Milford-based band devotes full attention to 'Afterthought'

MILFORD — For years Milford native Anthony Paolucci worked in the same marketing office with Orange resident Kate Mirabella. But it was a chance conversation about an early 2000s emo band that convinced them they should be making music together.

Now, the pair are getting ready to release their third album, “Afterthought,” under the name Passing Strange.

“We didn’t talk to each other a lot at work, but one day My Chemical Romance was playing, we did the did the same drum beat, and we just turned to each other,” said Mirabella. “That’s what started discussions, and I found out he played the drums, and he found out I played the piano.”

Before that moment, the two had sat in a room next to each other for weeks without exchanging a word, Paolucci said.

Mirabella started singing, and Paolucci told her that she should go to an open mic and he would back her up on drums.

“We did an open mic, and we played, and something clicked, and I thought there was something here,” he said. “With my background and the stuff she was writing, I thought it was a cool mix.”

Mirabella agreed.

“It was pretty lucky that we just happened upon it,” she said.

When she sings covers, Mirabella said she tries to make them sound different, with her own style. She said Paolucci, backing her on drums, intuitively understood what she was doing. That’s when she realized their musical connection.

“The chemistry was definitely spot on and instant,” said Paolucci.

The new album, which they plan to release at a live performance Sept. 25 at the live music venue 10selden in Woodbridge, is their definitive recording, Paolucci said.

“The progress is interesting because if you listen to the first album, we wrote it and recorded it in a couple of months and a lot of it was us finding our sound. It was very jazzy and bluesy,” said Paolucci. “In our second one, you could start hearing more of an indie sound and getting away from the bluesy and jazzy stuff. Then this one was a culmination of all of that progress and evolution. And I think this third album defines us.”

Mirabella said the band, and the two musicians, have changed and developed over the course of writing and recording three albums.

“That first album I had my jet black hair,” she said. “I had just gone through a breakup. I was angry, sad and you could hear it.”

The second album was her coming out of that phase, she said.

“(It was) like where are we now, which is more indie, which is what I listen to the most,” she said. “It felt more like me. This third one is a combination of both where I feel like it really defines us as a band.”

Mirabella and Paolucci both bring plenty of musical experience.

“I been a huge music lover my whole life,” said Mirabella. “I’ve been playing the piano for 15 years, or something crazy, and before that, I was a drummer.”

Paolucci said he has 30 years experience playing drums in various rock and original bands.

The two have never thought they needed additional musicians in the band, he said.

“When you hear the albums, they sound very full, and it’s just piano, drums and vocals,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten the hang of that. When we figured all this out at the beginning, we knew all we needed was the piano and the drums.”

In 2018, the band placed third in the 2018 CTNOW Best of Hartford Reader’s Poll for best new band. Their song, “Pacific Northwest,” also placed third in the poll for favorite song. In the same year, they were nominated for the 2018 New England Music Award for new acts.

The two released their first album, “Come Whatever Storms,” in 2019, and signed with NeuroTronix Records the following year. Passing Strange’s second album, “The Water and the Woods,” was also released in 2020.

The duo describes their music as “laced in jazz, bedazzled in blues and brewed in a vat of indie rock.”

“Somebody else once told us that we sound like an emo Alicia Keys,” said Paolucci. “And I was like that was cool.”

When they were naming their third album, Paolucci suggested Afterthought because that was a name he had always wanted for a band. Mirabella liked the name. But, for her, the name went a little deeper.

“I explained to him why it worked because this was the album I couldn’t make yet,” she said. “I couldn’t write these songs yet, and I didn’t have them in me yet. I had to get out the angry songs, the fun songs and everything that came before it. These songs took years, rather than a few days or weeks sometimes.”

In 2020, unable to perform live shows, the two worked on their third album.

“The songs I wrote during the quarantine were so hard to write that it sucked,” said Mirabella. “Usually I would crank them out, we practice them, and they were great. But the ones I wrote during quarantine, you kind of notice in the album, they are pretty dark.”

But since they had more time to work on their third album, they explored different avenues with their music and experimented with a few things.

“Like we have a song that we added string and violins that we’ve never done,” Mirabella said.

“Having that amount of time, you do get to hear the song so many times that you’re like, you know what, a violin would sound good here,” said Paolucci.

Now that the third album is done, the duo is excited to perform it live.

“There is a bit of pressure because essentially our last show was our last album release, and it has been so long, we now have an entirely new one,” Mirabella said. “So it’s not an easy show to warm up with, but we are definitely excited.”