Austra: Not your average dance band

Not your average dance band

Austra: There will be dancing

Whatever you do, don't call Austra a Katie Stelmanis solo project

The prolific and über-gifted Toronto singer and multi-musician (piano, viola, electronics) Katie Stelmanis has been in the game since her early years, studying opera and classical music from the age of 10 before eventually abandoning the stuffy traditions for the world of avant-electro and experimentation. While these traditions continue to leave a mark on her current output – evident in her soaring vocal arias and especially on her 2008 mashed-up solo album, Join Us – with Austra, the dance floor is the target. Joined by drummer Maya Postepski and bassist Dorian Wolf, the trio’s debut release, Feel It Bleak, has set fans and critics afire, led by the heartbreakingly awesome lead single Lose It. Mixed by Damian Taylor, who’s worked with Björk, The Prodigy, and UNKLE, the music carries big beats, pop melodies, a dark undertone and lyrics that will make you think, setting it apart from most acts in the field.

Katie Stelmanis took a bit of time to answer some of our questions.

Hour What led to the forming or development of the band?

Katie Stelmanis I started as a solo artist in 2008. I played with lots of different musicians, and eventually developed a solid lineup of myself, Maya and Dorian about a year ago. We decided to come up with a band name for the project because it had become more collaborative in nature.

Hour Are you surprised by the near-unanimous critical acclaim that has greeted the new record?

Stelmanis I am currently unaware of the unanimous critical acclaim for the record, but it’s nice to hear that is the case! I think we have come a long way as a band but that we still make music that won’t appeal to everyone, and so I try not to pay too much attention to the press, whether it be good or bad.

Hour How do you see the connection between Austra and your earlier solo work? Do you view it more as a natural evolution or something entirely different?

Stelmanis I see it as a natural evolution. Essentially they are the same thing, but Austra is a project based on collaboration and I think the songs are just more sophisticated and we spent more time and effort writing them.

Hour: How important is it for you to have Austra, the band, as the focus and not yourself, the solo artist?

Stelmanis: It is important that people recognize the massive role that Dorian and particularly Maya play in the band. Maya has been touring with me since I was a solo artist in 2008 and she does a lot of work in production and beat-programming now, it would be silly for them to not receive credit.

Hour How did you hook up with both Domino Records and Damian Taylor?

Stelmanis We played at SXSW in 2010 and Domino saw us perform. They liked the show and we got a record deal a few months later. I hooked up with Damian Taylor because he actually moved to Montreal and was looking for Canadian artists to work with. Coming from a background in electronic music, it made perfect sense for us to work with him.

Austra

At Il Motore

w/ Trust, d’Eon

May 26

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