An interview with John Kulas, bassist of Racine's Well-Known Strangers
by Mike Huberty
January 2018

Well-Known Strangers LIVE - photo by paddy fineran

Well-Known Strangers LIVE
photo by paddy fineran

Racine’s WELL-KNOWN STRANGERS is the brainchild of guitarist Joe Adamek who envisioned creating a modern alt-pop sound that would be structured around the interplay of strong female vocals and the smooth sounds of the cello. He found those muses with vocalist Betsy Ade and cellist Sacia Jerome. They rounded out the band with southeastern Wisconsin music vets, drummer Roger Gower, guitarist Ted Koth and bassist John Kulas. We did a Q &A with Kulas to preview their upcoming performance at Madison’s High Noon Saloon on February 6th with BETH KILLE and RACING PULSES.

MI: Who were your favorite artists growing up? What were your seminal influences?
WKS: We truly have quite the mix bag of favorites that cover just about every genre in music. To name a few… U2, PATSY KLINE, RUSH, THE CURE, LED ZEPPELIN, DAVID BOWIE, JIM CROCE, THE CARPENTERS, PINK FLOYD, HANK WILLIAMS, THE BEATLES, a wide variety of famous composers (Mozart, Bach, etc.), and many, many more. Way too many to list and our families all had such an impact on what we grew up listening to.

MI: What kind of music can you all agree on?
WKS: Great question and honestly pretty tough to answer due to our diverse music background and interests. There are just so many gifted artists. I think we’re all fans of GOO GOO DOLLS and their use of the cello in their music. I think it’s safe to say we tend to gel with some of the female artists or female fronted bands such as ALANIS, BRANDI CARLISLE, JEWEL, PRETENDERS, and others. Finally, songs that contain acoustic guitar and cello will typically catch our ears.

MI: What’s the single? The one song people should hear first?
WKS: “Aligned”, the song was inspired by a very specific life scenario and relationship struggle, but it also speaks to the acceptance with that situation. We believe the lyrics echo with most people and some of their own life challenges. We’ve heard this from many of our family, friends, and fans, and the majority call out “Aligned” as their favorite.

MI: You guys just released a new album, is there any theme that runs through the new recording?
JK: I wish there was some really cool story on how each and every song ties into one another, or some specific story we’re telling throughout the album, but that just isn’t the case. Each song is as individual as our band members are with their own musical taste. If we had to nail down a ‘theme’ it would be a collection of songs focused on relationships and the associated experiences.

MI: What inspired your band name?
JK: One of our close friend’s daughters actually came up with the name and we all agreed.

MI: What do you think was your favorite show so far?
JK: Wow…so many amazing opportunites. Vegas, Summerfest, opening for BLUE OCTOBER AND CANDLEBOX, charitable events, hometown gigs, radio appearances… hard to nail just one down. I would say that our show in Barron County playing for Sacia’s (their cellist) hometown would be a favorite. What made it so memorable was the fact that it took place in a theater where everyone in attendance was there to hear music… no drinking, no talking, no distractions… just a very intimate performance for a theater full of people that came to hear us play. Such a different experience to that of say a bar gig…

MI: What can new people expect to happen on February 6th at the High Noon?
JK: Tons of energy, and tons of interaction between band members. What we hear constantly from those that have seen us perform is how well we play off each other and how much we enjoy to perform together. From start to finish we deliver energy and truly enjoy the opportunity to entertain.

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