Frank Yang, Chromewaves It may not be the cultural mecca that is SXSW, but…
- Posted on Apr 20th 2011 1:30PM by Jessica Lewis
Paper Bag Records | bauergriffinonline.com
"I literally cried when I saw her," Stelmanis tells Spinner. "She's so strong."
Though a 2009 gig in Toronto marked the first time she saw Ditto at the reins of Gossip, Stelmanis actually met the vivacious frontwoman five years earlier after a gig with her former band Galaxy.
"I was a total groupie," says Stelmanis. "She was just so sweet. She was so nice and positive, thanked us and made us feel really good about it, which was so exciting to us 20 year olds -- I love her!"
Today, Stelmanis has her own fanbase thanks to founding Austra, one of the most buzzed about Canadian groups of 2011. Like Gossip, Austra found early success in Europe and with their debut album, 'Feel It Break,' out next month, the trio are primed to show the rest of the world what they're about, sexual politics and all.
Stelmanis is inspired by those who proudly put their sexuality in the spotlight -- acts like as the xx, Tegan and Sara, Owen Pallet, Hercules and Love Affair and, obviously, the Gossip -- but she finds herself questioning the reaction to these artists, even noting that Hercules and Love Affair aren't as popular as they should be because they're considered a "gay band."
"Indie music is funny," she says, "it's really not as queer positive as you would think. In a lot of ways, it's very centered around white men, basically. I just want there to be space for gays."
"I just don't want it to be hidden in any way," the opera-trained singer continues. "It's not that I'm trying to prove anything or make anything obvious, I just don't want it to be secret. I think there are a lot of indie musicians who choose to not talk about it and it kind of frustrates me because it's such a political issue in so many places around the world. Why would I be scared to talk about it? I feel like it's one of those moments to have a variety of queer representation in music, and I could represent a new genre."
Backed by Austra's dark electronic beats, Stelmanis has become a voice that turns heads for reaching those high octaves. But it's clear she should be just as celebrated for what she says as for what she sings.