20 Questions: The Accidentals

The 20-something renegades may be gearing up for a major label debut in 2017, but at the end of the day, they'll be good with some grilled goat cheese sandwiches.
The Accidentals
Parking Lot EP
Savage Kittens

It’s easy to mistake the Accidentals for a much older group of people in a much older band. For a trio having just hit their 20s — and for one who have only been doing what they do for almost five years — their megaton “genre-bending” talent has already seen them receive a bounty of acknowledgments and accolades.

Spanning SXSW showcases, sold-out shows at renowned theaters like the Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and performances with the likes of respected veterans of the biz like Andrew Bird, the Wailers, and even Joan Baez, there’s no doubting that the precocious Sav Buist, Katie Larson, and Michael Dause are scaling great heights as they continue to quickly charm audiences throughout the States.

In 2016, the band showcased the full encompassment of their evolution from their contemporary folk roots in the Parking Lot EP, surprising many a new listener with their performance quality and unbridled knack for embracing the unexpected — and nabbing them a best new artist nod from PopMatters. Rapper Rick Chyme does his thing on an alternative “FRAP” (folk-rap, for the uninitiated) version of the titular “Parking Lot” to cap things off, perhaps best accentuating the collaborative nature of their upcoming major label debut to be released sometime this year.

Predating the release of their much-anticipated album, the Accs’ Katie and Sav sat down for PopMatters’ 20 Questions, geeking out over podcasts, stealing cats, goat farms, Dali, and a slew of other topics as eclectic as the band’s sound throughout.

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Katie Larson: While we were recording the album I was reading the graphic novel Persepolis. It’s an autobiography of Marjane Satrapi’s childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution. She lived during a time when conformity was mandatory, but as a young adult she was willing to risk torture by simply wearing a denim jacket with a Michael Jackson button. At the end of 12 hour days in the recording studio, putting art in that perspective was pretty powerful.

Sav Buist: Hamilton. It’s not a book or a movie, but it took me through all of the emotions. I laughed, I cried, and I didn’t want it to be over. It kind of escapes words.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Katie: Lindsay Weir from the TV series Freaks and Geeks. Deep down she’s a nerd but wears a giant green army jacket and starts listening to rock music, and the whole show follows her going through awkward, amazing, sad, hilarious moments through high school. It’s my all time favorite TV series, I highly recommend it.

Sav: Ellen Ripley from Alien. She’s smart, competent, and a professional trouble-shooter, as well as an engineer, a pilot, and an alien fighter. She paves a path of rage through space despite the odds against her. She also likes cats. What’s not to love there? Seriously.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Katie: The Lemon of Pink by The Books. It makes me feel calm, inspired, introspective, adventurous. Sometimes instrumental music is more powerful to me than words.

Sav: Glow In The Dark by Patrick Carroll. The whole album was done by 26-year-old Michigan native Patrick Carroll, who passed away from cystic fibrosis in 2013. It’s a gorgeous, dynamic, breathtaking journey. Every instrument speaks at its own perfect moment, and his lyrics provide a perspective not often heard. The pain and the joy of his life shimmer through the music in an intangible way. It will change your life.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Katie: I can’t choose sides…

Sav: Star Wars. My dad got me into them when I was super little, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite, but Episode VII: The Force Awakens was in my top ten list of favorite things about 2015. Star Trek is great, too.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Katie: If I’m feeling uninspired I like to watch weird documentaries, they make me like starting ambitious projects.

Sav: I like listening to podcasts like Radiolab, 99% Invisible, Song Exploder, Hardcore History, and Meet the Composer — all podcasts devoted to specific subjects, like music theory, architecture, production, and science. I like gaining a new perspective on things I typically take for granted.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

Kate: We’ve accomplished so many of our goals this year, and it’s culminating with this new album. It’s been a team effort since the start, and I’m proud of everyone for having each other’s backs and staying strong even when things fell apart or seemed overwhelming. We’ve put every ounce of focus into running our business and it’s been incredible to see the result.

Sav: I’m proud that we all found a way to tour full time while balancing our lives, our business, our relationships, and our emotional, physical, and mental health. It’s really a thing we all work hard for (and continue to work at today), but we’ve always been a straight edge band, and so it makes being healthy on the road an easier accomplishment.

7. You want to be remembered for …?

Kate: Being flawed and proud of it. I’m working on increasing my sassiness.

Sav: I want to be remembered for being collaborative. I think it’s important, especially now, to come together — as artists, as musicians, and as people — and I love getting to be a part of that movement.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

Katie: So many… my favorite thing to do is read memoirs and study other people, it helps me learn a lot about what I want to do with my life. Some musicians who I really admire are St. Vincent, Kimya Dawson, Patti Smith, Caroline Shaw… people who make bold choices.

