The Accidentals didn’t necessarily have a five-year plan culminating with the release of a major label album. But that’s exactly what’s happening for the youthful trio from northern Michigan with the upcoming Odyssey, whose title track is debuting exclusively below.
Multi-instrumentalists Savannah Buist and Katie Larson and percussionist Michael Dause, who joined during 2014, have been operating a cottage industry since forming during 2012 in Traverse City, touring hard and releasing music independently — as well as a variety of lifestyle products. The self-confessed “music nerds” have built and audience with an old school “in the van” aesthetic, and its deal with Sony MasterWorks — which releases Odyssey on Aug. 18 — has made those efforts pay off.
“Honestly, things kind of happened organically since we started the band,” Buist, who wrote nine of Odyssey‘s 13 tracks, tells Billboard. “We’ve had the right opportunities come up, but I don’t think any of us expected this to happen.” Larson, who penned the other four songs, adds that, “I think five years ago I thought I’d be in college at this point, doing who knows what — not standing on a stage playing music in front of people. That would have terrified me five years ago. It still terrifies me, actually.”
The Accidentals had been courted by labels and producers before but opted to stay independent in order to protect its rootsy, genre-unspecific brand of Americana. Masterworks, however, won the group over with a music-centric philosophy as well as its eclectic roster — and a willingness to let the group co-produce Odyssey with Jason Lehning. “We feel like we’re the nerdiest ones on there, but it’s a good dynamic,” Buist says. “Sony MasterWorks is definitely the nerdy branch of Sony. It’s a lot of people who are really geeky and musical and do a lot of genre-blending, which is really cool. It’s exciting to share the roster with them but really terrifying to share the roster with them.” “It sets up all these expectations and goals,” Larson notes.
Odyssey was recorded in Asheville, N.C., Nashville and Brooklyn, and mixes brand new songs with material the Accidentals — which also includes new adjunct member Jake Allen on keyboards and guitar — have been playing live for years but never recorded. “With this album we’ve really had a chance to sit on the songs for years — two, three, even four years,” Larson says. “We’ve been hashing them out live, so we knew them so well by the time we were in the studio we had the best versions together we could.” Odyssey‘s title track, meanwhile, is among the more recent compositions and became the album’s title as a kind of statement of intent for the group.
“This album was its own odyssey, which means coming in every day and changing your story with mutual respect,” Buist explains. “It’s really scary sometimes to put yourself out there in a vulnerable way. This whole album is about this odyssey; Every single day we get up and move forward with baby steps, and we’re not afraid to talk about these things — being afraid of change, finding balance in our lives and learning to be present. That’s where the line ‘I’m not weak’ comes from; We don’t do this in absence of fear, but in spite of it.”
The Accidentals welcomed a number of guests into the fold on Odyssey, too, including Kaki King, Keller Williams on the improvised track “KW,” Jenny Conlee of the Decemberists, Buist’s father Rick on piano and members of Carbon Leaf, Lily & Madeleine and Jack White’s band. “I think we really appreciated that opportunity, just because it helped open up some of the arrangements for the new songs,” Larson explains. “For a lot of these songs we’ve heard the way they are for a long time, so it was cool to get someone else’s ideas on there, especially to work with artists we love. The whole goal for this album is exploring different genres and morphing genres and combining genres and making something…undefinable.”
Odyssey is currently available for pre-order, and the Accidentals have launched a PledgeMusic drive featuring a variety of packages, bundles and perks for early adapters. The group is playing shows throughout the summer, including six special album release shows during August in Michigan and a pair of Colorado shows with Keller Williams, and the trio plans to maintain the heavy gigging schedule that got it to this point.
“We could not be more excited,” Buist says. “It’s been a really insane process and we’re finally at the point where we can share these songs with everyone. We want to prove to the world with this album, and to the labels, that you can support authentic music and people will be open to it.”