Austra is a Canadian band hailing from Toronto, that mainly consists of three people. Katie Stelmanis who is responsible for the vocals, lyrics and keyboards, Maya Postepski on all kinds of drums and Bassist Dorian Wolf. Katie’s sometimes rather cold but always very intense voice (which she trained through a legitimate education as an opera singer) is what dominates the sound of Austra. It often stands in a juxtaposed position to the more upbeat and straight-forward tunes that Maya and Dorian provide and together they create a very intimate soundscape.
Their Debut Album ‘Feel it Break’ was released in 2011 and met with favorable reviews by critics and set the tone for all that is to come from Austra, incorporating Katie Stelmanis’ numerous projects as well as the distinct approaches of the others into one coherent project. This process was facilitated by the fact that all three of them share very similar artistic visions.
Influenced by the likes of Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Nine Inch Nails, The Knife as well as classical opera music Katie Selmanis and her fellow members of Austra created their very own distinct sound on that album. This incorporates the full vocals of opera Music with a dark and melancholy outlook and powerful beats.
In 2013 they released their second and up to today last album ‘Olympia’ which spawned equally positive reviews and evolved their sound to be a bit more easy (moodwise) and dancy, without giving up their signature melancholy feel about it. The freshly released Habitat EP is a continuation of their style and sets new highs with it’s thumping beat and the ever-longing vocals of Katie on it.
An important part of the project that is Austra are their music videos. A lot of them are created by fellow-Canadian director Claire Edmonson and are filmed with a clear focus on feminity and the female form and, if one wants to go so far, even with a feminist view-point as the origin of observation.
‘The Beat and the Pulse’ is an ode to the female form, while the Video for ‘Forgive me’ sends a clear message about Queer Love.
When asked about her sexual orientation and the politics connected to it, Katie is usually very vocal. Austra has even been called a gay-band, because of the majority of people in it, including herself, being gay. But in recent interviews the band tends to stress their self-identification with a queer identity, describing the gay-label as too limiting with queer having the all-inclusive, warm and welcoming feel to it, that incorporates deviance and community across (identity) borders at the same time.
She’s also very conscious about the special role of being a woman in the music industry. “I feel more marginalized as a female artist than I do as a queer artist […] The difference in the landscape is being female. I’ve been booked to do all these fashion shoots when I have absolutely no desire to do that. The idea of presenting myself in a fashion magazine so that people will look at me, that has no appeal to me at all, and it’s almost essential for being a woman in music now because there are so few outlets. There isn’t the same expectation for men. I do feel resentful about that.”
Genre: New-Wave / Synthpop
First Contact Song: Either the above mentioned ‘Habitat’, title track of their upcoming EP or the more upbeat ‘Lose it’ from their first album ‘Feel it Break’.
Tour: Among other stops in Europe – Berlin Festival on Friday, September 5th.