Austra set for UK tour
Toronto electro-goth-pop six-piece take Feel It Break on the road
Having rated spine-tingling coldwave-disco banger ‘Lose It’ as one of our favourite songs of 2011, The List are big fans of this Toronto electro-goth-pop six-piece based around one-of-a-kind Latvian-Canadian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Katie Stelmanis.
A virtuoso musician with several years of classical training behind her, plus stints in riot grrrl band Galaxy and a solo album, Stelmanis puts the lavish praise heaped on Austra’s debut LP Feel It Break down to it being the most ‘normal’ sounding music she’s yet made. ‘I used to write overdramatic, opera-aria inspired songs with lots of harsh industrial noise,’ she explains. ‘I thought it was cool, but it was a bit hard to listen to. Adding a rhythm suddenly turned everything into dance music, and that is something that people understand.’
There’s little that’s normal about Stelmanis’s voice – an icily affecting precision instrument that’s won her admirers and invitations to collaborate from many quarters. ‘It’s got something eerie and unique about it,’ praises Death In Vegas’s Richard Fearless, who worked with the Austra singer on his latest album Trans-Love Energies. ‘I find it quite haunting. It has elements of The Knife, but less Middle Earth.’
Both Stelmanis and Austra drummer Maya Postepski are lesbians and strive to make their sexuality an intrinsic part of the band’s identity. ‘I don’t think you need to know that I’m gay to enjoy my music,’ says Stelmanis, ‘but as an artist I chose to speak openly about it because there are too many people in the world that still don’t know how to deal with homosexuality.’ Her point is underscored by YouTube’s censoring of the video to Austra’s single ‘Beat And The Pulse’ for its arty representations of female flesh. ‘I think it’s a clear indication of where North American values lie,’ Stelmanis shrugs. ‘There is so much hateful and violent content on YouTube that is deemed acceptable whereas a few boobs are not. Go figure.’