"I’ve heard a rumor that Casual Strangers syncs up with Ciao! Manhattan…" - Interviews - Soundblab

"I’ve heard a rumor that Casual Strangers syncs up with Ciao! Manhattan…"

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

It may not have grabbed a lot of mainstream press attention, but Casual Strangers’ self-titled debut album has quietly been one of the best of the year. An ever-shifting yet impressively consistent mix of space-rock, 80s-tinged pop, blues, punk, Americana and Krautrock, it packs in more genre-shifts than most bands manage in an entire career and makes all of them work.

Hailing from notoriously cool Austin, Texas, Casual Strangers are definitely one to watch. Soundblab caught up with them to talk about recording live, stubbing toes and just what the hell a ‘mussy’ is.

Are you surprised by the attention Casual Strangers has received?

Paul: We are all surprised and delighted. There are many bands doing so much cool stuff these days, so when the music we are making stands out for someone, it really feels good. 

You have lots of different influences in your music. What’s the usual songwriting process in the band?

Paul: Anything goes in Casual Strangers. We wrote these songs with the goal of capturing a moment in time. What came out were some laughs, some tears, some masculine and feminine rock.

Jaylinn: Sometimes the very first thing we play after we set up - you know, warming-up time - can easily become a song. Those first notes are very pure and come from somewhere different than the place when you are trying to write something. 

Did you make a conscious effort to vary the sound on the album or did it just happen?

Katey: We set out to create an album that didn’t have any real conventions to stick to besides expanding our creativity and fun, so while it wasn’t planned, our freedom kept us open to variety and contrast between the songs.

I read you recorded the album live in four days. Was that approach born of necessity or was it a creative decision?

Katey: It was both. Creatively, we wanted to use the studio to capture the best performances of our conceptualized songs. Secondly, we are a totally self-funded band, so we had to keep time in mind since we were all paying for it ourselves.  

Jaylinn: You can hear the performance. You can hear that it's live. Recently we've been branching out and doing lots of improvisational playing, and there's so much magic in that.

Was it fun to make an album that way? Is it something you’ll continue and would you recommend it to other bands?

Katey: It was such a challenge and so much fun. It pushed everyone to play their best. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. The magic of a band comes from their dynamics together, and there’s no better way to encourage and capture that than recording live in a limited amount of time.

There are two songs called ‘Casual Strangers’ on the record. What is the significance of the name?

Katey: At the beginning of any relationship you are casual strangers, getting to know one another. At the end of a relationship, it’s kind of the same story - you lose contact, move away, or break up, whatever it may be. The ‘Casual Strangers’ songs explore those two states of being.

Is Casual Strangers a concept album?

Katey: Not in the grand sense of Rush - 2112, but there are themes of isolation and humorous confusion that make the album cohesive, even though the songs don’t all sound alike.

How did the band come together? I know a few of you are/were in The Boxing Lesson. 

Paul: Yeah three-quarters of Casual Strangers was The Boxing Lesson years ago in the ‘Dark Side of the Moog’ era. In 2008, our drummer Jake Mitchell was sent away on an extended vacation and we sadly lost our friend and bandmate. When he returned to Austin, we reunited and naturally started jamming again.

We immediately pulled Katey into the mix. This is her first band and she brought a fresh perspective to this project, which really sparked all of our creativity. There is this immense musical connection between the four of us. Jake named us Casual Strangers and what came out was this album. I was shocked that the band name hadn’t been used already! It’s a pretty good one.

Is Austin a good place for a band to be based?

Jaylinn: Austin is dreamy. Plus, from a touring perspective, it's a sweet spot. Being central, you can do a west coast run, come home then do an east coast run.  

You have aliases such as ‘Moonchild’. How big is the psychedelic influence on your music? Are you proper ‘heads’ or do you just dip in the occasional toe?

Katey: Somewhere between the toe and the head! In today’s world of free or undervalued art, we hold day-jobs which preclude a totally psychedelic lifestyle. Granted, our house is filled with psychedelic records from across the world, instruments of all kinds, Peter Max art and blacklight posters, so we definitely revel in psychedelia.

Here’s a test: The Boxing Lesson have a song called ‘Dark Side of the Moog’. Does The Wizard of Oz sync up with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon

Katey: I’ve heard a rumor that Casual Strangers syncs up with Ciao! Manhattan

You’re re-releasing the album on vinyl. Why is vinyl still so sexy? 

Katey: Vinyl is the sexiest way to listen to music because you get big beautiful art, high-fidelity sounds, and time to yourself, without distractions of internet or commercials, to immerse yourself in the whole artistry of a record.  

You’ve got a song called ‘Put Your Mussy on My Mussy,’ but what is a mussy?

Katey: What do you think a mussy is? That’s what it’s all about.

Paul:  Put Your Mojo on My Mojo, baby!

What’s worse: stubbing your toe or having a paper cut?

Katey: Paper cut because as soon as you forget about it, you get lime juice in it and it stings all over again!

Do you guys have any plans to play in the UK?

Jaylinn: We would love to play the UK. We haven't made any solid plans to do so, but don't be surprised if we show up. 

What’s next for Casual Strangers?

Paul: We are talking about making a new record in 2015. We have recorded hours and hours of semi-ambient jams recently that we are all excited about. We may just make a new age record. Recently I was thinking that there is nothing more punk than that these days.


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