovely.”

The two had long promised new material after getting together to play as Squeeze in 2007. “We’ve been back together since then, but the always difficult thing was going to be moving forward,” Tilbrook says. “Up until about four years ago, we were the best Squeeze tribute band playing the songs faithfully.”

He says Brian Wilson does that and does it well. So it wasn’t horrible. “”If you pay attention to detail and also remember it’s got to be fun. It’s not just the thing you do to subsidize your life. It’s got to be with a passion,” he adds. “Otherwise, it doesn’t work.”

But the new record means a future, not just a past for Squeeze. They’ve already recorded one song for a new album and will get together to write a new record next year. “We’re proud of our history,” he says. “We don’t ignore it. But the thing that propels us forward is there’s a current thing (album) that stands up to the rest.”

The set list features a healthy dose of the classics with a few from the new disc thrown in. So far, one of the group’s great almost-lost songs, “Annie Get Your Gun,” has not appeared. It was a casualty of their first breakup. The two had written it and “Action Speaks Faster,” offering the group to choose one. Squeeze chose “Annie,” while “Action” ended up on the Tilbook and Difford duo disc.

When they got to the studio to record “Annie,” the engineer had set up the backing tracks. “I’m very proud of that record,” Tilbrook says. “It was made on a Fairlight (an early computer music synthesizer) and we just sang on top of it (the track),” he says. “So it was a bit like being on The Monkees. Of course, the way it was going, the writing was on the wall.”

They broke up before the Squeeze album with the song was released, then got back together a few years later, lasted for a handful more albums, and then split again in 1999.

Difford and Tilbrook are the only original members in the band, but then Squeeze has always been a revolving-door band. “We’re in such a good place,” he says. “The band is incredible. I think the album reflects that.”

Tilbrook also thinks he brings different things to the band and the writing room. He wrote with Ron Sexsmith, Aimee Mann and others. The split freed him to do more touring solo and with The Fluffers, who are now essentially the rest of Squeeze. “It was really back to basics,” he says. “We were sleeping on people’s couches. I was paying my dues all over again. That’s what I wanted to do. I really wanted to be an accountable musician.”

Now, he’s a musician with accountants. The new album is a hit in the UK. “So to be where we are now — this record has done better than any other Squeeze record — is quite amazing. People are going crazy for us like we’re a new band. It’s a strange and humbling experience, but a really beautiful one.”

Squeeze with The English Beat Monday, Oct. 10 at The NorVa.

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Lake Street Dive Motorboats into Norfolk

LSD The usual pleasantries open the interview with Lake Street Dive’s singer extraordinaire, a mention of a shared acquaintance and a nod to the band’s previous appearances in town, the first before a tiny crowd at Ghent’s Taphouse in 2011.


“Oh, I recall,” Rachael Price says. “That was a very memorable show.”


I push the comment aside, deciding to return to it at the end of the interview.


It’s been a memorable year since Lake Street Dive played Norfolk in the 80/20 Burger Bar last June.


“I’ve been in the band for ten years and it seems like it’s all become reality in the last year or so,” Price says. “It’s been exciting.”


That reality, that hard-won reality after a decade of playing before dozens, means the band, thanks to some sensational Youtube videos and one of the best albums of the year, “Bad Self Portraits,” has played to 30 consecutive sellouts in mid-sized venues.


On July 22, they will headline The NorVa.


They’ve been on Colbert, Letterman, and Ellen. At the Coen brothers “Inside Llewyn Davis” concert in New York, they were the unknowns who wowed the crowd and fellow performers, including Elvis Costello.


It all started with a 2012 tweet from Kevin Bacon gushing “this is amazing. Gives me chills!” Chills watching the band’s sultry, jazzy cover of Michael Jackson’s “I Want You Back” recorded with one microphone on a Boston sidewalk to promote their EP of covers. It quickly became a Youtube sensation with nearly two million views.


“We”ve been making Youtube videos like that one for years,” Price explains, adding that they have been a gateway to the group’s original tunes. “It’s a great tool and always brought us exposure and success, helping people find our music. It’s always been good to us. But never that good.”


They recorded a version of George Michael’s “Faith” in a kitchen. They did “”Dedicated to the One I Love” in a living room. And ABBA’s “Take a Chance” recorded in black and white in the corner of a room.

