Tuesday 20 February 2018

Q&A: Austra's Katie Stelmanis

Ed Power

Ed Power

On Florence and the Machine, Arcade Fire and being censored by youtube

We've been listening to your album and there's something we can't stop wondering. Are you, in fact, Florence and the Machine in a blonde wig?

When I first heard Florence, I thought, she sings exactly like me. I think our voices are really similar. But our music is quite different.

Come on -- it's not THAT different.

She's obviously more at the pop end. I was very happy to see her have success. I've always felt that, in America, my voice is too 'big' for audiences. Most of the bands coming out of north America are either r'n'b or have folkie, pretty voices. I didn't fit into either category. When Florence started doing well, I thought, 'this is great -- people are getting used to this sort of voice'.

You've been friends with Arcade Fire since way back. It must be strange watching them morph into the Canadian U2.

Canadian U2, huh? Yeah, I can see that. It's funny -- when I first heard them five, six years ago, I said, 'hey, they sound like U2'. That's what I thought of their song-writing style. I certainly called that one.

What's the Toronto scene like? Ethan from Crystal Castles once told us he started out hanging around with a bunch of ravers in a squat. That doesn't quite square with international perceptions of Canada.

The funny thing is, Ethan used to be in a band called Cheerleader. They were a real hardcore rock thing. I used to see him all the time. He was a classic rock dude. When Crystal Castles began I was surprised he had gone into that dance genre. I definitely know it happened in Europe first for them. I saw them playing in Toronto to, like, 12 people at a time when they were getting major hype in Europe.

You are a lesbian. Coming from a super-liberal country, does it feel weird that people are so hung up on your sexuality? As in, obsessed by it?

In Canada, people are really open. It's part of my everyday life. When I'm asked about it in interviews, well, I'm happy to talk about it but I guess I'm naive. I thought I could talk about it and people wouldn't care. It looks like I was wrong.

Your new video (for single The Beat and the Pulse) is a bit racy isn't it? All those topless women! For a moment we thought we were watching Game of Thrones.

Our label checked the situation with YouTube and realised they would have to censor it. It is a really clear depiction of where north American values stand. Considering all the hateful and violent stuff you can watch -- and they censor a boob.

Your music has been described as 'gothic'. Normally hipster-type musicians fly into a strop when the 'g' word is dropped. You seem pretty calm about it.

'Goth' is definitely a word you can use to describe my music. It's not the only word. There are elements of goth culture in what I do. I definitely don't identify with all elements of it. But there are traces for sure.

Were you a goth in highschool? We can imagine you in head-to-toe black, pouting at the back of class.

Definitely not. No, I was a full-on classical music nerd.

The album Feel It Break is released today. Austra play Crawdaddy, Dublin, on July 2

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