The Next Era of the Accidentals: A New Drummer, Music Festival, and Side Projects for the Band | Features

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By Craig Manning | Aug. 5, 2023

Between releasing new music, hiring a new drummer, and plotting a busy summer tour all over Michigan, you’d think The Accidentals would have enough on their plate just fulfilling the normal obligations of being an active band.  

But northern Michigan’s favorite indie-alt-folk trio are nothing if not overachievers, and so it stands to reason that their 2023 obligations would transcend anyone else’s conception of what a “normal” schedule looks like. Why not, for instance, find room to plan a brand-new music festival, or to pursue side projects ranging from songwriting engagements to film animation? One member is even going to school and working on an undergraduate thesis in biology.

A Brand-New Era

Perhaps it’s fitting that 2023 represents a new, sometimes-chaotic era for The Accidentals, given that the band officially celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its formation last year.  

The group’s origins are well-known at this point: Sav Buist (vocals, violin, viola, guitar, bass, piano, etc.) and Katie Larson (vocals, cello, guitar, bass, piano, accordion, etc.) met as members of the Traverse City West Senior High orchestra program before auditioning for the first cohort of a brand-new singer-songwriter major at Interlochen Arts Academy. They subsequently formed The Accidentals, releasing their first two albums—2012’s Tangled Red and Blue and 2013’s Bittersweet—while still in high school. In 2013, Buist and Larson met drummer and percussionist Michael Dause at the Blissfest music festival, and soon, their duo became a trio. 

The rest, as they say, was history. At least until now.

Earlier this year, listeners got one of the biggest and most surprising pieces of news ever to come out of the Accidentals camp: On March 30, Dause took to Facebook to announce that he was leaving the band. 

“Playing with The Accidentals has been an extraordinary adventure for which I will always be grateful,” Dause wrote in his departure announcement. “Sav and Katie, you are truly talented musicians and I wish you both the best.” Dause went on to note that he would be focusing his energy on his new Grand Rapids-based recording studio, called TreeTone Studios, as well as on other bands he’s a part of, including Moss Manor, Treeskin, and Shantyland. 

According to Buist, the split was motivated in part by The Accidentals’ increasingly national touring obligations. In November 2021, in the wake of the most recent Accidentals full-length album—Vessel, which came out in October of that year—Buist and Larson moved to Nashville. The two wanted to pursue songwriting and session recording opportunities, which are hard to find in northern Michigan but abundant in Music City. While the pair still spend plenty of time in Michigan, the move to Nashville naturally changed the way The Accidentals operated as a band. 

This past spring, those changes came to a head: “Michael was expressing interest in staying in Michigan and not touring outside of Michigan as much,” Buist says. “And at the same time, he had his new studio in Grand Rapids and a lot of side projects going on. So, at that point, it was just a matter of us all redefining our goals for the long term. And Katie and I still want to play music [as The Accidentals].”

Buist and Larson assure fans that there are no hard feelings between them and Dause. “We were totally in his corner on [his decision to leave the band],” Buist says. “Whatever he wanted to do, he had our full support, and he always will.” 

New Kid on the Block

Still, Dause’s exit meant Buist and Larson were short a drummer. To fill that role, the band tapped Katelynn Corll, a Detroit drummer and multi-instrumentalist (she also sings and plays guitar and bass) with ample experience as both a recording artist and live musician. Corll used to front the “all-girl modern rock band” Blood and Wine, and has more recently been drumming for Detroit-area indie-pop phenom Chloe Moriondo. The latter job even landed Corll on TV: You can spot her behind the kit during Moriondo’s 2021 performances on both Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

Younger than the other members of The Accidentals, Corll says she’s been aware of the band—not to mention a big fan—since she was 15. Getting the call to play with Buist and Larson, starting with a handful of sets at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, was a dream come true for Corll, made all the more special since she’d been sidelined for a while when the opportunity arose.

“I had a lull [in my playing] because I got hit bad with long COVID with my heart for a while,” Corll says. “I had to kind of ease back into playing, and right as I felt like my health was back to 90-95 percent, Sav messaged me on Instagram.”

