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The Accidentals Ongoing Odyssey

*JPG: I want to get to your hometown of Traverse City, Michigan in a second but to continue with the album, did you have specific goals with it because I listen to songs released prior to Odyssey such as “Parking Lot” and “Michigan and Again” and I hear one type of sound but then with the new album, I hate to use the word ‘maturity’ but there’s that element to it. There’s space and artfulness to it. Is it a matter of working with Jason or the material?

KL: Yes, well…(pauses and waits while a screaming baby near her moves away) I’m sorry. There’s a lot of stuff going on.

JPG: I can hear that.

SB: The album came from a lot of different places. Some of the songs we’ve had forever and some of the songs are brand new, where we’ve almost never played them. We wanted to proceed with music that captured the live feeling that we currently have at our shows. What we ended up doing was picking and choosing the songs that we currently play while introducing new songs to our fanbase.

We came up with this album that we didn’t think was going to be cohesive at all. (laughs) We were actually really nervous about that.

KL: I remember we sat down with Jason at this restaurant in Nashville before we started producing the album and we’re like, “How do we make this cohesive?” and “How much do we focus on every song separately and bring it to its full potential in whatever strange genre it is?”

We went in with that idea of independently producing every song and then we came out with something that’s been cohesive through the string arrangements – violin and cello — and the harmonies and Michael’s drum arrangements. Some of that weaves the album together and brought it full force.

The interesting thing was we were in a time crunch and we didn’t have any of pre-production for the album. So, a lot of it was in studio while we were there. We came in with a lot of reference ideas but we also were really flexible while we were in there. We did all the main tracks in two weeks right in the middle of three major holidays and the legendary Cubs game when Chicago’s going crazy.

JPG: Were you in Chicago at the time of the World Series?

SB: No we were at Gold Mountain Studios in North Carolina.

JPG: So, you’re Cubs fans…?

SB: No, but we could tell that the world had shifted a little bit while we were in this basement. When we came out it was like, “Oh my God! Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas passed. The election passed. The Cubs game passed. This is a different world.” (laughs)

We went through a lot of processes to get it done. We ended up mixing it with five different engineers, mastered it twice, just to get the sound right. We bought these Yamaha HS5 speakers and brought them on the road with us and would stop at hotels and listen back to tracks that just got mixed to make sure that they were right. It took a lot but it ended up being exactly what we wanted.

That’s what we were going for, an intentionally authentic sound and is true to what we sound like.

JPG: How did you get together with Keller Williams, open a few shows for him and then write “KW” with KW appearing on it?

KL: We met him through a mutual connection. The first time we saw him was Electric Forest, I believe. It was one of his gigs playing with Grateful Grass. We met him backstage and caught his set. Then, we did a few runs with him in 2016. We did close to 15 dates with him. We did a few separate tours. Last summer, Keller came to Michigan and played one of our favorite festivals called Blissfest and we sat in as his backing band – Michael on drums, me on cello and Sav on violin.

SB: I was gone for a sec. Did you tell him that we played strings on Keller’s album?

KL: No. We did that earlier last year. It was one of his singles for the new album (“Hategreedlove” off of Keller Williams’ Kwahtro’s “Sync”). We literally traded for him playing on “KW” [on Odyssey ]. “We’ll play strings if you play guitar.”

JPG: What about Kaki King appearing on your album?

SB: I’ve had the biggest music crush on Kaki King for a couple of years now. I’m really interested in that style of guitar playing, and I’m working my way towards it. I was listening to all of Kaki King’s repertoire while we were in Nashville. We were meeting with a couple of different music companies that wanted to sponsor us. Shure microphones and Takamine guitars and Fender guitars were all coming on board at that point. We were meeting with all these really sweet and cool artist reps.

I was picking out this guitar from Takamine and David Vincent, our artist rep there, asked “Who are you listening to right now?” I said, “I’m listening to Kaki King.” “I used to manage her.” “Well, we’re looking for a couple collaborations on this album we’re working on and we could use a guitar player on this instrumental track.” He said, “Let me call her up. Here’s her email address.”

We shot her an email and she was totally on board. She recorded the track [“Ballad Tendered Gun”] in New York because she has a studio there. She actually is setting up her own guitar library there as well.

It was a really cool quick process and she absolutely killed it. She really breathed life into it.

JPG: Was that song always intended to be an instrumental?

SB: That song came out of a film score that we did. We were writing string compositions for this movie, One Simple Question. We ended up writing this instrumental song that didn’t quite fit the scene that they gave us. So, they said, “No thanks,” and we wrote another one that ended up making it in the movie.

The one that we had written just sat there for a couple years. I wanted to put an instrumental piece on the album. Katie and I wanted to show off the orchestral roots that we came from. We started off in our high school orchestra programs and then try to blend new styles and do different things with traditional instruments.

