The thought of group assignments might bring back bad high school memories, but without them, The Accidentals may not have come to be.
Multi-instrumentalists Savannah “Sav” Buist and Katie Larson, both 20, grew up in Traverse City just down the street from each other. But it wasn’t until they were thrown together for an assignment in an orchestra class that the pair crossed paths. “We literally became the band that day,” said Buist, who writes songs on a variety of instruments, including the violin, viola, banjo, mandolin and upright bass.
That eclectic sound has helped the indie folk-rock band become one of the state’s top emerging outfits. Billboard named the trio, which includes drummer Michael Dause, as one of the “Top Seven Breakout Artists SXSW 2015.” Now, on June 1, the band dropped its new Parking Lot EP, which is available to stream at moreaccidentals.com.
“It’s called ‘Parking Lot’ because the chorus of that song is ‘get me out of this parking lot,’ Buist explained. “We feel like we’ve been sitting in this metaphorical parking lot for a long time and we’re finally breaking out and showing the world who we really are, who we’ve evolved to be and thanking them for helping us get there.”
Here’s what else they had to say to Revue.
After you two formed in 2011, how did you land your first gig? Do you recall much about it?
Buist: As a band, our first show was two weeks later at Horizon’s Books. We opened for my family’s band. [At that time], I was also in another band playing violin and singing harmony.
Larson: Both of us are really shy. We didn’t really know what stage presence was. We just sat on some stools, we had music stands and we were nervously glancing at each other and giggling while reading the lyrics off a page.
Who writes the music?
Buist: We both write the lyrics. Our writing is kind of a personal process. Most of the time, we’ll get home from a long tour and just work out a bunch of songs on our own. Then we’ll go to the other person and we’ll add some sort of musical accompaniment. Ever since Michael joined the band, he’s helped with a little bit of arranging because it’s really different once a drummer joins your band. It adds a whole new dimension to your songwriting and arrangement.
Is the band the only focus?
Larson: Yes, we’ve been touring and recording since we graduated from high school in 2014. It’s been a solid two years — we’re pretty much owning our own business. We’re super hands-on learning the whole process. It’s a full-time job for sure.
You started your music career as teens and I understand that your parents are both musicians. Was that a big musical influence growing up?
Founders Brewing Company, 235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
June 2, 9 p.m., FREE, 21+
355 E Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo
June 9, 9 p.m., $10, $8 adv., 21+
Full list of shows: moreaccidentals.com
Buist: Yeah, our parents were pretty huge influences. Our fathers are both pianists and our mothers are both singers. Katie’s father is the accompanying pianist for Interlochen Arts Academy. Her mom was also a classical singer.
Larson: I spent a lot of time in middle school and high school watching students at the academy play music, which is very different from Savannah’s side. Her parents met in Nashville when they were both really young and they were just blowing up the scene. Her dad was a really high-demand studio musician. He plays saxophone, guitar and piano and he played the Grand Ole Opry. Her mom was an R&B singer.
Buist: All of my favorite music has been curated by listening in the car with my dad.
Have you always known that you wanted to make music a career?
Larson: I would say no. As we said, both our parents work at Interlochen Arts Academy so I was always looking at Interlochen as an art school. I was interested but I didn’t really know what I would study. I didn’t really see myself going there to play classical cello, practicing five hours a day and then getting a job in a symphony. It didn’t quite seem to be the right thing for me.
When I met Savannah we started gigging and it felt really right. Then Interlochen offered a singer/songwriter program and it just spiraled into the perfect thing.
Buist: I don’t think either of us expected this to happen. Around the time we started the band, right before it happened, I kind of hit this weird rock bottom of existential crisis in my life. I thought, “I have to go to college and know what I want to do with my life. All I’m doing right now is playing this little violin.” I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I was freaking out about it and that’s the moment when Katie actually walked into the room. We both raised our hands [in class] and volunteered for the group and we were a band that night.
Larson: A lot of things lined up to make it happen.
What are you both working on now?
Buist: We are mostly working on promoting the upcoming EP. We’ve released a couple of singles and we have a ton of release shows in June. It’s really exciting. We haven’t released new music in three years. We decided to self-produce it. We were the only ones in the studio who had the sense of direction that we wanted it to go in. We’re releasing music that’s 100-percent us this year