Hailing from the same dirty-water city that birthed favorites like Aerosmith, The Pixies, and Guster, and new indie heroes like the Ballroom Thieves and Honeysuckle, Strangers by Accident are an authentic, energetic indie-folk act with an old-school respect for songwriting. Their debut EP, recorded at BearTone Records in 2016, was released less than two years after Brian Sousa and Amy Wynne met as strangers on a rainy day in Boston, played a song called “Accident,” and started playing open-mics as an acoustic duo.
In this interview spotlight, we chat with Brian and Amy about their motivations, challenges, the latest project and more.
Full Q&A long with links and music below.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
Amy: We’re from Boston, MA. We originated as an acoustic folk duo, but over the past couple of years evolved into what we’d call vocally-driven folk-rock and alt-country with a splash of blues and heartbreak thrown in. We’re inspired by the Head and the Heart, Big Thief, Ryan Adams, and Deer Tick, among others.
Brian: Yeah, I think we said Indie-Folk for a while there, but not sure that is the right label for the sound of the new songs we’ve been writing. Labels are tough for any artist, I think, but we definitely have always, since the beginning, talked about the goal of finding a way to impact the audience emotionally. So we’re trying to move people, on a fundamental level.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to keep going?
Amy: I met Brian on Craigslist around this time of year in 2014. I was taking medical school pre-requisites and doing some soul-searching, leaving a career in the aerospace industry. When Brian and I first sat down and played together, something unexplainable clicked. Within a month, we were writing together and starting to hit the Boston scene– and within a couple of months my apartment burned down in Boston’s most horrific winter in years. I was on a path in school that would have undoubtedly taken me away from music, and what we were creating felt special. I quit the medical path and made music/Strangers by Accident my focus and haven’t looked back!
Brian: I write fiction and teach, but music has always been my biggest passion. By 2014 I’d broken up with my old band and my girlfriend. I posted a demo song on craigslist, met Amy, and like she said, it clicked (and I’m obviously a terrible influence.) For me, that idea of writing the next song is the thing that gets me the most fired up and motivates me.
How is this new release different than previous ones? Were you trying to accomplish anything specific?
Amy: This new release is definitely a divergence from the first. Heavier drums and electric guitars didn’t make an appearance on our previous stuff. After we released our first, mostly acoustic EP last summer, the instruments and players we’d added motivated us to seek out a drummer to thicken our sound, Heidi Crampton. We also kept hearing more harmonies which led us to Justin Bartlett, who blew us away when we saw him play guitar and sing in another band- so we poached him. With two new members, our sound has definitely evolved sonically.
Brian: Our first album was, in many ways, about heartbreak; I was just getting through a break-up, and had moved home to New England. “Seattle” is the first single off our upcoming EP, entitled Reckless, which has more variety thematically; it’s about relationships, for sure, but also trying to figure out where you stand as an individual in life, the mistakes you’ve made versus what makes you happy, and also the act of playing music and traveling. Specifically, this song, ‘Seattle,’ is about moving forward while making peace with the past. It also represents a change in sound, because Amy and I started out playing this song acoustically, and now it’s one of our loudest songs.
Name one or two challenges you face as an indie musician in this oversaturated, digital music age? How has technology helped you (since we know it does help)?
Amy: Technology in this industry is definitely a blessing and a curse! There are so many mediums out there to share music I find we sometimes feel like we’re spreading ourselves thin trying to push our music in so many directions, instead of being able to dedicate ourselves to doing one thing “right” if that makes any sense. We spend a large chunk of time on administrative stuff trying to figure out marketing instead of writing new material, which can be frustrating at times but is definitely a huge importance in getting our art out there. At the same time, technology has helped us find new audiences; we booked a successful tour from Boston to SXSW in Austin last March, largely through connecting with bands and new friends on social media.
Brian: I definitely worry that technology steals writing time away from us. If you always feel like you need to be promoting and posting, you’re not sitting down with your guitar and letting some new ideas hit you. Necessary evil for sure.
Where is the best place to connect with you online and discover more music?
You can catch more of what we’re up to on social media-
Anything else before we sign off?
Brian: Our vocalist / guitarist Justin Bartlett has an album coming out soon, under the name Hope & Things; check that out too; they rock.