By Kevin Alan Lamb
After catching The Accidentals at Electric Forest 2015 for the first time at the Jubilee Stage last year, I had the chance to sit down with Savannah Buist, Katie Larson, and Michael Dause and get to know the Beulah, Michigan sensation. Here is our discussion winding the road they’ve traveled thus far.
Sound & Silence: Welcome to Electric Forest, it’s great to hang out with you, I appreciate you guys getting up to start the day. I thoroughly enjoyed your show yesterday, you guys were kind of a breath of fresh air. I was a little tired yesterday and there was a lot of whomp-whomp-whomping, so I enjoyed some instruments and some Traverse City love. How does it feel to be at Electric Forest?
Katie: It feels incredible… just walking into the Forest for the first time we knew that it was going to blow our minds, even in the daytime seeing all the art… That’s totally unique from any other festival we’ve been to. And the stages are all a piece of art like the Observatory Stage was beautiful and we’re like ‘Oh my God we get to play on this, no way!’ We can’t believe it’s a smaller stage, and they’re like it’s a side stage…
Sound & Silence: What did you know about Electric Forest before coming here?
The Accidentals: Forty-thousand tickets have been sold in two days [Laughter].
S&S: What’s the biggest show you’ve played?
Savannah: I think Wheatland was one of our biggest, along with the Grand Rapids Local First Street Fair was pretty huge.
S&S: Talk about some of the local venues you play in Michigan.
Katie: There are so many good festivals in Michigan, just from being on the scene for three years. Some of the first festivals we did were Harvest Gathering and Blissfest…Harvest is like a family reunion where everyone knows each others. They had like 113 bands last year and it was like a giant musical family. We were joking because there were a bunch of bands and five drummers were switching between all of them and four of them were named Mike.
S&S: Tell us what it’s like to be in Traverse City, and where you like to play.
Savannah: It’s amazing to be in Traverse City because there is always a huge fan base who comes around and supports us in everything we do. I’d say Workshop Brewing Company is one of those places that always supported us because they have everything a musician is looking for, it’s just kind of the perfect place. They do food and their PA system is already there, and the turkey sandwich is to die for.
S&S: You have three shows here… you’re getting that first big highlight, walk us through what you’re feeling, where you’ve been and where you’re going…
Savannah: It feels awesome to look around us and see all these other artists… and a lot of them are new artists that we’re not familiar with. We know the Ragbirds are here, Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers played last night, but there’s a lot of new faces and to see us around these new bands, we’re kind of honored to be here sharing the same stage with lots of other great artists. I kind of like to joke that it’s the first and last time we’re going to share the bill with Skrillex, I mean oh my gosh! Unless we collaborate…that’d be cool, we a made a remix with one of our songs in honor of Electric Forest, we always say we like to incorporate different genres, so we do the gypsy jazz, the folk, and rock, blues, and hip-hop. We’ve got Rick Chyme who will be joining us all weekend who is a wordsmith, spoken word and rap over a lot of our music, but electronic music is kind of the last frontier that we haven’t go to yet so we made a remix of “Grizzly Bear” with our friend Kai Fellsman, it’s really exciting.
S&S: If you could collaborate with anyone on stage, who would it be?
Michael: Probably Death Cab For Cutie, I just want to play guitar with them and just jam it out.
Savannah: Really, that’s surprising?
Katie: I thought you were going to say Andrew Bird. Is that who you were going to say?
Savannah: No! I would, but I couldn’t match his pace. I couldn’t make him any better.
Katie: We’re big Andrew Bird fans. I’m also a fan of St. Vincent, though. I just think that would be a fun show… to meet her and be on stage with her, I don’t know what would happen. We’d climb things.
Michael: You’d have to learn her moves, all her choreography.
Katie: I’d have to learn to crowd surf, that’s a goal of mine. Someday I’ll play the cello and crowd surf.
Savannah: I’d really like to collaborate with Jack White and his violinist. I’m pretty jealous of the violinist he had before he took a hiatus because we had the same haircut and everything. I don’t know her name.