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The timing for “I Want You Back’s” breakthrough proved perfect. With an album ready for release and three others in circulation, the band had an appealing catalog. “It was good because if that had happened ten years ago, they (viewers) wouldn’t have had all this original music to find. We’ve been a band so long there was a depth of material to discover.”


The Llewyn Davis concert was another instance of right time, right place, right kind of friends. One of their buddies from the Punch Brothers worked with T Bone Burnett, who was assembling the lineup, and played him their music. Next thing they knew they were in a concert with Marcus Mumford, Joan Baez, Gillian Welch and Dvid Rawlings, Justin Timberlake, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Patti Smith. “No one knew who we were,” Price says. “We felt out of our league.”


Soon enough, they knew, and bookers from shows like Letterman started calling.


While their live performances have been memorable for years, the new album, which debuted in Billboard’s Top 20, showcases a more muscular, accessible pop sound. Oh, don’t think that kind of pop. Lake Street Dive brings all the best of pop and jazz to the bar, everything from Ella and Billie to girl groups to the Beatles (all the members are fans) to Motown, swing, and rock and roll. They defy genre labeling. Drummer Mike Calabrese has a good a description as any. “We’re ear-worm-dance music,” he says.


“You Go Down Smooth” with Price’s stunning vocal theatrics — there is no voice in popular music as powerful, soulful, or supple as hers — made a splash at the Llewyn Davis concert. But “Bad Self Protraits” has one stunningly framed tune after another from the mid-temp title track opener through the girl-group harmonies of “Stop Your Crying” on to the sly bass line of “Use Me Up” and the slow burn of “Just Ask.”


Price’s vocals are stunning, but so is the playing by Kearney on bass and piano, Mike “McDuck” Olson on guitar and trumpet, and Calabrese on drums. The songs are witty, fun, and, yes, catchy enough to drive you to dance. Everyone, she says, writes songs separately, then brings them to the band for consideration.


“We wanted it to be a big-sounding album,” Price says. “We wanted to create sounds we could not necessarily do live, but we also wanted to do it with just the four of us. How many different sounds could we create with guitar? What could we do with background vocals? Things like that. “


Price says the bigger sound has her reworking her singing. “The shows have gotten more energetic. The band is rocking out more so I’ve sort of had to reapproach singing,” she says. “It’s really exciting for me. I feel like it’s an evolution that excites me.”


The album was recorded, then in limbo as Price dealt with a delicate contract situation. Price has been a jazz fan since she was five, enjoying Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and the big band sounds of Judy garland and Doris Day. When she met the others as a freshman in Boston, she was already appearing around town as a vocalist.


She’d been signed and released music on a jazz label funded by her father and a partner. And the partner wanted to be bought out of the contract to recoup his investment after she decided to abandon jazz and concentrate solely on Lake Street Dive. So the disc was delayed while that settlement was negotiated.


The waiting was the hardest part. “We were pumped about the album,” Price says. “We all feel like it’s our best recorded project to date. We were super ready to get it out to people.”


In all, they sat on the album for about a year, but Price again says the timing worked in their favor. The disc came out after “I Want You Back” went viral and after the Llewyn Davis concert. “It was a complete blessing because the band’s popularity was in a completely different place after that year,” she adds. “It has done much better than it would have done.”


The band, named after a street in Olson’s hometown of Minneapolis known for its dive bars, is touring in a van these days, but Price expects to upgrade to a bus for the next leg. In the early days, she said, they traveled in her Subaru.
“When we formed ten years ago, everybody wanted to be part of a band, not a band that had one leader, a four-piece classic, democratic rock band, ” she says. “That’s true today. That’s the most consistent thing about the band. Soundwise, we were awkward. We had no conclusion on what style we were playing. If people heard the recording of the first gig we ever played, I don’t think they would even recognize us.”


So what about that first gig in Norfolk at the Taphouse in May of 2011?


There were maybe 20 people in the audience, Price says, and early in the set a woman in front became more and more excited. Before Price knew what was happening, the woman came on stage, planted her face in Price’s chest and motor-boated her. Then she shouted, “Motorboat, y’all” and jumped off the stage.


“It was an infamous night. I don’t think any of us have ever forgotten it. It fit our mood for every time we’ve subsequently returned to Norfolk. We’ve always loved it for that reason. That night was a doozy.”

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