Q&A: Casual Strangers discuses their sources of inspiration, first album, and songwriting process

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UT alumna Katey Gunn and Paul Waclawsky, the lead singer and guitarist, respectively, for local band Casual Strangers, released their self-titled debut album last July. Casual Strangers will perform at the Spider House Café & Ballroom on Feb. 18, and at Holy Mountain on Feb. 27.

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and concision. 

Daily Texan: How did you guys meet and form your band? Are most of you from Austin?

Paul Waclawsky: I’ve been here 10 years. I moved here with my band, The Boxing Lesson, from Los Angeles for the music scene and made a new home. Here we are 10 years later. I pulled Katey into the band about a year and a half ago, and we started writing songs together. I brought in old band members from The Boxing Lesson — bassist Jaylinn Davidson and drummer Jake Mitchell — and the band took shape pretty quickly.

DT: What were you aiming for with your debut album?

PW: We were just trying to have fun with our friends, as opposed to thinking in [the] big picture and trying to make it big. We wanted to look at a more micro scale, and we’re having a lot of fun with that. That kind of leads to one of our themes as songwriters.

DT: How did Austin contribute to the themes in your album? 

PW: It was definitely inspired by Austin.

Katey Gunn: Yeah, a lot of the songs are about moments — moments in time. We were really into capturing the moment, and a lot of that came from just going around town and meeting people. So, I think Austin was the main inspiration for a lot of the album.

DT: Katey, did any of your experiences at UT affect this album?

KG: Yeah, definitely – because there’s a lot of people, and it’s what brought me to Austin. UT really changed my perspectives. After college, I stayed here, I met Paul and my life has gone a completely different direction that I wouldn’t have been headed if I went anywhere else.

DT: What kind of process do you go through when writing these songs? Is it a long one, or is it just put down on paper pretty quickly?

PW: With Casual Strangers we have these overall themes, a macro theme. We had a handful of songs that were kind of developing, and then, in a moment of inspiration over one month or two months, we nailed down all the songs and wrote them in a short amount of time. Then we went into The Bubble (the recording studio) almost immediately when they were done.

DT: I noticed your songs tend to build from a more minimal sound to an over-powering one toward the end. What effect are you trying to convey to the
listener there?

PW: We’re trying to establish that a song leads somewhere, that it goes somewhere. I find albums that really transport me do that well.

DT: In your music, you tend to have a lot of spoken lyrics. What kind of effect do you think that conveys?

PW: Storytelling.

KG: Yeah, if you just tell a story in an unexpected and unique way to get the listener out of their usual element, then maybe they’re a little more open to the subject matter, and maybe you can go somewhere a little different. I think it has that effect.

DT: Do you guys have any ultimate goals?

PW: We do, but they’re mostly small goals. Last year, we wanted to record an album and press it on vinyl. We’re talking about doing a small tour now, we’ve got shows coming up in the area, we’re flying to Denver to do a show this coming July, so we’re not going to get in a van and drive 9,000 miles from town to town. And, while doing this, we’re trying to write new stuff for another record.

KG: Yeah, to us, putting it on vinyl — that’s a medium that lasts. We don’t want to take over the world or anything, we’re just trying to have fun, and I hope thirty years from now someone just finds it randomly on the shelf and is like, “Holy shit. I love it.”