With the pressure of releasing a successful sophomore album, Casual Strangers ditched an almost complete set of tracks to move in a totally different direction. The result is an instrumental, psychedelic record that invites listeners to take the passenger seat through an introspective journey that is Pink Panther.
Mostly a DIY record (all the way down to the album art), Pink Panther tests the bounds of ambient, trippy music through its multilayered textures of vintage synthesizers and various guitars and heavily improvised instrumentation. Because of their alternative approach to creating this LP, Casual Strangers constructs a totally different atmosphere when listening to them live versus hearing them on record.
The official release of Pink Panther is tomorrow, Feb. 26, and the band is performing and having a record release tonight at Sidewinder (get your tickets here), so you have the chance to experience the record holistically.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Waclawsky and Katey Gunn to talk about the the process and work behind Pink Panther.
Arielle: What made you want to do an instrumental album?
Paul: We were writing a record last summer with vocals, and we also started getting into improv. We started doing some recording at home, and ended up side stepping the record we had written — we had all these songs, choruses, verses ready. But we started getting into avant garde, improv music. We figured we’d do this record as a fun project for ourselves, and after a while it felt like a whole album.
Katey: It was something we always thought about doing, and it was hard to express what we wanted to without words. It was a step in a different direction, but it’s a different thing to emote what you would with words, but with music — and it’s been rewarding.
P: We’re used to making music in terms of a verse and chorus and an intro, and this time it’s none of that. It’s a free flowing conversation between instruments.
K: It was about getting the best sounds — the most interesting and emotive sounds we could get. And once we got that, you can layer it and it’s a different experience than what we’re really good at. It made it a lot more minimalistic.
A: What were some of your biggest inspirations?
P: This band called Harmonia, a group from Germany, that Brian Eno loved. He visited them and recorded a record with them before he recorded with David Bowie. So this band was the quintessential krautrock band at the time. We started getting into them and it lead us down this road of minimalism and relaxed, keyboard vibes. So we went out and bought two keyboards form 1975, and we recall the sounds of these records that we love.
K: My biggest inspiration, outside of a band, was our four track recorder. We started recording on our four track in our living room, and it opened up different avenues in capturing awesome sounds. Working on it at home for an hour or two and finally find an awesome sound or vibe, you need to capture it right then because with these analogue keyboards, you won’t get that sound again. So recording with the four track at home was a huge difference for the record and helped expand what we could do.
A: Can you tell me more about the album art?
P: We made the album in a DIY fashion — we pieced it together, we lived it — and we wanted to make real art for our album art. So we got the idea of spin art, and we did nine different covers. It was a group project for the whole band, with each of us making art, which is how the process of making this album felt — very fluid.
A: Was that process of making the album ever frustrating?
P: No, I think we had a good run. It was very fluid, we were inspired constantly, we didn’t run into many bumps. “Little Lids” is actually one full take. Katey was playing lead on the keyboard, and it was one take — no cut ins or anything. That was it.
K: We had gotten so comfortable with improv that I think we were all open to it. I think it would’ve been harder in a more traditional band setting where you’re not as comfortable with that. But we were all comfortable with creating our own parts to make a whole piece.