Michael: There was a dude violinist that was touring with them at the end of the tour, and he was awesome and he had this really long beard and an amazing name…
Savannah: But was it as long as Rich Chyme’s beard?
Katie: You know I had a dream last night that I was talking to Jack White and I was texting him back and forth and we were like really good buddies so maybe it will happen.
Savannah: We actually met him on accident. We were in his studio, Third Man Records, and we played in his little booth before Neil Young stole it and we decided to record this song and the people working behind the counter went back and told him there were these girls there playing music so he came out and was like ‘Hey can I listen to your stuff?’ And we were like ‘Ahhhhh’.
Michael: He’s bringing Third Man Records to Detroit so there is maybe going to be some opportunity to collaborate.
S&S: Who are you guys individually most excited to see as fans?
Michael: Definitely Edward Sharpe.
Savannah: I’m definitely going to see Skrillex because he’s here! This is going to be a moment I tell my grandkids, be like ‘Yeah I was at Electric Forest and got to play this festival and Skrillex was there, and they’re going to be like ‘No way! I don’t believe you’.
S&S: If you have the time, I can recommend one person to see today and it’s Charles Bradley and the Extraordinaires. He played Founder’s Fest last year and he was in Austin for SXSW and he was like, “Austin, I’m gonna take you to church!” He’s like a 65-year-old man in a purple suit, like James Brown in the house with so much soul and love…
Savannah: Oh my God where’s he playing!?
Katie: We played SXSW in March, we did it!
S&S: Did you see any Good Signs in Austin?
Michael: I might of…
Katie: I feel like I see them everywhere, so it kind of blends together. I have one on my laptop.
Katie: It kind of feels like a dream sometimes, I’ll look around and suddenly there’s a Good Sign there and I’m like ‘Did I put that there?’
Michael: Especially me being really new into the music world, I don’t know how far things stretch sometimes, but I think I did see a Good Sign in Austin.
Savannah: This is almost Michael’s one year anniversary of being in the band, next week. Katie and I have been in the band for almost four years but Michael joined the band last year. We had him audition at Mackinac Island and we met him at Blissfest he was playing the guitar and singing, and we were like ‘Hey you’re pretty good. Let’s be friends.’ Then like a year later he hits me up and is like, ‘Oh by the way I play drums’ and we were looking for a drummer so we just told him to come along.
S&S: You guys play some interesting instruments, can you talk about them?
Savannah: Katie plays a stick, it’s like an NS design cello and it’s mostly electric but it’s a really cool instrument and she wears it on a harness so she can dance around the stage so it’s kind of awesome to watch and looks like a blast. I play a five-string vioalin, it’s part viola part violin and that’s a lot of fun. We both play guitar, electric guitar, and we both play electric bass, and we play more than that but we just can’t bring all the instruments on tour with us.
S&S: How did you two meet?
Katie: We met in orchestra class in high school. I was a sophomore, Savannah was a junior, and we’ve been going to school together for a long time and were in a quartet together so we kind of knew each other but not really. But we didn’t start the band until we both volunteered to do a project for our class…
Savannah: We were the only volunteers.
Katie: We were representing our alternative styles club for the orchestra…
Savannah: It was the dorkiest thing ever.
S&S: There are lots of those dorky things here in Electric Forest…
Savannah: Yeah we feel like we fit in! We’re walking around and I’m like ‘Everyone’s doing something weird, and it’s like everyone’s cool. If everyone dressed like that in public it would be rad.
S&S: Talk about that sense of belonging, and why it is you create music to help other people belong, to help yourself make sense of your talent and all of a sudden be in a place like this where we all belong.
Katie: Yeah. Well, Savannah, didn’t somebody contact you about one of your songs once?