“Michael was pulling back on drums and we knew we needed somebody who could come to SXSW,” Buist recalls. “We were about three weeks out and we didn’t have anybody. I was scrolling through Instagram, just on a whim, and I saw a photo of this girl with a bunch of tattoos holding drumsticks. I thought she looked cool, so I followed her, and then I started getting these reels of her playing polyrhythms, and Yes songs, and Foo Fighters, and I was like, ‘Oh, dang, this person could really do this.’ As The Accidentals, we do a lot of genres of music and we do a lot of weird time signatures, so the songs are not intuitive. But Katelynn was totally up for the challenge.”

A Jam-Packed Summer Schedule

With their new lineup in place, The Accidentals have been touring around Michigan all summer. On August 4, they even helped usher in a new era of Downtown Traverse City’s Friday Night Live, a beloved local tradition that’s been dormant since the start of the pandemic. The crown jewel of the band’s summer up north is still to come, too: On August 27, they’re launching their own music festival in Hastings, Michigan.

“It’s called The Fair Ground Festival, and it’s got an insane lineup,” Larson says. “It’s basically all the people we’d ever want to play a show with. Joseph is headlining; they’re like a badass sister trio from Portland, Oregon. And then the lineup is us, The Crane Wives, Ruthie Foster, Patty PerShayla and the Mayhaps, and Kyshona.”

“It’s the kind of lineup I would drop a lot of money on if we weren’t playing,” Buist adds of the new event. “It’s just this one-day, super-charged female powerhouse of a festival.”

Even beyond the summer tour and the festival, The Accidentals all have plenty on their respective plates. 

Buist is in the process of making a solo album and has been playing scattered solo shows around northern Michigan to test out those songs. She’s also studying biology at Middle Tennessee State University and has been working on her undergraduate thesis in the car on road trips between gigs.

Larson is collaborating on a new animated film and has interest in doing more work in that arena in the future—and potentially in helping launch some sort of new film festival in northern Michigan, now that the Traverse City Film Festival has gone away. She and Buist are also taking advantage of their new Nashville zip code to line up regular professional songwriting and session work. Recently, a song they recorded string parts for even popped up in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Corll, meanwhile, is picking up work in the world of pyrography, the art of burning pictures or designs onto wood or leather with a heated metal tool. She recently worked with Dave Abbruzzese, former drummer for the rock band Pearl Jam, to “burn and design a limited run of the signature snare series that he’s going to be putting out with Jeff Woods of Woods Custom Drums in Vancouver.”

“Our side projects have side projects,” Buist says with a laugh.

New Music

As for actual new recorded Accidentals music, Larson says there are a few irons in the fire. 

The band is continuing with its Time Out project, a collaborative series of EPs made up of cowrites between The Accidentals and other songwriters who inspired them. That project so far spans three EPs (the most recent of which came out in March) and has involved noted songwriters like Kim Richey, Mary Gautier, and Tom Paxton. A fourth release in the series is in the plans. 

Also potentially on the horizon, Larson adds, are a new covers album and an album of children’s songs.

One thing that isn’t currently in the works is a follow-up to Vessel—though, that’s not to say a full-length album of Accidentals originals isn’t on the table.

Vessel was the culmination of a lot of years for us,” Larson explains. “The songs on Vessel span from 2015 up to the pandemic. And then lockdown was really a catalyst for us to do a lot of serious editing and rewriting and learning how to record together. We’re really happy with that record, but it definitely was the end point to a lot of stuff we’d been working on. So I think, through co-writing and collaborating with other people, we’re kind of refilling our cup in terms of inspiration and creativity.”

“How do we make another album like that without touring for another 10 years?” Buist adds. “It’s hard to follow up an album that has that much emotional resonance for you, and that’s why a proper follow-up [to Vessel] is probably a little further down the road for us right now. But that’s also the nature of the industry: Right as you get done pouring your heart out, you’ve got to do it all over again.”

Photo by Nathan Strait

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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