Austra: Toronto’s opera meets electronica

Austra’s debut album, Feel It Break, released in May. DOMINO RECORDS

Omeed Asadi

If you haven’t already heard of Austra, take a quick five-minute break and listen to anything from their debut album Feel It Break. You have to hear it to understand all the hype this Toronto based synth-pop trio has been getting since the album’s release less than four months ago.

Austra’s debut album, Feel It Break, released in May. DOMINO RECORDS

Their fanbase has been growing, but Austra’s members were likely taken aback by a recent post by Jay-Z on his blog, Life + Times, that his fans should “get to know Austra”. Is a collaboration in the works? It’s likely, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

That irresistibly intriguing voice that stands out in “Lose It” belongs to co-founder and lead singer Katie Stelmanis. Her voice is incredibly powerful, yet so controlled, in a way that nostalgically reminds me of the first time I heard Emily Haines of Metric, another Toronto band. Stelmanis’ career as a musician and vocalist wasn’t some sort of overnight Cinderella story.

At the age of 10, Stelmanis joined the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus (CCOC) and often sang for the renowned Canadian Opera Company, which naturally led to her decision to pursue a career in opera. At this time she began experimenting with electronic music on the side. She’d always planned to attend college, but a week before school began, she made the firm decision to stay in Toronto and focus on her music career.

“I wanted to stay in Toronto and didn’t want to live in Montréal,” said Stelmanis in an interview with the West End Cultural Centre. “So I decided to just not go to college, get a job, save up for five years, and go on my first tour.”

Stelmanis joined a band called Galaxy, who she played with for three years, and appeared on Fucked Up’s The Chemistry of Common Life before the release of her own solo album. Many critics and self-proclaimed music connoisseurs initially labeled it as “just another Goth album”, but Stelmanis now knew exactly what she wanted to do. “I wanted to make classical music with really fucked up, distorted crazy shit on there.”

Now with the addition of former Galaxy drummer Maya Posepski and bassist Dorian Wolf, Austra is set to take over the world with their mesmerizing beats and unforgettable vocals. The band is currently touring all over.

Austra has already achieved a level of maturity in their music that takes most bands years to achieve.

“I want people to be able to dance and completely lose themselves in a more physical way,” Stelmanis said in an NPR interview. If I can emotionally stimulate the mind and the body through music, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something significant.”


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