Frank Yang, Chromewaves It may not be the cultural mecca that is SXSW, but…
- Posted on Sep 14th 2011 5:30PM by Marsha Casselman
In today's climate, a band can be hyped by a million blogs, signed to one of the most reputable indie labels (Domino) and nominated for a critics' choice award like Polaris -- yet still struggle to make ends meet.
So given Canada's version of the Mercury Prize comes with a $30,000 jackpot, what would Stelmanis do with Polaris money?
"Nothing too glamorous. I think it would be important to inject some of it back into the community we came from," she tells Spinner, echoing the sentiment of past winners like Toronto's F---ed Up, which used some of their prize money to record a charity album for missing Aboriginal women.
Good intentions aside, there exists the dire reality of most bands' finances.
"We're such a baby band, and we do so much touring that we'd probably just spend the money on flights. This tour we're on right now, we booked our flights like a week before we left because we just hadn't been paid yet. We're not in the position where we have this huge pool of money we can just get into when in a bind," she says, adding that she and Austra drummer Maya Postepski have actually picked up DJing gigs -- despite Stelmanis' relatively amateur DJing skills -- for supplemental income on the road.
"We're lucky that we make enough money on tours that we break even. Part of the reason we're always on tour is so we don't have to worry about living expenses; we keep traveling, but then we come back from tour and realize, 'Hey, we're kind of broke.' But a lot of bands can't even get the money to get to Europe, so we're definitely fortunate."
Austra's electronic bend means the crowds are going wild for them in Europe. They've been touring for months at a time this year in the UK, France and Germany, where the band first broke -- but they are definitely starting to feel the love back home.
"It's a great to be recognized in Canada. There's so much musical integrity that comes along with Polaris. It's a big honour to be nominated for it, above other potential awards you could get," she says. In fact, Austra was also just nominated for another award they hadn't heard of until now -- Canada's Echo Songwriting Prize.
In the past, Stelmanis has criticized Canadian institutions like CBC Radio for its preference of quiet, folksy female singers, and slammed indie rock, in general, for being "centered around white men."
"Indie rock is the dominant musical genre in Canada; all of the most famous bands generally are indie rock. But I don't really feel 'lumped in' with these bands, I find it's a fair representation of what's going on in Canada. Also Polaris isn't too indie-rock-oriented this time around. There's the Weeknd, and I wouldn't call Colin Stetson indie rock."
Stelmanis adds that Canada is learning to accept more electronic acts, with the CBC being quite good to them, given their recent appearance on Jian Ghomeshi's 'Q' show.
"Ultimately nothing is as effective as radio play. That's when my aunt, who's in some other part of Canada, will call me up and say 'I heard you on the radio!' Yet she won't necessarily know what Polaris is."