Ones to Watch – Austra

Brooding, operatic indie

Humans love a huff. They are never more happy than revelling in their own sense of collective woe. Just ask Morrissey.

Domino’s latest darlings are following this long-trodden path through melancholia to great effect, yet Katie Stelmanis, co-founder of Austra, has over a decade of opera singing to turbo-charge her anguish. “I’m particular drawn to dramatic melodrama,” admits the singer. “I was obsessed with opera for so long and they’re all based on these extremely dramatic intense pieces. I don’t try and write dark songs, it just happens that way.”

Austra has ignited from the embers of a former band called Galaxy (whom Katie formed with the demure Maya Postepski aged nineteen) and her own solo work. However, as the band became more collaborative Stelmanis decided things needed to change: “It was getting to the point that it was stupid that it was just my project. We wanted to do something that was very nondescript that we could turn into what we wanted.”

Mingling the timelessness of Kate Bush with an avant-garde classicism and a macabre, baroque hue, Austra’s music has already been lazily compared to other gothic modern references such as Zola Jesus, Esben And The Witch and The Knife, a position that the singer rejects. “I don’t think it is an adequate description. I think goth is a little bit too constrained to describe it entirely. There are definitely elements of goth music, goth culture, and goth aesthetics, but I don’t think as a whole you can define an entire project like that.”

One thing’s for sure, Britain with its love of melancholia, brooding electronics and dark introspection is fertile for Austra’s music to take deep root. “I feel like sad music is actually more healing than any other music,” Katie rounds off. “For me it has to do with the beauty of the beast.”

Words by Matthew Bennett
Photo by Samuel John Butt

What: Brooding, operatic indie
Where: Toronto
Unique Fact: Austra is a goddess of light in Latvian mythology.
Get 3 songs: ‘Lose It’, ‘Beat The Pulse’ ‘Shoot The Water’

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.