As young as Traverse City’s The Accidentals may be, their breadth of experience as road-tested touring veterans and willingness to showcase other Michigan artists has benefited numerous acts in recent years, from Olivia Mainville to Jake Allen.
Add Rockford’s Political Lizard to the list.
The alt-folk Accidentals invited the duo of Jenna Olson and Caleb Waldvogel to tour with them last summer, travels that not only helped expand Political Lizard’s audience but gave the group insights into the touring life.
“They’re some of the kindest people that we know. Without the experience that we had last summer touring with them, I don’t think we’d have the mindset that we do about a tour because there’s so much that goes into it,” Olson said.
“It’s a lot of planning and keeping your voice healthy so you can sing and play every night. It was really sweet of them to invite us and give us an experience that we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. It kind of gave us a head start.”
Added Waldvogel: “It really kicked us into shape.
Indeed, the young songwriters who met and started performing together as Rockford High School students have shaped up impressively: They released their first full-length studio album, “Joy the Dog,” earlier this year, a record spotlighting the genre-defying, harmony-driven music with an “irregular and genuine song structure” that defines the group.
The album quickly caught on with fans and radio programmers: “Joy the Dog” jumped into the Local Spins Hot Top 5 Chart — representing the local and regional albums getting the most airplay at Grand Rapids’ radio station WYCE — the first month it was released, then made the chart twice in the next four months.
The band plays this weekend’s Hoxeyville Music Festival in the Manistee National Forest near Wellston, along with big names such as Billy Strings, Railroad Earth, Keller & The Keels, Lindsay Lou, The Go Rounds, May Erlewine & The Motivations and Traverse City’s Biomassive. Political Lizard will play the Mitten Stage at 3 p.m. today. Weekend admission is $195 for adults and $75 for children 5-15; day passes also are available.
Political Lizard also plays northern Michigan again later this month, performing at Iron Fish Distillery in Thompsonville at 5:45 p.m. Aug. 30.
“We don’t try to glue ourselves to one genre, but write and compose in whatever form complements or fits the song at that moment,” said Waldvogel. “Like all other Grand Rapids bands, we have an undying love for the west Michigan music scene and strive to grow and promote local music as best as we can.”
They’ve already grown from a duo to a four-piece indie-rock band, adding multi-instrumentalist John Bomer and drummer Miles Ferguson.
The full band, Olson said, helps “expand our options and grow into fields we couldn’t do just with the two of us.”
Waldvogel noted the duo’s soft rock songs are “easily adaptable to a full band,” a band that allows Political Lizard to exude “a different energy and a lot of movement.”
And as Olson put it: “Now, we can make louder sounds.”
As songwriters, the pair leans on different influences. Waldvogel cites Leonard Cohen and David Bowie; Olson exhibits affection for everything from “coffee shop singers to Grateful Dead or Phish” and the music she soaked up from her dad.
They’re also creating songs in collaborative fashion with hopes of recording a follow-up acoustic EP later this year.
“We don’t try to glue ourselves to one genre, but write and compose in whatever form complements or fits the song at that moment.” Caleb Waldvogel, Political Lizard