KL: Sav and I went to AMERICANAFEST (Americana Music Festival & Conference) in Nashville last fall. We sat at one of the panels and they said that it’s really helpful to include instrumentals for radio stations. Sav and I are interested in moving towards film scoring down the road in conjunction with songwriting. So, we thought it would be a good tool to have and a good way to sum up the end of the album without words.

SB: We ended up writing the piece and called it “Ballad Tendered Gun” because it’s an anagram for the first release that we ever came out with which is not listed on our website. It’s called “Tangled Red and Blue.” We came out with it when we were 15 and 16. It has literally the first five songs I ever wrote on that album, and Katie’s songs from when she was 13 are on that album, too. So, we did that as a homage to our roots but it was the best way we could sign off on this album.

JPG: Staying with your roots, all three of our mothers are vocalists. What type of background did they have and how did it influence your interest in music?

SB: It started from a folkier background. My parents met in Nashville. My dad was playing piano for the Grand Ole Opry and touring with a couple different bands. My mom a R&B singer. So, they met through gigging. They ended up getting married and having me. When we moved to Traverse City, we moved to help my grandpa with his thermal electric business.

My parents knew that I was into music from an early age. When I started picking up violin, they formed this folk band to help get me out to the music scene. So, I learned to improv around that time and learned how to sing harmony with people. I never attempted to write songs or play any other instruments. So, I was in my own world of the folk scene and improvising with other people and being a session player.

But, I listened to a ton of Queen and Foo Fighters and Radiohead when I was younger. I’d like to think that I carried some of those progressive rock feelings into folk songs.

KL: My dad is a classical piano player. My mom studied voice all through college and she was mostly into jazz studies and heavily influenced by musicals and Broadway. My parents met in Minneapolis at Schmitt Music. They were both working there, and got married. We moved to Michigan when they both got job offers at Interlochen Center for the Arts, an art school and camp close Traverse City. My mom doesn’t play music anymore. She just works at the camp in administration. My dad does all sorts of piano stuff.

When he was growing up, he was a classical music snob and now he does compositions for dance classes, accompanies choirs and voice soloists and plays for silent movies. Lately, he’s been exploring a psychedelic side. He’s got all these synths and doing a lot of looping. I just watched one of his recitals at Interlochen and it started out classical. Then, at the end they were all playing Frank Zappa. (laughs)

I started out on the classical route until I met Savannah. She helped me get into the free style improv and all the things that were terrifying to me at the time.

SB: But Kate was also a jazz guitar player at our school. I remember seeing onstage for that. She also wrote a ton of songs before I even attempted to. So, she pulled me into that world that I never even attempted to do.

MD: My dad is not a musician but he’s a lover of music and got me into a lot of ‘80s music while I was a five year old. So, I was listening to The Cure and stuff, kind of heavy for a five year old. My mom is a classical vocalist and she did a lot of work with choirs and church choirs. She had the opportunity to sing onstage with Foreigner, Dave Brubeck, perform at Carnegie Hall with John Rutter; a lot of different kinds of music.

My grandpa was a jazz musician back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. He got me my first drum kit when I was around four years old, which was very brave of my parents to allow that in the house for a four year old. I come from a family of music lovers and music enthusiasts.

JPG: It seems as if you’re quite conscious of dealing with the music business. How do you stay aware of avoiding the pitfalls?

SB: The key for me is to stay authentic and stay true to yourself. If you’re trying to be something that you’re not, it’s going to be 10 times harder than being who you are. Every show we wear t-shirts from bands that we absolutely love. We also have vests with pattern designs. I have this Star Wars vest, and I’m not shy about showing what I like. That does make things easier because when you put yourself out there, it’s easy for people to latch on to something real.

KL: What we’re focusing on lately is that it’s important to take what you do seriously but not take yourself too seriously. We spend 240 days a year playing shows. That’s our fulltime job and business. We did everything on the DIY side before we signed with Sony. Now, it’s a whole new aspect of the business, helping oversee and helping transition.

So, it’s real easy to wrap up your identity in one thing but what’s great is having the three of us together and bouncing off each other and being complete dorks. It’s really easy to be humble because we spend a lot of time coming back to our hometown. We just had a group of third graders from a school in Harbor Springs [Michigan] cover “Michigan and Again” and it brought us to tears. It’s easy to be humble when you have gratitude for the people around you. When you’re overachievers like we are, we’re always looking to improve, always looking to get better. Still, we’re joking around.

MD: There’s a really good thing about surrounding yourself with people who love you. We’ve built up an awesome fanbase where we’re from, and some of these people will send us messages on the road or will show up somewhere and they’ve sent their family members from another state [to see us in concert]. It’s such a great support system. It keeps us levelheaded on the road.

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