Frank Yang, Chromewaves It may not be the cultural mecca that is SXSW, but…
- Posted on May 16th 2011 3:00PM by Jessica Lewis
Paper Bag Records
"Honestly, I don't even know what to call it," Stelmanis tells Spinner. "It's pop music. It's electronic music. You can say whatever you want. It's not like I hate it if people call it witch house, it's just I feel witch house is a small genre that isn't going to take over the world or anything -- it's not like grunge. I think it's just a convenient place where my music fits in right now.
"It's funny because I have been making music with the same aesthetic for a long time -- the music that I was making three years ago, people still claimed it to be goth."
Stelmanis was a trained choir and opera singer before she released her solo album 'Join Us' and subsequently formed Austra -- who will release their debut album, 'Feel It Break,' this week via Paper Bag Records/Domino -- so some of those vocal styles and moods have found their way into her work.
"Opera is the most intense, dark, melancholy music ever -- it's all tragedies," she says. "It's not possible for me to write music in a major key. I think all the classical music that I really loved and connected with growing up never really was in a major key."
Stelmanis left the opera scene around age 20. Besides opera being a highly competitive field, she knew she wanted to explore electronic music.
"I was always 100 percent electronic with everything I did," she says, noting she usually works in MIDI. "I needed to figure out how to weigh it down, and that's what I think changed the sound a lot because now I have this heavy weight I depend on."
Stelmanis credits Austra's growing lineup -- she is joined by drummer/programmer Maya Postepski and bassist Dorian Wolf, as well as touring members Ryan Wonsiak and Romy and Sari Lightman -- with helping to bolster the sound of her former solo project.
"My beats are so simple and juvenile," she says, thankful Postepski is on hand as resident beat maker. "She can take them to the next level that my brain doesn't comprehend. Dorian has also without a doubt transformed our live show.
"Two years ago I didn't know anything about programming beats and I didn't put any weight on the focus of a bass line in a lot of ways. It's always about lots of vocal layers and high things happening like piano parts. I found that those kind of parts -- though they were sounding nice to me -- didn't really translate into a live setting, because I feel like when you go and see a show at a big venue, you need to have bass and drums. It needs to be there for people to feel the music. That became really clear to us. I guess my ears are evolving..."