An error in housing led me to spend the first semester of my senior year in a dorm of strangers. We were four Black women watching the 2008 election. The first time three us were old enough to vote; the feeling was electric as we watched the results. You don’t know how much democracy means until it unfolds before your eyes and know you played a part in outcomes. Of course, a decade ago was such a different time.
Today we’re not in the best place. That doesn’t mean that hope we held onto back then is gone for good though. We still have the chance to feel that electricity as we hit the polls as hard as we did once upon a time. They say all it takes is one vote, and yes – that’s true but bands like The Accidentals are showcasing that it takes a village and then some. Motivated by the world around them, often times crumbling around them, they were able to find strength as they penned “Heavy Flag.” A call to action and a reminder of our responsibility to this nation, to ourselves.
Kendra: It’s safe to say that America hasn’t been doing well in recent years. Some would say it’s embarrassing. With that, do you feel like we could ever bounce back from our current state?
Katie: Our generation has to step up. We are counting on them to get out to the polls and vote for people that care about long-term sustainability. As a band, we’re all in our early 20’s and looking at our future. We want to live in a world that takes care of its resources and each other, every voice to be represented, and reasonable discussion and critical thinking. A century ago women and minorities were fighting to even have the right to vote. We need to take advantage of that ability, think critically about the next 50 years, and listen to each other in order to create the future we want to live in.
Kendra: What was the last straw that made you pen “Heavy Flag?”
Sav: I don’t really recall a “last straw, but then again, I kind of lose myself in songwriting. When I need to dump off excess emotion, it’s usually in the form of a song. “Heavy Flag” came into existence in May of 2016, at 2am, while I was contemplating my future. I was looking at a famous photograph called “Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima” and playing around with the chord progression on a viola. The weight of that flag both physically and psychologically seemed incredibly heavy. That concept became the refrain of the song.
The rest of the words were inspired by my frustration at how far we have come towards changing the historical story and how far we have to go, and how important critical thinking is to achieve a higher level of understanding. Our generation can’t be complacent or afraid, and we can’t be short-sighted. We have to be involved. All of that came together to create one of the more intense songs I’ve ever written, but one that nails down the feeling.
Kendra: The story behind when you were writing the song is very striking. Seeing that picture of the flag being hoisted up at Iwo Jima and the flag being both physically and psychologically heavy. For you, what issues weigh the heaviest?
Sav: For me, the weight of the flag in the photograph mirrored the weight of the responsibility we all share. I feel that there is a lot of divisiveness in the country. It’s harder than ever to understand each other. There’s distrust and anger from all sides. There are people who have lost hope in the power of their vote. The midterms are really where your vote counts. This is where you can really affect change. We all have an equal, human right to our vote, to our voice.
Kendra: Right now the most important thing people can do is vote. Would you say “Heavy Flag” is a call to action in a way?
Katie: “Heavy Flag” is definitely a call to action. That’s why the timing of this song’s release is crucial for us. We’ve seen stats that only 20% of 18-24-year-olds are committed to voting in the 2018 midterms. We need to change that statistic. With the release of “Heavy Flag,” we’re launching a series of “#TUESDAY” Get Out the Vote events with Seth Bernard and the Clean Water Campaign across our home state of Michigan. We’ll be handing out information on how to vote and encouraging critical thinking about our resources and our future. Beyond the midterms, we want to continue to spread the message that it’s important to stay aware, stay informed, and stay engaged with your community.
Kendra: You’ve done some 200 shows this year and are still on the road. Are current audiences hearing “Heavy Flag” live?
Katie: Yes! As soon as we got off the road touring our 2017 album Odyssey we recorded four singles in LA and including “Heavy Flag” and started rehearsing the live version. The best part was getting together as a band to evolve the song from the acoustic demo to electric 5 string violin/electric cello/drums. As soon as our drummer Michael started playing the alternating beat on the toms, the song amped up to another level. We’ve been playing it from east coast to west coast this year and it remains one of the most impactful songs each night.
Kendra: Do you feel like you could eventually make a whole politically charged album, maybe an EP?
Sav: When you tour the US nonstop for four years, you experience a lot of viewpoints, you get a snapshot of people’s lives, and you start to understand things from different perspectives. You also see the most beautiful places and learn gratitude for the sanctuaries that still exist. You get to see first hand, music education is changing lives for young people and programs are working to strengthen communities. More often than not we find people genuinely care about each other regardless of politics. We use songwriting as a form of therapy, and sometimes songs just write themselves. Often our songs just reflect those moments, those stories, whatever we are trying to make sense of in the moment.
Everyone in the band has different political views. But as a band, we can all agree creating a sustainable future should be a nonpartisan effort. Those issues will probably find their way into our songwriting in the coming years 😉
“Heavy Flag” is a song about us, about our responsibility to that future. We need to use our voices to protect it and contribute to a healthy democracy. In order for a democracy to be healthy, we have to show up.