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Akie Bermiss (front right) and Lake Street Dive.

On May 27  Lake Street Dive returns to Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards to help kick off their summer concert series. Lake Street Dive is a multi-genre band that formed in 2004 at the New England conservatory of Music in Boston. The band’s keyboardist Akie Bermiss spoke to the Ithaca Times about joining Lake Street Dive, COVID and the emerging winery and orchard circuit. 

Ithaca Times: The band formed in 2004, and you joined in 2017.

Akie Bermiss: Yes, that’s correct.

IT: So how do you come to that?

AB: That’s a great question. I’m in New York, born and raised here, and I started playing music when I got back from school, and I heard about them through other friends. We have a lot of musical friends in common, even though they were at the time commuting from Boston to play gigs here. There’s a little club in Manhattan that put on this little event in, I think, 2015 or something. It was two nights in a row, and I was opening for Lake Street Dive. That was when I met them, and also when they first heard me play and sing. Then two years later, they were thinking about adding keys, and they gave me a call.

IT: So you had some sense of what they were about musically.

AB: Totally, yeah. I was a little trepidatious about adding keys, but it all worked out. For me it was kinda like getting there and finding places [in the songs] that worked for keys, and they had some ideas for what they wanted keys to do. And it was kind of an organic growth process; that first year, 2017, they were callin’ me and saying, “Do you want to go on the road for a month?” And then I’d say “Yeah” and then I’d go back home for a couple weeks, and they’d say, “Hey, do you want to come out for June?”

And so we just worked on the material that way, and they were slated to make a record (“Free Yourself Up”) at the end of 2017, and wanted me to come into the studio and join them for that, so I jumped on that record, And the following year, it worked out so well, I was officially wedded into the band. And it’s been off to the races since then. Obviously, the last two years have been pretty complicated, but we’ve managed to play some shows, and this is our first big summer tour, getting back into things.  

IT: What was your COVID experience like?

AB: Man, it’s so crazy. I guess everyone shared the same thing, you know? We didn’t know how long it would be. At the beginning of 2020, I think we played a festival in Mexico. We got on a cruise ship [laughs], we did all the stuff you’re not supposed to do, and no one got it, even as we were watching the news. And we actually got in the studio to make a record in February or March of 2020. And when we got home, lockdown started and it was all sort of improvised from there. We did some stuff online, some stuff on Zoom and some pre-recorded stuff. It was a year of figuring out how to keep making music; we were all sort of keeping separate.

IT: It seems like these vineyards and orchards are an emerging venue and they’re able to get high-priced talent in the summer.

 AB: Yeah. I gotta say, on the road, it’s always a pleasure to do something different, like playing a winery or Beak & Skiff. It’s a beautiful apple orchard, but also has a distillery. It’s just a change of pace from performing arts centers and theaters. Plus, last year when we were trying to do a tour, we were looking for as many outdoor venues as possible, and so places like that that have a beautiful space to play music is great.

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