Interview with The Accidental - EOTR - September 2008

Interview and article by Aline Giordano

The Accidental at the EOTR 2008I discovered The Accidental back in March when they supported Malcolm Middleton at the Jericho Tavern in Oxford. I loved the gig. I loved the music straight away. The vocal harmonies (all four members sing on most songs) complimented well the two acoustic guitars and cello. I had a quick chat with Sam and Steve after their set, and bought the album, They Were Wolves, on the night. It had just been released on Full Time Hobby, home of Malcolm Middleton and Fujiya + Miyagi amongst others. We met again at the End of the Road festival. We sat on the grass, backstage, after their live set. A peacock was roaming not far off, if I remember well.

It all started in a kind of banal way. Sam met Steve at the Green Man Festival in 2005. They talked about writing songs together which they did. Hannah who was already working on some projects with Steve joined in and Liam who was a good friend of Sam got on board too. Very quickly they had written up an album. “And that was it really. It just kind of happened”, Sam recalls. “It was very naïve”, Liam is keen to add.

The resulting album is far from being banal. They Were Wolves can be described as English folk-influenced music, and yet, with soul singer Liam and jazz trained singer Hannah, the music of The Accidental does not limit itself to the boundaries of folk music, it can reach far beyond it. “The way that we work is organic; it is the combination of four very different individuals”, Hannah points out.

The Accidental is a collective. Genuine respect for each others within the band transpires during the interview. All present contribute to the conversation. They listen to each other, add their own views to the debate and do so in their own distinctive style. Sam, who portrays a rather shy persona, casually, but excitedly like a kid who’s talking about his first band, confides: “The Accidental is a collective that does not have to go anywhere, it can just be fun and creative. It’s been fantastic, very enjoyable”. Liam, the more extrovert of the band members, echoes this feeling of contentment with an Afro-Caribbean touch, “We’ve been lucky, man! The opportunities we’ve had have been amazing”, he says, in between two puffs of rolled-up cigarette. Hannah, for her part, offers a more composed statement: “Because of the context in which we’re making music, which is not that we need to do this for the rest of our lives, or my future depends on his future and all that kind of stuff that goes on in bands, and because it is a project that we are doing among other things, it’s got that really special quality of a collective where there is no leader and where we are all completely able to express ourselves, giving us a lot of creative freedom.”

This creative freedom is most notably expressed live. When Sam declares that “The Accidental is the only band where every gig feels like a first gig!”, I’m sure he refers to the freshness and feeling of excitement that comes with a first gig and which definitely reaches out to the audience, especially Liam and Hannah’s singing improvisations. “Improvisation is to do with trust and is so spontaneous, and yet it is about the relationships between the musicians that are doing it. Our improvisations have become stronger and stronger as our relationship as musicians and friends has too”, Hannah reports with sparks in her eyes.

The improvisation brings an element of magic to the folk-inspired music that unfolds live. The complicity between Steve, Sam, Hannah and Liam is evident onstage and creates a relaxed atmosphere in which the music can flow among the audience and the harmonies touch our soul. During their performance as well as the interview, I felt I was in the company of friends, friends who just happen to play beautiful music.

The Accidental are involved in other projects: Sam Genders plays in Tunng, Stephen Cracknell in The Memory Band, Hannah Caughlin in The Bicycle Thieves and Liam Bailey has several ‘soul’ projects.

For more details, visit… The Accidental's website

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2008