As a band, Lake Street Dive epitomizes democracy in action: the group, expanded into a quintet since touring keyboardist Akie Bermiss officially joined in 2017, share writing and arrangement duties. Their personalities, skills, and wide-ranging taste in pop, rock, R&B, and jazz have long blended together to make an impressively cohesive sound, both sophisticated and playful, combining retro influences with contemporary attitude. For their new album Obviously, the band turned to Mike Elizondo — songwriting collaborator for Dr. Dre and Eminem, producer for Fiona Apple, Mary J. Blige, and more — to help flesh things out and take them in a new direction.
(Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez)
In Three Great Things, we ask musicians and filmmakers to choose something they absolutely love and tell us all about it. Just before the release of their new album Obviously, three members of Lake Street Dive each chose one important thing that’s keeping them sane these days.
I’ve been meditating since about 2012. I did Transcendental Meditation for a while, which is a very specific thing, but for the past two years I’ve been doing mindfulness-based exercise. I’ll do two sessions, maybe 20 minutes each. If I have the time, I’ll do a full hour in one go. But it’s modular, you can pretty much do as much as you want. Everybody’s had it bad this last year to varying degrees. We couldn’t tour or play music, so one of the things I was grateful for is that I’ve been home a lot with my family, and in some cases I had a good amount of time on my hands. I feel like over this year it’s been an opportunity to hone in on the practice and get a lot of benefits out of it.
2. Learning Spanish
I started learning Spanish three months ago. I did an intensive course where I was working one-on-one with a teacher five days a week. I didn’t know any Spanish three months ago, and now I’m at an intermediate level, which is really fun. It’s given me a sense of direction and purpose. With all of the free time that we’ve had, I wake up every morning and spend the first couple of hours studying Spanish — listening to a song, or translating something. I had sort of forgotten about the transformative power of learning something new. There’s so much talk in the cultural conversation about things you can add that can change your life, like meditation, which is so wonderfully at the forefront of conversations. Or getting enough sleep, or not looking at your phone before bed. I had just sort of forgotten that learning something new has the exact same effect, where you feel like you have a new outlook on life.
I feel a little silly that I didn’t start it earlier, because I spent a lot of hours sitting at my kitchen table despairing from boredom, which I feel like there should be a word for. And despair over the state of the world. But now I’m not bored any more — whenever I have a free minute, I learn some Spanish. And it’s a language, so I can be learning for years. I chose Spanish because I’ve been singing in Spanish for a long time, without really understanding the words. And also for practicality; I studied French in school, but could never get it into my brain. I just realized that I was way more likely to practice Spanish with friends, and I have a lot of friends who speak Spanish. I didn’t realize that people have different personalities in their second language. I’ve been talking a lot with my sister, who’s fluent, and she’s not the same person when she speaks Spanish. I’m like, “Who is this zesty, flirtatious person in Spanish?” She’s a little more serious in English.
— Rachael Price
3. Oculus Quest 2
I got an Oculus Quest 2 in January because my dad has one. He’s a professor of computer science at the University of Iowa, and he’s been introducing me to virtual reality since I was a kid. The first time I experienced VR was at the University of Iowa driving simulator. You had to go into this multi-million dollar facility that has an actual car in it with screens around it. And the next phase they got a bike simulator — an actual bike in a room with screens surrounding you, and you wore a suit with sensors on it. There were many barriers to entry. But the Quest 2 is $300, you put it on your face anywhere that you are, and you’re in these incredible virtual environments.
It’s a great way to connect with people in this time when we’re all staying away from each other to keep each other safe. I can play ping-pong with my dad, who’s in Iowa, while I’m here in Brooklyn. I keep telling friends about it and they’re getting them, too. A bunch of us played mini golf together the other night in virtual reality. We were in this little virtual area, hitting balls and chatting and hanging out, and it was a wonderful social experience. I also think it’s a great tool for storytelling which as a songwriter and musician is interesting to me. It’s also a great tool for empathy because you can simulate the experience of being another kind of person. There’s a lot of research being done in psychology and virtual reality, and how it can teach us how to understand each other better. I love it. It’s a pretty decent substitute for hanging out with your friends, for now.
— Bridget Kearney
(Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez)