Interview: The Accidentals talk “Odyssey,” making it through 2016, and life on the road

The Accidentals

CC: I found the way the band was formed to be a pretty awesome story. For those unfamiliar, would you mind telling a bit about how The Accidentals formed with subsequently such a fitting name?

Sav: Katie and I met in our high school orchestra program in 2011.  We were in a classical quartet together as well as an “alternative styles” club that stayed after school and covered Led Zeppelin, MGMT, Coldplay, etc on our orchestral instruments.  When our orchestra teacher asked for two volunteers to represent the alternative styles club in an upcoming concert, Katie and I were the only two to raise our hands – so we were thrown together much by accident.  When Katie came to my house to rehearse for the concert, we ended up playing the White Stripes instead, and we really felt a strong musical chemistry with each other – so we decided to form a band that night.  The band name came about a year later, and we chose it because it reflected our “orch dork” roots – an accidental is a music theory term that refers to a note that looks weird in the context of the rest of the song, but makes sense when you hear it.  The name translates well to our genreless-ness, as well as our uncanny accident-prone-ness.

CC: With “Odyssey” just having been release in August, what differentiates this album from your previous releases?

Katie: “Odyssey” was a true test of strength. We had been touring nonstop for 3 years after recording our folkier album “Bittersweet” in 2013 and our 6 song EP “Parking Lot” in 2016, and were going into a third full length album with a new perspective. The last part of 2016 was a bit chaotic, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, our country was going through an election, and our world was losing musical heros left and right. We had just negotiated a deal with Sony Masterworks and had a collection of songs old and new that we wanted to be an authentic representation of the evolution of our live show. Despite being emotionally exhausted, onstage our songs had more energy than ever and we wanted to capture that in the recording. When we had recorded Bittersweet we were in high school and worked with a producer for the first time. During Parking Lot, we were completely hands on with the production and arrangement. For Odyssey, we wanted to split the difference and work with someone who would lend an unbiased ear and help with the engineering and producing, and that’s when Jason Lehning came on board. Odyssey is a huge milestone for us, we are constantly learning, growing, evolving, but this album really captures where we are in the moment.

CC: What is your favorite track on “Odyssey,” whether it be from a deeper personal meaning or just the way song makes you feel?

Sav: Every song on the album has a really deep personal meaning – Odyssey really serves as a culminating story of the past six years of being a band, as well as a story that is being written in real time.  If I had to choose one song, though, I’d say that Ballad Tendered Gun is my personal favorite.  It’s an instrumental string piece that goes back to our orchestral roots, and the concept/melody came from a piece we scored for a movie called One Simple Question back when we were still in high school.  The piece we scored didn’t fit the mood of the scene we were given, so we kept it in our back pocket and then reincorporated the melody into what we have now.  It features Kaki King, one of our favorite virtuoso guitarists, who helped create a juxtaposition between the strings and the angst of the slap guitar really creating that tragically beautiful feel.  The title is also an anagram for the first album we ever came out with, called Tangled Red and Blue – so this song has a lot of history to it, and reminds me of the journey we took to get to where we are.

CC: As the sound continually evolves, has the writing process changed as well?

Katie: The songwriting has typically been an independent process for me and Sav, it’s very therapeutic. Every once in awhile we’ll write a song together, but we feel most comfortable decompressing after a long tour by writing our own songs/lyrics, and then during rehearsals fleshing out the arrangements as a three-piece. In 2014 our drummer Michael Dause joined us full time, and it’s been really exciting to have another perspective on working up tempos, drum patterns, harmonies, instrumentation, and solos for the studio and for live shows. This year we’ve had the opportunity to become sponsored by some amazing companies who send us musical gear, so we’ve been inspired by Shure/Fender/Roland/Boss/Takamine/NS Design/Liquid Violins to mess around with effects and produce music that is authentic to the song, not a genre.

CC: With nearly a month of non-stop shows ahead of you what are you most looking forward to while on the road?

Sav: Katie and I both love and look forward to the experiences we garner while touring.  We stay with a lot of amazing people and visit some breathtaking places, and even when bad things happen (i.e. your van and trailer rigs break down 8 times in one tour, or you survive a tornado and 12 consecutive thunderstorms on another tour), we still experience a lot of kindness from complete strangers, who become friends as a result.  We get to do things we never would’ve imagined us doing.  It makes me think about an Ani Difranco song, a particular one called “Promiscuity.”  There’s this line that says, “I mean, how’re you gonna know what you need and what you like, ‘til you’ve been around the block a few times on that bike?”  In a way, I think that’s absolutely true about touring.  It helps establish a true sense of who you are and what interests you.  It’s not always glamorous, but you grow stronger for it in more ways than one.

CC: Even though you’ve played all over the country at this point, is there something you find special about playing in Detroit being from Michigan yourselves?

Katie: There’s definitely a special feeling that happens once we cross the state line back into Michigan after a long tour. We flew home from the West Coast last week and were immediately greeted by the familiar colored leaves and cold air of Autumn, and we went straight to work planning 4 of our biggest Odyssey Release shows. We had the opportunity to perform at St. Andrews Hall, a historic venue that Michael (having been raised in Novi), has attended tons of concerts at. The entire staff at the venue were some of the most caring, respectful people we’ve met, and the whole room was filled with family, friends, and faces that we’d recognized from other events around Michigan. We really felt like we could goof off and be ourselves, since it’s so close to Halloween we walked onstage to the Stranger Things theme song in front of our logo in the Stranger Things font, shrouded in haze and dressed up in NASA suits. We were joined by our friend Jake Allen and detroit native Stephie James band. It was a great show.

CC: Outside of a flat tire, what’s your biggest fear(s) while on the road?

Sav: One of my biggest fears is being so stuck that we have to cancel a show.  On the last west coast tour, the part of our trailer that hooks on to the hitch snapped upwards and threw our trailer into the gravel, where we dragged it for a good 25 feet.  I remember getting out of the van and looking at our totaled trailer and thinking, “Well, I’m not absolutely sure how we’re going to get out of this one.”  We were halfway through our drive from Vancouver, BC to Boise, ID, and we had to cancel our show in Boise because we were still 9 hours away.  I hate the feeling of not being able to accomplish certain challenges in the given time – touring has made us professional problem solvers, and when we can’t make that puzzle work out, it can be pretty frustrating.  However, you have to be safe out there – no show is worth risking your life over.  We just owe Boise a concert, now. 😉

CC: With all the different instruments you incorporate into your music what is your favorite piece to play on stage?

Katie: It changes every night, sometimes it feels best to rock out with the electric guitar and bass, other times we enjoy stripping the songs to the acoustic instruments and coming into the crowd to share our most vulnerable stories and introspective thoughts. We are all introverts so sometimes performing is terrifying, but breaking down that wall can be really rewarding. We love playing our song “Michigan and Again” when we’re home, especially when the crowd joins in and starts singing along. Another thing I love is at of the night when we play an instrumental mashup on the wireless electric violin and cello- it gives us a chance to run around the stage and improvise trading solos back and forth. This weekend our friend Rick Chyme joined us rapping over the instrumental and our friend Jake Allen played percussive fingerstyle guitar. You never know what’s going to happen…and the flexibility to always try something new is my favorite part.
Post and interview by David Painter 

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