NEW YORK (AP) — Members of the band Lake Street Dive have never met Kevin Bacon — they have complete separation. But they credit the actor with boosting their career.
Bacon tweeted a link to the band’s video of a slow, sultry version of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” to his followers, and it quickly spread. In three years, the cover has been seen on YouTube more than 3.5 million times.
Bar gigs have given way to a theater tour that Lake Street Dive starts next week to support “Side Pony,” their first disc with the Nonesuch record label, which is released Friday. Led by the breezy, danceable “Call Off Your Dogs,” Lake Street Dive seems poised to make the most of their opportunity.
Bacon remembers a friend pointing out the video, recorded on a Boston street corner, and liked how Lake Street Dive gave a new twist to a familiar song. A musician himself, Bacon knows how difficult it can be for an artist to get attention and is happy about his small role.
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“It’s sweet that they give me props for it,” Bacon said. “But I really don’t think they needed me.”
The timing was perfect for Lake Street Dive, which was becoming more serious about its career.
“All of a sudden there were a lot more people who saw Lake Street Dive as a band,” singer Rachael Price said. “It wouldn’t have worked if they didn’t have the ability to click on a dozen more videos of our own songs.”
Price, bass player Bridget Kearney, guitarist Michael “McDuck” Olson and drummer Michael Calabrese met as students at the Boston Conservatory of Music more than a decade ago. Olson, a composition major, sought people to perform his songs. “When you’re at a music school, you’re just waiting for someone to ask you to play,” Price said. “It’s like a kickball field every day.”
Strangers before answering Olson’s request, the quartet got along and shared similar tastes, although their early jazz-inflected cabaret music would hardly be recognizable to anyone who listens to “Side Pony.” There was no guitar, keyboards or backing vocals, and Olson played trumpet.
Through experience, the sound became catchier, more accessible. Unlike many music school eggheads, they don’t look down on pop music.
“It’s like a bodybuilder opening up a can of soda,” Kearney said. “You don’t want to crush it. You just want to be delicate. But it’s awesome to have all those tools at your disposal.”
Each member of Lake Street Dive writes songs, an embarrassment of riches that could lead to ego-fueled disaster if they aren’t all on the same page.
The band hired Grammy-nominated producer Dave Cobb for “Side Pony,” another sign of renewed determination. A hot commodity for his work with Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell, Cobb pushed Lake Street Dive out of its comfort zone.
The song “Side Pony,” written by Olson, refers to a hairstyle that is just as it sounds — a ponytail on the side of the head. Kearney had never heard of it; now she wears one. The band saw it as a symbol of free thinking.
And it’s fun, a side of the band they don’t want overlooked. Lake Street Dive once made a video cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with Price wearing a fake moustache for her Freddie Mercury impersonation.
“We take music super seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously,” Kearney said.
Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder