Austra by Karolina Burdon.
Truth be said, I have been thoroughly wowed by the debut album from Austra. Maybe it’s the strong influence of The Knife, a band I absolutely adore, or the sweetest of vocals from the classically trained Canadian lead singer Katie Stelmanis. Either way Feel It Break has been on repeat for many weeks or more. From the throbbing beats of Beat and the Pulse, with its 80s-esque gymnastic dance video, to the lush loops and yearning wails in Lose It, Austra has me hooked.
I spoke with Kate Stelmanis, the Toronto-based brains behind Austra. A very independent lady: we like.
What was the best part about being a singer in the prestigious Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus and then the Canadian Opera Company?
Being in a choir was a very social thing for me. I loved my friends. But most importantly, it is such a powerful experience performing in a huge group like that. Standing in a choir and being surrounded by voices, each person singing their specific harmonies that all come together so unexpectedly was the most amazing thing for me.
Austra by Clive McFarland.
How has your voice changed, now that you sing dark electronica?
My voice has changed a lot since my training. I’ve basically abandoned all of it and over the years, being in lots of different types of bands, developed my own sound.
How have your inspirations shaped the way you sing and make music?
My greatest inspiration is classical music and opera. That is what I grew up on, and so that is what I am most familiar with. My music is very influenced by these genres.
What has been the best and worst parts of managing your whole career independently?
I have had help from lots of people, the Blocks Recording Club provided me with the resources to learn how to be a band. And Mike from Fucked Up acted as my manager for years. He is more of a mentor really, I respect his opinion and his ideas immensely. Nowadays it’s becoming more difficult to stay on top of things, but I don’t want to chose a manager until I’m sure it’s the right fit. Essentially a manager is almost like another band member, so I will chose carefully.
How does being based in Toronto affect your life and creation of music? Why are Canadians not as receptive to your music as Europeans?
I don’t think it’s that Canadians are not receptive to my music, I think its more so that because we are so sparsely populated and such a large country that it’s difficult to promote smaller sub-genres. Canada is known for its folk and rock music, not for its electronic scene. Though people here are ready for it it’s just difficult to grow in a country that isn’t set up to support that particular genre. Things will evolve though I’m sure. Toronto has been a great place to make music, mostly because of the huge amount of people making music successfully in the city – which is great inspiration and motivation to continue with my own project.
Capture Something Rare by Abi Heyneke.
What do you most recommend a new visitor to do in Toronto?
You should visit Trinity Bellwoods Park, the Ossington restaurants, Kensington Market vintage shopping and make sure you check out the cheap eats.
What can an audience expect from your live performance?
I am currently performing as a six piece with two back up singers and an extra keyboard player. We play a mixture of analog and electronic instruments.
What have you learnt about Europe that has been most surprising, whilst on tour?
It’s terribly hard to find hummus in many parts of Europe, and far too easy to find cheese.
80s, Abi Heyneke, album, Austra, Beat and the Pulse, Blocks Recording Club, canada, Canadian Children's Opera Chorus, Canadian Opera Company, Clive McFarland, Domino Records, electronica, Feel It Break, Fucked Up, Karolina Burdon, Kate Stelmanis, Kensington Market, Lose It, opera, Ossington restaurants, The Knife, Toronto, Trinity Bellwoods Park
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