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

Chris Duncan

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.”