When it comes to deciphering the meaning behind “Free Yourself Up,” the title of Lake Street Dive’s sixth studio album, there’s no shortage of possibilities.
Was it a request to the audience, many who have preferences about what they like to hear from the rock-pop-soul band? Perhaps it was a command to themselves to have a freer mindset in the recording booth, as the album features rock guitar and synthesizer riffs, a departure from past influences.
Whatever the thought process, it was a winning game plan, as the record is the group’s first Top 10 charting album in their 14-year history. It debuted at No. 4 on the Top Album chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, thanks to catchy single “Good Kisser” getting radio play and performances on “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Conan.”
It’s unusual to achieve that kind of a milestone deep into a career. But perhaps it’s best to dismiss such expectations. Lake Street Dive has cultivated a fanbase large enough to fill amphitheaters with a sound that feels more at home in the ‘70s.
So it’s natural for Lake Street Dive to roll into downtown Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheater June 7 on a co-headlining bill with Americana trio, The Wood Brothers. Raleigh is the second stop on the Free Yourself Up tour.
The two musical outfits couldn’t be further apart in sound, but for Dive’s bassist Bridget Kearney, it just follows the band’s history of mixing oil and water to create magic.
“Our style has always been somewhat difficult to define, so we’ve been dealing with the question of how to present ourselves over the last 15 years, since we’ve been a band,” Kearney tells The News & Observer in a phone interview, a few days before the kickoff of the current tour.
“How do we present ourselves, and how will we be received? I think we are trying to do something that is beyond the walls of any one genre, so really, I guess we would hope that the music would translate to whatever setting we’re playing in.
“You just try to put on a great show,” she said. “That’s the best you can do, whether you’re in front of an audience made up of all people who love Lake Street Dive, or whether you’re playing at a bluegrass festival.”
We spoke to Kearney about the band’s upcoming dates in front of Americana fans, as well as discovering a different groove.
Q: Has the band picked up on a different energy coming from your live audience, when the new music is played?
A: We have noticed one of the indicators on how well the show is going, or how well the music is coming across, is how much people are singing along with the lyrics [of the new songs]. That’s been something that I’ve really been noticing on the tour, is that people seem to really know the songs. People sing entire songs with us, which is really fun, and creates a fun communal environment out of the show.
Q: “Free Yourself Up” has such a different feel from some of your earlier work, as it it really does feel a little more groove-centric. Was there a noticeable feeling in the recording studio that the band just wanted to try something a little bit different than what had come before?
A: An album is always going to be representative of the time that it was made. Each of us will start listening to new things, and that will become part of what we’re interested in doing with our own music, so that kind of [change] happens from album to album. That’s how the band evolves, and incorporates new sounds on each album.
For a long time, we liked seeing ourselves as a band that was trying to be super funky and super danceable. On this record, we took a step towards getting a little bit better at that. It’s something we’ve been trying to do for a long time, and we’re finally figuring it out.
Q: The band has been pretty consistent in releasing a new album roughly every two years. How how hard is it to juggle finding time to write new music with the time needed to prepare for a performance almost nightly?
A: It’s actually not as difficult to write on the road these days. We have more space backstage, now that we’re playing bigger venues. I bring my travel guitar with me, as a writing tool, and bring a little mobile recording rig. I can be working on demos, and just getting ideas out, and then — when I come home from a tour — I can take all these fragments of ideas that I might have been able to come up with on the road and make them into a real song.
It’s also a thing of just going through phases. I think I have phases where I’m in a really creative mode, and it’s easy for me to sit down and generate ideas, and then sometimes it will go months and months where I don’t really have any good ideas. I just keep trying, and eventually they’ll come out, hopefully.
Who: Lake Street Dive with The Wood Brothers
When: 7:30 p.m., June 7
Where: Red Hat Amphitheater, 500 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh
Cost: $27.50 to $65
Info: RedHatAmphitheater.com or 919-996-8500