Savannah: Yeah! There was a time for me when music wasn’t the same and didn’t equate to as much productivity, as running into a burning building and saving kittens or something along those lines, but I was like I’m not doing anything special, like everyone else is doing music and this is just something I have the privilege of doing but it isn’t as helpful as running into a burning building. But eventually somebody contacted me and told me about one of my songs, which I didn’t really have that much of a connection with before, and she told me that it really struck her and she used it to get over all of this pain she had in the past and I was like ‘Oh, this is a meaningful thing. I can use this to help other people. So I feel like Electric Forest if the footnote of that. It’s the giant culmination of everyone coming together and expressing themselves because we feel like we’re in a safe place to do that, which is really cool. It’s amazing to witness.
Katie: The festival scene is probably my favorite because it’s such a uniting feeling to be outdoors, sitting in the dirt with hundreds and thousands of other people all mesmerized by one thing. And people have to go back, after the festival to their jobs, and separate things, but at the festival, everyone is open to each other experiencing the same thing.
S&S: You guys are speaking about something very powerful, like what you put out in the world isn’t that measurable, like what we do with Good Sign, I don’t know 90% of the people that we’re affecting in a positive way, but places like this you give people access and a chance to say thank you and it’s cool when you get that, it’s the motivation for when times are tough and you’re fucking struggling, you’re like ‘That’s who I’m doing this for, that’s who I’m hungry for’.
Savannah: Someone really close to us told us that we’re trying to create moments for people, that they can hold onto in tougher times when the can look back and be like ‘Yeah but I was at Electric Forest this year and it was pretty cool’, I think that’s what everybody is trying to do while we’re here, just create moments for each other.
S&S: Who are some musicians who do that for you?
Savannah: Ohh man, too many… everyone. Seth and May for one, I think those guys are amazing. There’s Rick Chyme, The Ragbirds, E-Minor, Blake Elliott, The Crane Wives, they’re a big one. The Appleseed Collective. Brandon is my inspiration but at the same time he just makes me angry, he’s awesome! It’s a love-hate relationship… Love you Brandon, but I hate you.
S&S: Talk about some of the special things and unique qualities of Michigan music: female vocalist, strings, violins, diversity of instruments, and sending a big awesome message to the world like ‘Yo what’s up, Mitten’s doing it’.
Savannah: Wow… that’s a cool way to look at it” [laughing].
Katie: It is. What I see is everyone wants to collaborate with each other. All the bands who we just mentioned, we’ve shared a special moment with and got to know because we live here and we play shows together and we’ve put strings on tons of people’s albums and tons of people have played on our albums and it feels like one big collective like we’re all contributing and feeding off of each other and it feels like a really big family, and when we go outside of Michigan we always joke because we feel like we find pockets of Michigan, like we were in Texas and we went to this studio and we were like ‘This feels like we’re Michigan’. We were at Blue Rock Studios, which was close to Austin and it felt a lot like a Michigan house concert because everyone there has built a reputation and a draw, and that’s what a lot of the venues do here in Michigan, like the Arc has members who love to see music and love to support music so they always come out and know there’s going to be a really great show there.
Savannah: We like to joke because you know when you’re back in Michigan because the people there are so into local music that they will do whatever they can to support you, and it’s all people have ever done for us from the very beginning.
S&S: Talk about how much it does for you when you actually have a crowd that is dancing and giving you permission to try harder, because it sucks when you’re playing to a room that’s just taking photos or looking at you, you want people to dance, but it doesn’t always happen, like I was at your show yesterday and people aren’t standing near the stage and I’m going to walk up there and start moving and people are like ‘Oh ok we can do that’.
Savannah: I know, energy is an equal circuit. If the audience has energy, we’ll have energy. If we have energy, the audience is gonna have energy… we feed off each other. It’s such a cool relationship to have, like if we’re both into the music, and into what we’re doing 100%, it’s a really great feeling, and one we kind of crave sometimes… to be able to just rock out, it’s hardcore.
Check out their latest EP, Parking Lot, and stay hip to the hop because this Northern Michigan trio won’t stop! And just in case, you were looking for one, This is a Good Sound.