Take the man behind The Memory Band (Stephen Cracknell), the twisted songwriter from Tunng main man (Sam Genders), one half of Fence Collective duo The Bicycle Thieves (Hannah Caughlin) and singer-songwriter Liam Bailey. Put them in front of a PC and add occasional input from guests including harpist Serafina Steer and Rob, Jenny & Nancy from the Memory Band. The outcome is new collective The Accidental and their beguiling debut album There Were Wolves.
Kindred spirits Cracknell and Genders combined forces via a series of chance encounters and happy accidents that inspired the band’s name. The first came at the first ever Green Man festival, where the pair first met and made plans to send CDs back and forth in the post. “The first two tracks written were Wolves and I Can Hear Your Voice In My Head,” says Cracknell. “I sent Sam a CD with about five sketches on and two days later I got another one back with both finished songs on there. At that point I think we both knew we had something good going on.” Hannah joined the fold via another happy accident, when Domino artist Adem introduced her to Cracknell as a potential housemate. She didn’t move in, but she did end up in the band. An old friend of Sam’s, Liam joined after turning in an impromptu performance at a joint Tunng/Memory Band gig.
The album was recorded in the front room of Cracknell’s flat using just a computer, a pair of microphones, and the rampant imaginations of those involved. “We didn't have a set idea of what the project was and what our plans were for it from the start, so it felt like a very free and natural process,” says Cracknell. “I think the fact all of us had achieved things with other projects gave us a real sense of freedom and relaxation making the album.”
Given the circumstances of its recording, the finished record is fittingly warm, personal and intimate, and less disguised in its folkiness than either Cracknell or Genders’s main projects. Within this, new influences have crept in, such as Liam’s soul and reggae edge and Hannah’s jazz-influenced vocals. The album also gave Cracknell (who handled the programming) a chance to experiment with vocal and instrumental loops and layers, inspired, in part, by Panda Bear and Animal Collective. “I wanted to take something from their ideas but not copy it, because I wanted it to have an English sound too,” he says. “I have a fondness for The Kings Singers, who were poshboy choral singers from the ‘70s doing pop covers. George Martin produced their first album and its great. I also love the Free Design, and loads of vocal harmony stuff, so I tried to take influence from all of this.”
Opening track and debut single Knock Knock – one of the most truly collaborative songs on the album – sets the tone, with joint lead vocals from Genders and Caughlin and mysteriously chilling instrumental loops complimenting Sam’s lyrics about “the fox in the attic”. Elsewhere, Wolves is about “predatory blokes getting drunk and chasing girls,” the upbeat I Can Hear Your Voice is about thrill of meeting someone new and love song Jaw Of A Whale is dreamily beautiful. Cracknell’s Time And Space closes the album, and was written as an imagined conversation with his newborn niece. In this instance, and throughout the rest of LP, the presence of four very different voices and songwriters is wholly felt. “There’s that great thing that happens when you collaborate,” says Genders. “You get something that you wouldn’t have been able to do alone, and it's almost as if it appears out of nowhere.”