In her latest songs, it shows more than ever that Katie Stelmanis is both romantic and pragmatic. From early childhood on, her interest was in classical music: without any pressure from her parents she threw herself into learning instruments, and even more so into opera and choral singing – she performed with the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus from the age of ten. “I never even went to a rock show until I was eighteen or nineteen,” she says, “and I never had any interest in whatever pop culture was around. I was just focused on what I was doing.”
When she did finally attend a rock show, she “realized what it was really about, how the volume and physical power worked with the performance.” But it was artists with an electronic edge that properly caught her attention, with Nine Inch Nails and Björk her firm favorites as she started to form her ideas of how her own music should sound. Initially conceived as a solo project, Austra was, she says, “always a work in progress.” Where lesser musicians could have become self-indulgent or stuck in a rut at this point, Katie went the opposite way.
Still as focused as ever, still as methodical yet driven as the schoolgirl trying out new instruments that she once was, she's still navigating the spaces of what it means to be a musician in the 21st century with aplomb, mature good sense and, that intense romanticism that has sustained her all along.