Not many people can say they formed a band and released their first album before graduating high school, but for The Accidentals, these milestones are the first of many in their accomplished and early musical careers. At the time, The Accidentals, who released their first album in 2012, were Katie Larson and Savannah Buist. Larson, a sophomore cellist, and Buist, a junior violinist, met in their orchestra program at Traverse City West High School in 2011 after both volunteering for a project.
“The name ‘The Accidentals’ works on many levels,” Larson said. “We met accidentally — we were the only two people to raise our hands to volunteer for that project. We are also accident-prone and have been from a young age. And the music reference just really hammered it in — our music has always been different — a little bit out-of-the-box, we like to combine different genres, and we try not to limit the creativity at all.
“We like to mix things up, so it just fit immediately,” she said. “Once I heard Sav say, ‘how about The Accidentals?’ We both were like, yep that’s it, there’s no turning back.”
in music, an accidental is a note of pitch that is not a member of the scale or mode indicated by the most recently applied key signature.
The duo added Michael Dause, a full-time percussionist and multi-instrumentalist, after meeting him at Harbor Springs’ Blissfest in 2014. Blending a wide range of genres in their music, the band has a variety of influences, including: The Beatles, Sufjan Stevens, Brandi Carlile, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, Ani DiFranco and Foo Fighters.
To date, the genre-bending, folk-rock trio has released three full-length albums (one is in the works), one EP and two live albums, and has played hundreds of live shows.
“I think the most amount of shows we’ve played in a year was 240,” Buist said.
On the Road
As young musicians, the trio has essentially grown up while touring across the country.
“Touring was a very eye-opening experience for me because growing up, I had a lot of social anxiety and stage fright,” Larson said. “We’ve met similar people everywhere — people who are willing to open their homes, let us crash on their couches, people who are willing to come out to a show and bring us cookies — just really kind people across the country, and that made me feel a lot more confident and a lot more open. I would also say it made us stronger as a band on the road and it strengthened our friendships a little bit.”
And after touring for six years together, it’s safe to say the band has come up with some pretty quirky tour rituals and habits.
“One thing that we do is this thing that we call ‘squoots,’ like squats, but we stand in a circle and we count to 30, but we replace all of the vowels in all of the numbers with ‘O’s,’” Dause said. “So, that’s a fun little exercise ritual we do. Sometimes we do it at gas stations, too, to get the blood pumping after we’ve been in the car for like six hours.
“And then sometimes before a show, we make a concoction that we call ‘Good Good Juice,’ which is just like a big ol’ vat of hot water, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, cayenne pepper and ginger, and it keeps our throats nice and clear for the shows,” he said.
While being on the road so often has its perks, it can be somewhat difficult to find balance and a routine, Buist said.
“I’ve noticed it’s hard to take a break every once in a while,” she said. “It’s hard, when you tour all of the time and it’s all you’ve been doing since you were 16, it’s really hard to find a good way to transition into everyday life — little things like going to doctors’ appointments and still making time for friendships, and also continuing to make money when you’re not touring.
“Finding balance between all of that is something that I still struggle with, and I would say learning how to find balance and learning how to be still and be present somewhere — that’s my biggest personal challenge,” Buist said. “Which is why going home is so important, too, because getting in touch with your roots is a way to ground yourself again after being on the road for so long.”
No place like home
With The Accidentals’ roots in both Traverse City and metro Detroit, nothing beats coming home to Michigan and playing a live show.
“We spend a lot of our time in Michigan, it’s where our families are and we just love playing shows there,” Larson said. “Right now, we’re splitting our time. Sav and I are living part-time in Nashville and Michael is also in Michigan, but he’s in the metro Detroit area.”
Coming back home also gives Buist a strong sense of community.
“Hometown shows are definitely different than most shows because of the familiarity,” she said. “We know almost everybody in the audience, and we feel like we came up in a community that really supported the arts, so it’s cool to go back and see our family and friends and people that we’ve known for years that have supported us since we were 16.”
Earlier this year, The Accidentals released new music, including the single “Requiem for a Lark” with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra from Cleveland. The band also has plans to release their new record, “Vessel,” later this year.
“We were on our way to Portland to finish the album with Tucker Martine when COVID sent us home,” Buist said. “After realizing this wasn’t a short-term detour, we decided to try recording some of the ‘Vessel’ album in our attic in Northern Michigan.
“So, we all quarantined together and got to work,” she said. “Our sponsors at Shure and Roland sent us gear and our local drum shop in Traverse City (The Beat Lab) let us borrow drums and cymbals as we went. Our Patreon base helped us name our makeshift studio, Atticus Blue Studios (because the walls are blue). We have learned a lot about our sound and we are excited about this album so far. We’ll be releasing singles throughout the rest of the year — so stay tuned.”