Interview | The Accidentals on their major label debut Odyssey and finishing the year off strong

Indie folk band The Accidentals released their full-length debut Odyssey a couple of months ago. Years of constant nationwide touring, including a few SXSW stints, helped refine the trio’s live act and added to a seemingly endless bank of emotions and ideas for songwriting. Katie Larson and Savannah Buist originally started the band while they were still in high school and later added Michael Dause on drums.

One of Yahoo Music’s 10 artists to watch in 2017, the now-twentysomething-year-olds are finishing up their current tour before taking some much needed time off to recharge and write more (obviously) back home in Michigan. Katie and Savannah were kind enough to answer some questions during their swing through California.

I actually caught your second-to-last SXSW show earlier this year at the Hotel Van Zandt Second Stage. It wasn’t your first SXSW nor was it your first second stage performance. How was this past SXSW?

Sav: It was great! This year, we eased up a bit on our schedule and played a few big showcases rather than lots of little ones, which gave us more time to look around. It’s much easier to check out what bands are playing now that we’re over 21; the age restrictions on some of the venues kept us from being able to really experience SXSW the first year we went. This year, however, we got to watch our friend Flint Eastwood perform, and our friends and fellow Michiganders: Seth Bernard and Rick Chyme, hopped on some of our sets, which really made it feel like a family reunion.

Katie: SXSW is a tough fest to navigate, but we’re learning. The last two years we’ve been hosted by an amazing couple (with two poodle puppies) just outside the city. The cover art for our album Odyssey is actually a photo we took against a map in the couple’s bathroom. :) This year we got to check out some great bands, explore the gear expos, and eat as much BBQ and [as many] tacos as possible.

Do you still consider yourselves “socially awkward” even after performing hundreds of times?

Sav: Absolutely. You can definitely grow to be more extroverted or at least develop a “switch” you can flip when you need to, but at the end of the day, the long drives from place to place are mostly silent because everybody uses that time to recharge themselves with a podcast or a playlist or a good book. We don’t really party; we’re more likely to go out into nature or a museum or a bookstore. That will probably always be a part of who we are. I think we use the music we write and play as a way of breaking down the barriers and expressing thoughts that people can relate to.

Katie: Living on the road has taught me to embrace many of my imperfections, but I still experience stage fright and social anxiety daily. I think it’s important to empathize with others, especially as a performer reading an audience, but it’s easy to get lost in perceptions that aren’t your own. Most importantly, touring has taught me to be confident, take a deep breath, and keep moving forward.

Your full-length and major label debut album Odyssey dropped a couple of months ago. Had a lot of great coverage, including at NPR. Has a weight been lifted, or is this just another forward step in the band’s current direction?

Sav: There’s a perception around success that seems to outline it as being a point where you can stop working. After months of creating an album, the work now really begins. We are super grateful for outlets like NPR that get the word out about new artists and music. NPR’s review of Odyssey was a highlight of our release and now we have to take the music to the masses. We have to try and get it in the hands and ears of as many people as possible. We’re workaholics, so we’ll always be looking forward, constantly growing, learning, and collaborating. Our hope is to put out emotionally authentic, technical, and lyrically-driven music that isn’t tethered down by genre or market. Odyssey is the culmination of the past six years of being a band, and its message lies in the idea that there is no stopping point in this life—you have to keep moving forward boldly (even if it’s only in baby steps), not with the absence of fear but in spite of it.

Katie: Odyssey has been a long time coming. We’ve been waiting to record some of the songs for up to four years, and after a marathon of recording between tours, we spent about three months in the mixing process. We signed with Sony Masterworks last fall; since they’re offering to distribute our album on a larger platform, we wanted to be very intentional with producing an authentic sound and trying to capture the energy from our live show. It was a challenge, but we learned a lot in the process and feel very grateful for the support and all the [positive] responses we’ve received! We know that the work of getting the music out there is a team effort, and we are all in.

Last time we spoke you mentioned having about 50 songs that you wanted to release; Odyssey features 13. How did you go about culling all those songs into this album? Will the world hear those remaining 37 songs?

Sav: It was a pretty difficult process—some of the songs on Odyssey are ones we’ve played thousands of times prior, others are ones we’d never worked up live show versions for until we recorded them. It came down to choosing the songs that best reflect who we are right now and what led up to that. It also meant choosing songs that help to foreshadow the evolution and constant growth of our music. We still have tons of unrecorded material that we’re really looking forward to spending some time on in the studio.

Katie: I think we’ll always be creating more songs; it’s somewhat of a byproduct from touring and processing the crazy things we experience. Sav and I generally do our songwriting independently. It’s a personal process, but we love arranging songs together and sharing them with audiences.

You tour all over the country practically all year round. How do you do it? What advice would you give to musicians who want to try it too?

Sav: Touring is definitely not glamorous—it’s both beautiful and tragic. There are always variables of success and struggles in touring: no laundry; van breaks down, we get hit by some sort of natural disaster, or have to drive 15 hours through the night. But, there are also incredible sunsets, amazing people, [and] experiences you might not ever have again.

For people who crave consistency, the road can be a really difficult place, especially when you’re in a different city every night. I like to create consistency as a coping mechanism: I build routines that are good for emotional and physical health like working out, keeping a journal, making tea every morning, etc.

I also think it’s important to stay [in the] present, to ask for what you need, and to learn that strength doesn’t mean powering through things all the time—it means being open with one another, and supporting and accepting each other. Creating healthy energy and environments for the people who live in the van with you [ensures] longevity for your band and also [helps] create a family. If you are going to tour, first check out our Shure Tour Tips!

Katie: The music industry can feel very intimidating. We find ourselves constantly pushing past our introverted tendencies in order to network, connect, and collaborate. It’s hard to put yourself out there, whether [it be performing] on a stage or working your way through the business, but it always makes for a powerful experience.

Other than in your home state of Michigan, where have been your favorite places/venues to perform?

Sav: I love playing in Colorado because that means we get to drive through Colorado, which is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen. I love mountainous regions (even though they’re murder on our van), and Colorado is full of them. I honestly can’t choose many favorites, though, because I have great memories from almost every place we’ve played and even the “bad” memories have great stories behind them.

Katie: Some of my favorite shows are music festivals; we’ve played festivals in the middle of the desert, the mountains, forests, farms, etc., and they are always a unique experience. I love getting a chance to meet new people, watch other bands, and eat deep-fried Oreos.

Your current tour ends in late November. Any plans afterwards other than relaxing till year’s end?

Sav: I’m going to take some time to fix up my gear, learn some Led Zeppelin solos on electric guitar, do some archery, read some books, hug my cat, and start recording some demos for the potential next album. In that order. ;)

Katie: I’ll probably make some very ambitious plans, [but] then end up napping, eating and watching Netflix. Overall, I’ve been trying to make more time for myself to be alone and also [to] spend time with our friends and family.

Words/Photo: Tan The Man (@dorksandlosers)