AUSTRA

Austra
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AUSTRA



Written by Betty Wood
13 Saturday 13th August 2011

Katie, you were previously in Galaxy with Austra bandmate Maya Postepski. How did Austra form?

Austra is the result of my solo project becoming a more collaborative effort. When I started making computer music, Maya would tour with me as my drummer. Over time she started helping with writing and arrangements, and we acquired more musicians, so it made sense to change the name to something that was more inclusive.

Often you're categorised along side the likes of Zola Jesus, Anna Calvi and The Knife, the latter of which actually served as inspiration when you were getting into music production - now the band is releasing material, how far are these comparisons useful and how much are they an annoyance?

I think they are useful. We are a new band and inevitably will be compared to artists because we haven't yet established ourselves and our own personal sound. I'm happy to be compared to artists that we like, and that we are influenced by.

You've talked very publicly about your sexuality and how it informs your music. Has being out increased the expectations and pressure from your gay fan base or has it been completely empowering?

I believe that being out in the public was a great decision for my band. Gays all over the world are so appreciative and so receptive to what we are doing. It works out for us, because now there is always a large gay audience at all of our shows so we don't have to search for the gay bars in every city, and personally I think they make the best fans.

You grew up singing opera and playing viola and piano but changed track when you discovered punk; are you still a punk fan? Or has that given way to electronica?

I didn't discover only punk when I made the transition – there were lots of different types of music. The most influential to me at that time were Bjork and Nine Inch Nails who both make electronic music. I jumped right into electronics at the age of 18, even before I started writing music in galaxy. Electronic music seemed closer to classical music to me than rock or punk so I felt at home in that world.


AUSTRA "Beat and the Pulse" by domino

The music video for Beat and the Pulse (directed by Claire Edmondson) caused a bit of a stir on Youtube because of the nudity. Equally the webbed skin and sexualisation of the models made certain facets of the internet uncomfortable, which is sort of ironic given that the most flesh shown is the odd boob and the internet itself is a hot-bed of pornography and women being objectified sexually in a far more negative way. How much input did the band get on the video?

Claire was really the brains behind that video. It was her concept and her interpretation. I liked the idea of having my band surrounded by lots of women, almost a mockery of the usual boy-band flanked by models image, but we were careful that the women were celebrated for their sexuality rather than exploited. It was shot with a female eye, not a male one, and I think it’s quite apparent and the reason it feels so honest.

You've talked about 'dressing up' when you perform and creating an onstage persona - how different is that persona to the Katie Stelmanis who pops to the grocery store or catches a bus?

I am generally a pretty quiet person, I am not brilliant and socializing, but being on stage feels very comfortable and very natural. I wouldn't say I'm a completely different person, but I'm definitely a person with less reservation who loves to perform.

Austra release their next single from the album Feel It Break, Spellwork from 5 September. Visit their website for more details.

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