The Accidentals’ Nascent Success Points to Great Things on the Road and in the Studio

by

BRIAN HOCKENSMITH
  • BRIAN HOCKENSMITH

We last saw The Accidentals on their tour with Keller Williams in early 2016. And we were happy to catch them as they found themselves in the midst of a years-long odyssey on the road. The show was great, and, honestly, they’ve pretty much been touring ever since — with no plans to slow down.

The trio returns to Cleveland this week to showcase their chops and show off the material from their latest album, aptly titled Odyssey.

It’s worth noting, if only because it’s such an interesting and obvious fact about the band, that musicians Sav Buist, Katie Larson and Michael Dause are only in their very early 20s. And they’ve been relentlessly touring for several years at this point.

Odyssey has kind of been more of a culmination of the past six years of being a band,” multi-instrumentalist Larson tells Scene in a recent phone interview.

It’s a story that has roots in high school, where a younger Buist and Larson were coming up in the orchestra program. A local music store had kindly offered use of various instruments — like the violin, in Buist’s case, and the cello in Larson’s — and the girls had taken up the classes. When an opportunity arose to join a new Alternative Styles group, they jumped at the chance to play Led Zeppelin and MGMT tunes. This is where they met.

When they got together at Buist’s house, the bond was clear right away. “Instead of working through the music that we were supposed to be working on, we ended up playing the White Stripes,” Buist says.

Growing up, she says, for example, she spent time sitting in on local albums and joining her family’s folk jam sessions. She learned the craft of group improvisation, an important stepping stone in her education. This sort of stuff made the Alternative Styles gig all the more enticing, of course.

As soon as she and Buist graduated from high school in Traverse City, Michigan, they accepted a production deal from Marshall Crenshaw and Stewart Lerman (Beck, Patti Smith). They recorded a handful of songs and eventually self-released an EP after opting out of the situation with the producers, which left a backlog of recorded tunes waiting for them by the time they signed a later deal with Sony. “Songs from high school, songs from touring and some brand new songs that we had written,” Larson says. “We wanted to make something really authentic, something that kind of captured all of the last couple years of material that we had.”

That high school graduation had been a tricky crossroads to navigate. The two young women were both deeply involved with music education throughout their lives. (Their parents are either musicians themselves or heavily involved in the music business.)

And by the time they donned the caps and gowns, Larson and Buist were offered scholarships to study music and the aforementioned production deal in New York City. “The decision came down to a 24-hour period in which we had to figure out if we were going to pursue music full-time as a career or learn how to pursue music full-time as a career,” Buist says. “We made the jump, and we decided to go ahead and take the production deal. That was a really, really difficult decision for us. We’re really nerdy, and we love school and we love to learn. We figured we could put that on the back burner and that would always be there, that we could always go to college later.”

And while decisions like that are obviously complicated matters for any creative pair to steer, both prospects — college and the record deal — lead to a really sharp period of growth for young adults.

“Really what has been a huge learning curve, especially with some of the songs on this album, is that in order to have true strength you have to be vulnerable and open with one another,” Buist says. “If you’re going to live in a van full-time with seven people, then you really have to create a family out of it. You have to learn to trust each other. That’s a big theme in the album.”

On the road, the band practices yoga regularly, keeping health and mindfulness at the top of their collective priority list. “We’ll stop at Whole Foods and see how much we can get for under $20,” Buist says. “Which is a pretty fun game for us.

“It’s an important part of it, because if you want to be in a healthy headspace and you want to be able play music every night and connect with your crowd, then you’ve got to stay healthy.”

Larson adds: “The number-one thing we’ve learned in these past three years of full-time touring is balance. It comes across in so many different levels.”

The band is already booking shows for 2019, for goodness sake, so they’re constantly on the lookout for ways to fit that healthy balance into their lives.

And those experiences blend neatly into the new album. It’s a fun and jaunty ride that fit in perfectly with its late-summer release date.

The album features a neat tune called “KW,” which lays a Keller Williams-inspired riff across reflective, almost yearning lyrics. (“Any glove that fits was stitched by hypocrite / No one else to blame, there’s no reward for a wicked fame.”) The title of the song, of course, is a direct homage to the guitarist who actually appears on the track with band, bringing the 2016 tour around to a full circle.



The Accidentals, Jake Allen
8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 8, Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124.
Tickets: $12, beachlandballroom.com


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