Named among Yahoo Music’s “Top 10 Bands to Watch in 2017,” The Accidentals’ adventure began in their hometown of Traverse City, MI, when Larson, a sophomore cellist, and Buist, a junior violinist, were paired for a high school orchestra event. The gifted young musicians became fast friends and before long, bandmates. Having both grown up in musical families with professional pianists for fathers and vocalists for mothers, their shared influences bounced between classical, jazz, bluegrass, country, alt-rock, and the obscure.
Dubbing themselves after the musical notes that fall outside of a key signature, The Accidentals recorded and released a pair of independent albums in 2012 and 2013, the latter funded by a hugely successful Kickstarter. Their original songs revealed a band with wide-ranging influences but always true to their orchestral roots. National applause and attention followed, as did acclaimed collaborations with some fellow local artists and independent filmmakers. Other career highlights included scoring arrangements for a 75-piece orchestra to accompany them on their original songs as well as arranging pieces for an opera/dance production with Jennifer and Ryan Lott (Son Lux).
The past five years have seen The Accidentals perform over a thousand live shows, including headline dates, festival sets, and shared stages along such diverse acts as Keller Williams, Martin Sexton, Brandi Carlile, Andrew Bird, The Wailers, Joan Baez, and others. 2015 saw the band embark on their first full-scale national tour. Their SXSW debut saw them hailed by Billboard Magazine for “displaying a genre-hopping range of influences and some smart songwriting skills to go with their abundant musical chops.”
Now, at long last, The Accidentals unveil their most compelling and finely honed work to date. Co-produced by Buist, Larson, and Dause with engineer Jason Lehning (Mat Kearney, Guster, George Jones, Alison Krauss) at Asheville, NC’s Echo Mountain Recording, ODYSSEY sees the band joined by such friends and fans as acoustic guitar maestro Kaki King, bassist – and fellow Michigander – Dominic John Davis (Jack White, Beck), Carbon Leaf guitarist Carter Gravatt, Keller Williams and The Decemberists’ Jenny Conlee, who spent three days in the studio alongside the band, lending her distinctive organ to a number of the album’s key tracks.
“It was a really collaborative process,” says Larson. “A lot of these songs had been hashed out at our live shows over the past few years, so we had a very strong idea of what we wanted in the arrangements.
The Accidentals’ inviting spirit of shared creativity is perhaps best represented by the album’s audacious first single, “KW,” showcasing the inimitable guitar work of Keller Williams, whose own virtuosic genre-agnostic approach towards music making inspired the song in the first place.
From the orchestrated rock of “Memorial Day” to the album-closing “Ballad Tendered Gun” – surprisingly, The Accidentals’ first instrumental to be included on an LP – ODYSSEY is a strikingly dynamic work, both layered and unhurried, bittersweet yet life-affirming. Rich with literary references, whispers of nostalgia, and an unstoppable sense of forward motion, its songs were written independently by Buist and Larson and then arranged and refined by the group, creating a perfect yin/yang between individual introspection and dynamic cooperation, each artist bringing her own unique perspective to the process.
“We rely on each other to create a balance,” Buist says. “I think that’s the key to this band. Our styles of songwriting and arrangement are very different, so when they come together, they create this variation that couldn’t happen any other way.”
The goal as ever is to experiment and experience, exploring new ideas and approaches while always staying true to their roots. With ODYSSEY, The Accidentals have conjured a truly one of its kind sound and vision, booming with free-thinking musicality, wisdom, and an understanding that growth is a process, not something that happens overnight. The Accidentals are already moving forward on their amazing journey, rolling down the windows on an open road towards someplace that’s both true and transcendent.
“I don’t think there are really any limits in terms of genre or instrumentation,” Larson says. “We just really enjoy making music that connects.”
“For us, it’s about the experience and collaboration and trying to learn as much as we can,” Buist says. Every day is an opportunity.”
The Crane Wives
In Japanese folklore, the crane wife is a bird disguised as a woman who spins fine silks from her own feathers, until her identity is discovered. The Crane Wives spin fine songs from whole cloth, and you will never want the melodies to leave your head. From murky origins in Chinese restaurants, high school ska bands, and dorm room jam sessions, the band came together in 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and immediately began gathering a following with intricate melodies, sister-harmonies, and compelling songcraft. Initially part of the indie folk boom, their sound has grown and broadened with each new recording till categorization becomes difficult: rock, pop, folk? Just call it really good music. Audiences and critics agree: seven “Jammie” awards from influential radio station WYCE in ’11, ’12, ’16 and ’17; winner of Best Folk/Country song from international competition ArtPrize for “Easier” in ’12; and selection as one of ten “Entries We Loved” from the renowned NPR Tiny Desk Contest for “High Horse” in ’17. Kate Pillsbury: guitars, vocals, a twinkle in her eye that tells you she sees through your BS but chooses to be amused by it. Emilee Petersmark: guitars, banjo, vocals, boots that will stamp out injustice wherever it may lurk. Ben Zito: bass, occasional howls, secret production weapon. Dan Rickabus: drums, harmony vocals, engineering, relentless and frankly exhausting levels of positivity. Four albums released to date: “Safe Ship, Harbored” (2011), “The Fool In Her Wedding Gown” (2012), “Coyote Stories” (2015), and “Foxlore” (2016), plus a series of new singles in 2017, all available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, Bandcamp, CDBaby, and hell, even Myspace. If you want to hear about love, life, fear, hope, pain, and the occasional natural disaster, this band, and these songs, are for you.