In talking with Savannah Buist (violin/guitar/bass) and Katie Larson (cello/bass/guitar), two-thirds of The Accidentals, one starts to question their own sense of perception. Buist and Larson appear to be fresh-faced, early twentysomethings from Traverse City, Michigan.

Yet the longer one talks with the two young women, the more one questions if these are two old souls with facades of neophytes releasing its major label debut ‘Odyssey,” a genre-defying exploration of Buist, Larson, and drummer Michael Dause from high school to full-time touring band.

The Accidentals will open for Keller Williams on January 13 at Mr. Small’s.

Buist and Larson hail from musical families and met as part of the orchestra at the renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts (which also produced Nora Jones, Sufjan Stevens and Rufus Wainwright among notable others). Soon after meeting, The Accidentals were born in 2012. Growing musically as well as physically, the band picked up Dause in 2014. The trio has spent most of the last five years touring the country while releasing two independent LPs and an EP before signing with Sony Masterworks in 2017.

The Swerve Magazine recently spoke with Buist and Larson as the two were on a break from their non-stop touring schedule in December. The Accidentals will hit the road again with Williams this month with Pittsburgh being the third date of the tour.

The Swerve Magazine: You have spent a lot of time on the road. How do you balance that touring schedule with time off?

Savannah Buist: I think it is a special balance. When you are on the road, you are trying to get into a different mindset. I have a ritual where I pack my suitcase with exactly everything that I need and then I know I’m going to live out of that for the next couple months. It is like being in a separate routine. When you are on the road, and you are trying to find ways to stay mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy, it requires a different skill set than what it takes to be home. So when you come home, the suddenly that day-to-day routine is not there. I know our drummer, he will start reading a book on the road, and he will make sure he is not done with it by the time he gets home so that the one consistent thing on the road and at home is he is still reading the same book. You do require that transition period because it is crazy to tour like 250 days a year and then whatever days you are back home and you are trying to learn to function without being in a different city every night.

SM: It is like you are living two different lives.

SB: Like it's Hannah Montana (laughs).

Katie Larson: When you get us off stage, we are extremely introverted. We need time to recover from putting ourselves out there on the stage. It is really funny because people will see us off stage and they are like, “You guys are introverts, how do you do that?” We nap in the van for five hours, or we’ll come back and do it tomorrow (laughs).

SM: The transition period must be intense.

KL: I find myself just eating everything when I’m at home. The other day, I was at this restaurant, and they served pure cookie dough. I was like, “Yes, I don’t have to play a show tonight (laughs). I’m just going to eat as much cookie dough as I want.”

On the road, we have become very health conscious. Savan and I, we avoid as much caffeine as possible in order to keep on a good sleep cycle. We try to stay hydrated. We drink lots of water and eat as healthy as we can to be able to focus on keeping our bodies healthy to put out all the energy every night.

SM: Wow, at a relatively young age, you are a lot wiser than other bands I’ve talked to in your approach to touring.

SB: I think it is important that you treat it like a job. When we started, we were 15 and 16 years old, and we wanted to take it seriously. We are not partiers anyway. We wanted to make sure that just because we are young, it doesn’t mean that we are going to fit a stereotype that some people might have in mind. We kind of went above and beyond to make sure that we always took care who were always taking care of us, that we didn’t leave the venue trashed. We took care of ourselves on the road. We treat people the way you are supposed to treat people when they help you and go out of their way to support your careers. It is something that we have held true from the get-go.

SM: After this break, you head back out on the road to open for Keller Williams. Can you talk about him playing on the album, the song that is named after him and how all of it came to be?

SB: We met Keller Williams at Electric Forest Festival which takes place in
Rothbury, Michigan. It is one of the biggest festivals in that area. We were playing there, and our booking agent introduced us to his booking agent. We got talking there, after he got done playing with the String Cheese Incident, which was a geek-out moment for sure. We started playing small tours with him at the time he was in an ensemble with Rodney Holmes and Rob Wasserman, so we got to meet those guys too. It was really cool touring with them.

Eventually, we got home from a tour with them, and we still had all this inspiration from watching his shows. He does every genre. He is constantly trying new things and collaborating. It is all the things that we like to do as well. His style hung with us; we wanted to write this song that encapsulated what he is all about. It ended up being “KW” on the new album “Odyssey.”

At the same time, he consequentially asked us if we wanted to put strings on one of his songs on his newest album “Sync.” We appear on a track called “Hategreedlove,” where we are playing like a billion string instruments. He wanted to know how much he should pay us and we didn’t want to take anything. But, as a result, he ended up playing on our album for free as well, so we just traded those things (laughs). We asked him to play on “KW” which we subtly named after him. He played on it and ended up playing on it at some of our live shows that turned into recently where we were his backup band for a couple of songs. It has been this cool collaboration. He has always treated us really respectfully. I think it is a risk in taking on a young band as your backup band for a couple of shows, but he has always regarded us as fellow musicians which has been super cool to build that relationship with him.

SM: It is a rare thing to have someone become that type of mentor.

