It's in some of the smaller moments that drummer Mike Calabrese knows his band, Lake Street Dive, is starting to leave a bigger impression. While 2013 and 2014 have been stand-out years for the band — with a major appearance during the "Inside Llewyn Davis" all-star concert in 2013; the release of the band's critically well-received album, "Bad Self Portraits," in February 2014; a TV debut on The Colbert Report shortly after; and consistently sold out shows — rather than point to one defining instance, Calabrese says he sees the band's success when rolling into a new town.
"We've played in Florida twice before, once at a jazz festival, and once at a small club that nobody came to, and that was earlier this year," Calabrese says. "We came back and played three shows in three different towns and sold out two of them. Out of nowhere."
Calabrese says he's excited when the band stops in a town they've never been to before and there's a line of people waiting, or a venue's front row is filled with people singing along to every song.
"It's during those moments that you know you're making sort of an impact. Your reputation precedes you," he says.
Lake Street Dive will roll into Rochester on Sunday, November 16, for a show at Water Street Music Hall, 204 North Water Street.
Lake Street Dive — vocalist Rachael Price, guitarist and trumpeter Mike "McDuck" Olson, bassist Bridget Kearney, and Calabrese — formed in 2004 while the members were students at Boston's New England Conservatory. Olson drew in the other members to form a "free country" band, but Lake Street Dive quickly found its footing in nostalgic, harmony-driven soul, with a dash of swinging jazz. The group hit the stage hard and released a handful of full-lengths and EPs, but it would take a few years to gain national attention.
Calabrese says that there were times over the years that everyone in the band questioned if it was worth it. "It's only the things that mean something to you that you think, 'Well, is it?'" he says. "Because there's so much invested emotionally and creatively. You have a lot to gain, which can be scary, and a lot to lose, which is equally scary."
But Lake Street Dive had a lot of chemistry and "mojo in the group," he says; it wasn't like being in other bands where he felt like a sideman and had to make a decision to continue — this was a something he had to see through.
"Lake Street Dive was never that simple. It was more, 'Will Lake Street Dive choose me?' 'Will it choose us?' And we were just being curious about what it would become," Calabrese says. "That's the feeling from the beginning, and that's the reason it's easy for us to maintain composure during success."
In 2012, while promoting its EP, "Fun Machine," the band recorded a video of themselves performing the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" while on a street corner. The video blew up and helped open the door to a much larger audience. Lake Street Dive has since been able to swap the tour van for a bus, and benefit from the momentum.
"We have a staff now," Calabrese says, as if it's still a surprising new concept. "We have someone selling merch for us now. We have a business manager. All of this stuff has helped us with our growth. That in turn helps us put on a better show, and gives us more time to write the tunes we want and opens us up to just keep that creative momentum going."
But Calabrese will admit that success can be a bit of a double-edged sword.
"For the first time ever, each of us are pretty stressed out about this band," he says. "There are a bunch of people on our payroll right now. There are lively hoods at stake."
The band recently watched a video of a performance from two years ago, and though they are now better musicians, there was a carefree attitude to the past performance that present concerns get in the way of, Calabrese says.
Lake Street Dive is working on new material to be recorded in 2015, Calabrese says, and the band is going in with a conscious decision to let the stresses pass through them.
"Part of what we're focusing on now as a band — we'll always be hard workers, trying to perfect the show that we play and write better songs — but at the core of it is what got us here in the first place, and that's what we can focus on," Calabrese says.
Depending on who you ask — or when you ask the question — you'll get a variety of explanations of what the Sound ExChange Project really is: A local contemporary classical ensemble; a chamber group; an artist collective; composers; curators; educators; community-investors.