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Lake Street Dive's unexpected approach to 'Good Together'

Lake Street Dive's eighth studio album, Good Together.
Lake Street Dive's eighth studio album, Good Together.

On July 14, Lake Street Dive will perform at the Andrew J Brady Music Center in Cincinnati. Before the show, WYSO Music Director Juliet Fromholt spoke with Akie Bermiss, the band’s keyboard player, about the concert and the band’s unique approach to writing their latest album, Good Together, which was released in June.

Lake Street Dive was originally formed in 2004 by students at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Bermiss, who joined the band in 2017, told Juliet that the group set out to write Good Together, their eighth studio album, around the theme of “joyful rebellion.”

“We knew we wanted it to be something that inspired joyfulness. The state of the world is a fairly complicated and sometimes frightening one, and writing a record saying we have to find ways to be happy and enjoy each other's company is a kind of rebellion; Bridget [Kearney] came up with the name.”

In line with this spirit of joyful optimism, the band employed an unconventional method to spark creativity, using a 20-sided die, or d20, to randomly select attributes for songs. “We needed to shake up our normal routine, so we used a d20 to roll out chords, time signatures and tempos, and each band member would get a set of these things,” Bermiss said. “We would jam on it for a bit, then you had to go away for 30 minutes and write to whatever the random number generator created, and then go back and share it with the band.”

The d20 exercise proved fruitful, with three songs created during the process making it onto the final album. One of these was the title track, “Good Together,” which Bermiss describes as an “infectious earworm” written in an atypical 7/4 time signature – a direct result of the d20 roll.

While the d20 exercise yielded several tracks, Bermiss also found inspiration for the album in literary sources. "Better Not Tell You," for instance, initially drew from Shakespeare's Macbeth – specifically the scene in which three witches offer Macbeth a foreboding prophecy. “I thought it would be cool to have a song about the witches from Macbeth singing to Macbeth, like, ‘you’re going to be king, but then you’re not going to be king, and all these things are going to happen to you,’” he said. “That was the original idea, but when we were working on the record, I thought this is a little too obscure, and I’m not sure if it fits in with our ‘joyful rebellion’ idea.”

Bermiss ultimately transformed “Better Not Tell You” into a song about a “good secret” — the excitement of having romantic feelings for someone but not yet expressing them out loud. He said the song’s transformation exemplifies the iterative process that defines his approach to songwriting. “You start, you write a song, it’s pretty good. Then you tinker and you edit, you tinker and you edit, and you chisel away at it until it’s something. And sometimes it’s not at all what you intended; sometimes it’s about two lovers and not three witches.”

Lake Street Dive’s Good Together is out now on Bandcamp and on all major streaming platforms. Tickets to their Sunday, July 14 show at the Andrew J Brady Music Center are available via Ticketmaster. Doors open at 6:30 PM. For more information about the band, including upcoming tour dates, visit lakestreetdive.com.

Text by Peter Day based on an interview by Juliet Fromholt originally aired on July 2, 2024.

Juliet Fromholt is proud to be music director at 91.3FM WYSO. Juliet began volunteering at WYSO while working at WWSU, the student station at her alma mater, Wright State University. After joining WYSO's staff in 2009, Juliet developed WYSO’s digital and social media strategy until moving into the music director role in 2021. An avid music fan and former record store employee, Juliet continues to host her two music shows, Alpha Rhythms and Kaleidoscope, which features studio performances from local musicians every week. She also co-hosts Attack of the Final Girls, a horror film review podcast.
Peter Day writes and produces stories for WYSO’s music department. His works include a feature about Dayton's premiere Silent Disco and a profile of British rapper Little Simz. He also assists with station operations and serves as fill-in host for Behind the Groove. Peter began interning at WYSO in 2019 and, in his spare time while earning his anthropology degree, he served as program director for Yale University’s student radio station, WYBC.