Katie Stelmanis is the classically trained lead singer of icy Canadian electro-pop quartet, Austra. She loaned her swirling vocals to Herve’s latest track, ‘Save Me’.
Herve is the nom-de-plume of genre-hopping producer, DJ and record label owner Josh Harvey. This week sees the release of his brooding new album, ‘The Art Of Disappearing’. Boasting an ominous bassline and a grainy Blair Witch Project-esque video, Herve and Katie’s recent collaboration ‘Save Me’ was a boundary pushing departure for both artists.
Setting the tone for Herve’s dark, trippy new album, ‘The Art Of Disappearing’ (released March 4thon Cheap Thrills), the pair reunited to talk about Austra’s recent tour with The xx, their CD collections and a new collaboration.
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Herve: I heard your first album and I loved it. It made me think about the great singers that I really liked as well. So I got in touch, played you a track and you kindly took pity on me and said you would do it.
Katie: You reached out and I thought it would be really fun to do something different. I like putting vocals on tracks now. It’s one of my favourite things to do and the Herve track was pretty cool.
Herve: I wanted to represent what I was into in an album. I didn’t just want to do another dance album because I could say everything I needed to say in a single or EP with that stuff. I really wanted to show the other side of myself. So it’s through people like you and Maria Minerva and the Seasfire guys that are on there that I got to bring an element to what I do that I just can’t do myself.
Katie: Yeah and the most fun part was that I got to stay at your house for a week right before Christmas.
Herve: That was great fun. You could do a world tour, world holidays with the recording situation – just hit up some friends in Hawaii or something.
Katie: Yeah, I’m going to start making that a stipulation every time I do vocals for anybody. I have to be able to stay at their house for free for a week.
Herve: You might need to see pictures before. You know what these grubby artists are like.
Katie: You’re right. Luckily you have a very nice house. I discovered that you have a deep rooted love for Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins. Were you saying that your Mom used to listen to that stuff?
Herve: Yeah, that’s how I got into it. She used to play it all the time and I just really liked it from there. I like a bit of medieval music. Yeah because I was playing you CDs wasn’t I?
Katie: And then I raided your record collection and I burned a bunch of your CDs. I got like every Dead Can Dance album ever. I got every Cocteau Twins album ever. I got like three or four Aphex Twin albums.
Herve: There was a whole mix of stuff. We were sitting around just having a good old chinwag about it because I was explaining to you why I loved your voice and what it reminded me of. And then we went in the studio and it was so easy because you obviously had an idea in your head and then put it down. Then there was this great kind of swirling, amazing vocal.
Katie: I feel like we only did one take.
Herve: You nailed it so amazingly. It’s always a pleasure to sit next to somebody who can sing so well and you’re that close to them. I didn’t know whether you’d be searching out the vibe or the melody or anything, but you just came in and were like bam, “I’m doing it like this.” I was like, “Amazing.”
Katie: Yeah, that’s the best way to collaborate. It doesn’t work if you force it.
Herve: How was The xx by the way, Katie? Was it good fun?
Katie: Yeah, I love them. They’re so nice. We got along really well with The xx. I guess they’re pretty shy, but I was so impressed with how down to Earth they are for being so young and so famous. I DJed with Jamie xx a bunch of times too. We had a DJ bond.
Herve: Did you match him in the DJ stakes?
Katie: Well, he came out in New York and he was impressed, so that made me feel like I was a real DJ. And then we DJed a couple more times on the tour.
Herve: That’s wicked. How many dates did you do? Was it a gruelling one?
Katie: Three weeks, maybe a month. No, it wasn’t gruelling at all. It was actually the best tour ever. And I’m playing SXSW.
Herve: You’re going to SXSW? Wow, that’s cool. I’ve never been. I really want to go.
Katie: I’m excited. I’ve been a few times. We were only planning to do one show, but now we’re doing like five or six. SXSW is awesome, but it’s gotten a bit too much now. I don’t understand how people can actually afford to go anymore. We have a couple of gigs luckily that are headline slots, so we’re making money, but most bands don’t make any money when I’d go to Texas. And accommodations there alone now are ridiculous. Whenever I’d go to Texas, my whole band would all move into this house and we’d live there for a week and it would be like two hundred bucks a night. Now everyone’s caught onto the house thing and the average rental price for a house is a thousand dollars a night.
Herve: What? Nobody gets paid to play. Is that how it works?
Katie: Some headliners get paid I guess, but I’d say ninety percent of the bands don’t get paid. And I don’t understand where they could possibly stay because the hotels are maybe three hundred bucks a night. And for an indie band, how are people supposed to pay that? I feel like SXSW needs to make it affordable, otherwise it’s just going to die.
Herve: Well, that’s the thing. It’ll be like a situation where only the rich, therefore most likely the already successful or the major label pushed stuff will get there and it’ll just be this distorted view of what music’s going on.
Katie: I know. But it’ll still be good and luckily, when you’re there, they do give away so much free stuff that you really don’t have to pay for much. Like there’s always a barbecue somewhere. Last year, I think, someone was giving away free cellphones.
Herve: Wow, I might come now. Pick up some free shit.
Herve: I’m not DJing at the moment because I stopped about three months before Christmas to give it a break. I’d DJ with you though, show you a trick or too.
Katie: Yeah. That’d be cool. I’m down.
Herve: I’ll show you how to DJ on Disableton without a doubt. You can teach me to sing.
Katie: OK, sounds good. Sounds like a trade.
Herve: I would love to work with you again. You’re one of the great voices. What would be cool would be to do an actual full album, a full-on dance record – definitely do a club track of some sort. God knows how mad it would be, but it would be awesome to take your voice and put it into a club environment.
Katie: I would love that. That would be so fun. So we are going to collaborate in the future?
Herve: Yeah, let’s make a concept album and get dressed up as witches and make the album in the woods using the power of candlelight and campfires only.
Katie: No way.
Herve: But we want to try something different. So you’re going to be rapping rather than singing this time.
Katie: Yeah. And then I’m going to do a track and then you’re going to sing on it.
Herve: (laughs) Oh, good God! Yeah, under your tutelage.
Words by James Evans
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'Save Me' is out now.