All it took for us was a simple sound check. As Austra’s six members—including two backup singers—prepped for a small-room performance at Brooklyn’s Glasslands Gallery, the soaring, acrobatic chorus of second single “Lose It” engulfed the venue, and our infatuation with the Toronto group first sparked. Fronted by operatic Canadian singer Katie Stelmanis, Austra gleans its dramatic vocal cues from the likes of Fever Ray and Kate Bush, while maintaining an unflinching ear for stuck-in-your-head singles on its haunting yet danceable debut, Feel It Break (Domino). Here, Stelmanis completes our quick questionnaire and proves that she’s sort of obsessed with Whitney Houston.
Life + Times: What’s the first album you ever bought?
Katie Stelmanis: Boyz II Men’s II when I was eight. I loved the song “I’ll Make Love to You.”
L+T: What can you recall of your earliest musical memory?
KS: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria and also Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” I used to sing both songs with my grandma.
L+T: What is the most beautiful sound you can think of?
KS: Maria Callas.
L+T: You’ve played in and with other groups and as a solo artist. What creative itch does Austra allow you to scratch that you haven’t indulged before?
KS: Austra is basically the same as me being a solo artist, except now I work with other people, too. So I guess collaboration is something new for me.
L+T: What movie always makes you cry?
KS: Moulin Rouge, when Nicole Kidman dies.
L+T: What’s something people might not know about your album, Feel It Break?
KS: Some of the songs are over four years old and just never had a chance to be released.
L+T: Your music is both dark and emotional yet joyous and fun. What do you find appealing about exploring the intersection of those extremes?
KS: Melancholy music, to me, is more uplifting and hopeful than depressing because of how beautiful and emotive it can be. So I guess for that reason dark music doesn’t need to be depressing; it can still be enjoyable and make you move.
L+T: Have you ever been in love? What did it feel like?
KS: It felt great while it lasted.
L+T: In the movie of your life, who plays you?
KS: Amanda Seyfried.
L+T: Complete the following sentence: “Being from Toronto means I can always…”
KS: Get married if I want to. [Stelmanis is a lesbian.]
L+T: It’s a rock & roll dinner party. You can invite three rock stars, alive or dead. Who do you invite?
KS: Nina Simone, Dolly Parton and Shakira.
L+T: What song do you wish you’d written? What do you like about it?
KS: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” It’s beautiful and powerful!
L+T: What’s the last lie you told?
KS: That I’m over it.
L+T: Tell me a secret.
KS: I’m a Gemini