Sav: I really look up to greats like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, people who garnered respect and had immense talent and work ethic. Brian May (surprise — also of Queen) is a huge inspiration, claiming accolades as an astrophysicist as well as one of the most tasteful electric guitarists the world has ever known (completely unbiased…).

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

Katie: “Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali. His paintings blow my mind, I want to bring that surreal element to my music.

Sav: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Mainly because every time I hear it, I have to stop everything I’m doing and scream along like an idiot.

10. Your hidden talents …?

Katie: Savannah makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich.

Sav: Katie makes incredible goat cheese! Which means together, we can eat grilled goat cheese sandwiches forever (and play music on the side)

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

Kate: “Fake it til you make it” My comfort zone is slowly expanding, but I have to pretend to be confident when I’m onstage because inside I still feel like I might trip and knock a guitar over or mess up the words at any moment.

Sav: “Ask for what you need.” That’s from my mom.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Katie: The best things I’ve ever bought are things that normal people have because they make life easy. For a long time I didn’t use a wallet, I just shoved cash in my backpack. Then one day I was in a thrift shop and I came across a handmade leather wallet with a deer on the front and the name Chet stitched into it. It’s kind of falling apart but I’ll never be able to get rid of it.

Sav: I technically stole my cat. He’s not a thing, of course, but I’m counting him in, anyway. We were doing a TV gig in our hometown of Traverse City Michigan, and the local humane society sponsored it and brought along a cat named Nashville, asking if anyone wanted to take him home. Nobody wanted him — he’s a large black cat with huge, creepy owlish eyes. Backstage, I got him out of his cage and he wouldn’t let me go. I pretty much walked out of the place with him (after payment) and I’ve had him ever since.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or…?

Katie: Sweatpants. All day every day.

Sav: I have a NASA bomber jacket that is only held together with patches, gaff tape, and willpower. The only time I ever really take it off is when I get onstage.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Katie: Tim Burton. I’d love to pick his brain. I grew up obsessed with his films.

Sav: Gabriel Kahane, Kaki King, Annakalmia Traver (Rubblebucket), Hans Zimmer, and Blake Mills all in one room (I’m cheating but think about all of the talent at that table).

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

Katie: The future! Video games are going to be so mind blowing.

Sav: The future — space (the final frontier) — because I lack the ability to be there in this current age.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Katie: Netflix. Last time Sav and I were in New York in between shows and business meetings, we spent a night watching Netflix’s 72 Cutest Animals and eating takeout.

Sav: Learning. I know it’s crazy, but I get a little down when my brain isn’t experiencing the same level of chaos that happens daily on the road. I get home and start teaching myself Morse Code, relearning Metric conversion, or listening to a college professor’s astronomy podcast, and I can’t get enough of it.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or …?

Katie: I’m in love with coffee but after we hit the road full time I did my best to cut out caffeine. There are so many elements tearing your body apart on tour- the last thing I want is to be controlled by any substance. Plus I can sleep anywhere! Instead, I can’t live without my water bottle, tacos, and Twix bars.

Sav: I agree on the coffee and the tacos. Mostly I go crazy when I don’t have my jacket, my noise-cancelling headphones, and my journal. Last year I wrote 400 pages worth of one year of touring, and I’m trying to do it again this year, cause I end up taking a lot of lyrical inspiration from the day-to-day stuff.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

Katie: Goat Farm! Last October I spent a glorious week working on a goat dairy farm in Florida, spending my days milking goats, making soap, scooping poop, cuddling dogs, getting my hair chewed off by baby goats, and eating lots of fresh goat cheese. I miss it.

Sav: I like when opposite things mix together, like cities and mountains — so I love Seattle, where you can see the mountains in the distance while standing in the market. I love parts of Colorado for the same reason. Of course, I love Michigan, it’s where I grew up, heavily forested, cold, snowy, and beautiful. Above all, though, my favorite place to be is on the road. The environment around you constantly changes and keeps things interesting.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

The Accidentals: Integrity, humility, intelligence, and respect. May you lead with those qualities.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Katie: We usually do everything all at once — we’ve been focused on the new album, constant touring, and managing the business side (and finding time to spend with family… and sleeping). Other than that I’m working on answering interview questions more precisely.

Sav: Lots of things! I’m halfway through writing a sci-fi novel, and I’m anticipating Hans Zimmer’s Masterclass on film scoring, which I got as a Christmas gift from my parents. The biggest thing is the album, though. We’ve been in the studio for all of the craziest times of the year — Halloween, the Cubs Win, The Election, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years! It’s been 110 percent worth it. This is an album I’m proud to have worked on and I can’t wait for people to hear it.