KL: I think he has this trust in people. He is all about collaboration. Once he brings you into the picture, he doesn’t take it easy on you. He gives you the song and tells you, “Get on the ride because we are going to take it from a disco beat to a bluegrass beat to a funky solo.” You have to prepare yourself. He has really pushed us. I feel my sense of confidence has really improved with being able to go with the flow and be flexible on stage. No matter how much you try to prepare, there is always the amazing element of improvisation that is going to happen when you get on stage with Keller.

SM: That is a nice segue to get into the music on “Odyssey,” as you can, and do many times, stop on a dime and turn from one genre into another. Was that idea to be genre-hopping a conscious decision or was it something that just happened when you got together and started making music?

KL: Our music has been evolving since day one. What I love is that we don’t put any limits on or expectations on the genre or the production. We try to start with the lyrics and chords, which I and Savannah write separately and, then bring together and arrange as a three-piece. Each song we take individually. It is fun to experiment. I think touring with artists like Keller and Martin Sexton, playing before Andrew Bird and Brandi Carlile, all teach us something new. When I see people dancing at one of Keller’s shows, I wanted to write a really funky, jam-band song that people can dance to.

When Martin sits down to tell this personal story and makes the entire audience silent, just waiting for what he is going to say next. It is really inspirational. It makes us want to try a little bit of everything.

SM: It is like being a sponge around who you are on tour with.

SB: I think it is important to learn as much as you can from the opportunities that you get.

SM: In talking about how different musicians and then yourselves approach writing songs, I could probably talk to you this whole interview about your song “Crow’s Feet.”

KL: I love that one.

SM: It is obvious you are very literate, very well read. With lyrics like, “sunset stains like a nectarine” and “road kill crow’s feet around your eyes,” the imagery is vivid. Can you talk a little about how the writing process works for you?

KL: The lyrics have always been super descriptive, especially with the imagery. When I first met Savannah, we were 15/16-years old in high school. She had never written a song, but she had written many short stories. She had a way with description.

SB: I didn’t think I was ever going to be a songwriter. I started playing music when I was 11. When someone challenged me to write songs, I always said I don’t write songs. When I met Katie, it was the catalyst of realizing I could expand my writing. I was already writing novels and short stories. The fact that Katie was playing multiple instruments. She was the jazz guitarist at my high school, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. She was also writing songs. I thought that maybe I should try writing songs because somebody my age is doing all of these things.

I think I just needed somebody in my life to prove that it was possible first. I’ve been writing songs ever since. Now Katie and I are the songwriters for the band. We write pretty individually. We do arrange together; it is what makes The Accidentals have a lot of different sounds.

SM: What was the inspiration for “Crow’s Feet?”

SB: I think I wrote that about three or four years ago. It was right as we were starting to tour full time. We were starting to make that emotional jump into knowing how to tour full time and trying to stay present in it. It is very hard for me to be present and accept where I am without having a backup plan. We have become professional problem solvers because on tour there is a lot of things that happen that are out of your control, like the van breaking down over and over at the beginning of our last tour.

I think “Crow’s Feet” did a lot for me in teaching me to control what was within my ability to control, but to learn to let go and stay present in the moment you are in. There is a line in there that says, “When it's never enough, it's because there is nothing attached.” For me, that meant I needed to ground myself somewhere that I can come home to and feel rooted in. I, also, need to feel that there is consistency on the road and stay present.

Even now when I say all of that, it all comes back. I feel like every show is a lecture for me. Some of the songs that I write I’m not really sure what I’m writing about. Then, when I get on tour, I really start to get what they are about because we play them every night. I’ll find a new line and think, “Ohhh.” It is like a teaching lesson.

SM: That ties in nicely with another question I have. I’ve been asking this question a lot lately after having a conversation with a songwriter that insists that the song is never done. It evolves over time. It grows as it takes on a life of its own. Do you find your songs do that?

KL: I think both musically and lyrically. Some of these songs were written back in high school before we started touring full time. I think that after we had been on the road and had some many eye-opening experiences, like many artists that write songs, it may take a few years to fully realize what that song is and about.

I think musically, it has been fun to experiment, having other instruments between the violin, the cello, and the guitars. I’ve picked up the electric bass in the last couple years. The electric guitar, I think it and the bass have helped to expand the sound.

The song “Cut Me Down” off the new album is a song we have played many different ways. We have played it on electric guitar and bass. We have played it on cello and violin. We are constantly experimenting with the instrumentation to really find what suits the song best. It is fun too to switch it up every once and awhile.

SM: “Odyssey” came out on a major label. In keeping with this them of evolving lyrically, musically, and has a band, has signing with a major affected the band?

SB: When we signed with Sony (Masterworks), we were pretty new at it. We had not done anything like that. We were surprised that Sony was one of the first labels to come out of the woodwork. We had just recorded and produced an EP called “Parking Lot.” It was what had drawn their attention, the fact the we self-produced the EP. We thought that when we were signing with them, we would be losing a big chunk of our creative control because that tends to be the stereotype.

It was the opposite for us. In fact, we met with the head of the label. We sat down with him, and he immediately said “I love what you are doing. I want you to choose what producer you want to work with. Choose the studio. Choose the songs for the album. You have the majority of the control. We want to hear what you guys are doing. We already like and support what you do.”

So, we were able to go into the studio and record the songs that best represented the journey of the last five years, because some of the songs are five years old. They reflect the evolution of the band, and they reflect the underlying story of having support in this career.