Austra Interview + Ticket Giveaway
About two SXSWs ago I kept seeing flyers for some band called Austra. I never made it to any of their Austin shows, but when I got back Patrick said his brother claimed Austra was the best act he saw during the festival. Of course that prompted me to do a little homework and I also coincidentally started receiving promo tracks and an album soon after. Now I can’t get enough of the band. Nightdrive loves them so much we thought the next logical step was to bring them to Miami.
AUSTRA WILL BE PLAYING AT GRAND CENTRAL WITH GRIMES THIS WEDNESDAY. (Patrick and I will be DJing the opening sets). Read past the interview to win a pair of tickets.
Before we continue, here’s a little 411 about the band:
“Austra is a Toronto, ON, Canada indietronica band, with members: Katie Stelmanis (principal songwriter), Maya Postepski and Dorian Wolf. They débuted with the single “The Beat And The Pulse” (Nov 2010, One Big Silence) and their latest is the remix album “Sparkle” (Jul 2011, Domino)
Their début album album, “Feel It Break” (May 2011, Domino), came after a long sequence of bands, for Stelmanis, representing a near ten year musical progression, performing as an artist, then fleshed-out by a full band. More settled and dominant than ever, the band’s sound represents Stelmanis’ influences tightened into a shiny metal ball – pianos give way to keyboards as songs build and pull, their urgent dark melodies arpeggiating / multiplying through multiple synthesizers, wrapping themselves around Stelmanis’ voice.”
First obvious question…Where does the name come from?
Austra is my middle name. Its a Latvian name, my grandfather is from there and gave me the name.
Katie, at what age did you figure out you were talented at singing? How did you decide to make a career from this? Are there other musicians in your family?
I have been singing my whole life. My parents put me in a choir at a young age so really I’ve been singing at a semi-professional level since I was 10 years old. No one else in my family plays music, they would make fun of me because I was a teenager that loved the opera and they didn’t understand it.
You and Maya go back to the Galaxy days, how did both of you decide to break from the girl rock? What prompted you to create Austra’s sound?
I don’t think we’ve ever broken from “girl rock” – I’m not really sure what that term means. I was in a band called galaxy. It was a post-riot grrl band with feminist politics. We learned how to play rock music in this band. We learned how to play in dirty clubs with terrible soundsystems, a stark contrast from our previous classical music practices. We split up after three years because we got older. I started playing solo electronic music and asked Maya to come along and drum for me on tour. 3 years later, the project became a collaboration called Austra.
I read you’re a big Nine Inch Nails fan, I spent a good deal of my teenage years listening to them myself. Can you name a few other acts that have inspired you or that you listen to on a day to day basis?
In highschool I was obsessed with NIN, Bjork and Radiohead. When I got a bit older, and started to discover indie music, I fell in love with the Knife. I never really got into indie rock. Now, I find myself being obsessed with a lot of the electronic acts coming out of the UK right now, like Zomby and Burial.
Tell us a little about the concept behind the “Beat and the Pulse” video? How did you link up with Claire Edmondson?
Claire is from Toronto, and she is an incredibly determined and persuasive hard-worker. Previously a stylist, she was looking to create a directors real and cross over to that world. Beat and the Pulse was the scond video she ever made. We had almost no budget, just lots of friends and local support. No one really knew what was going to happen on the day of the shoot, or who was going to show up. It ended up being a very raw and honest depiction of female sexuality presented in a way that doesn’t at all objectify women. A strong message I didn’t realize we would be creating.
You guys are part of the awesome Domino Records family, who from their roster would you love to collaborate with and why?
I love Owen Pallett, I would love to collaborate with him one day. I am also a fan of Four Tet, Anna Calvi and the Dirty Projectors. Domino has such a great diverse roster that I’m please to be a part of!
Is there anything stand-out-ish about your live setup? If not, what’s the setup on stage?
We perform as a 6-piece with 2 back-up singers. The stage set up is quite grand, we like to dress up and engage with the audience as much as possible.
What’s been the most memorable live show you’ve ever played and why? What’s been the most memorable show you’ve been to as a spectator?
My favorite Austra show would have to be our gig at Berghain in Berlin. It was our first show since the record came out overseas, and we had never played to our own audience before. 800 people ended up showing up and we were terrified, but it was also an exciting realization that we had actually become a real band. Even now every time people show up to our shows all 6 of us are always a little bit shocked, we’ve played for so many years in so many bands that never took off, so this year has been a surreal experience.
Have you guys ever been to Miami? If yes, favorite spot? If not, what the first thing that pops into your head when you think about this town? (quick! -1st thought)
I have only been there once, when I was 15 years old for a day. I tried my first eggplant parmeasan while I was there and it became my favorite food. I think about that, as well as the TV show Dexter.
What’s next for Austra?
We are touring until February when we make our first trip to Australia. After that we are going to take a break and hopefully start writing some new music.
2. Re-post this on your FB page or Twitter:
AUSTRA (@austratalks) Wed @ GRAND CENTRAL (@grandcentralmia) doors at 9pm. Win tix here: http://bit.ly/sCLjGX (@nightdrivemiami) #miami
(If you post it on Facebook please tag NIGHTDRIVE so we know you re-posted)
3. Winner will be chosen at random and will get a + 1 on the guest list.
We’ll announce the winner on Wed >CONGRATS TO Jennifer Miguelez. See you tonight!