From opera star to pop star

Mak­ing the tran­si­tion from child­hood opera singer to adult elec­tro-pop star has been sur­pris­ingly easy for Aus­tra front­woman Katie Stel­ma­nis, writes Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

KATIE STEL­MA­NIS ex­udes steely de­ter­mi­na­tion. The brains be­hind Cana­dian elec­tro-pop out­fit Aus­tra, Stel­ma­nis’ back­story is about some­one who has stead­fastly moved from one genre to an­other, find­ing her feet with ease as she’s done so. The clas­si­cally trained kid who was singing with the Cana­dian Chil­dren’s Opera Cho­rus as a 10-year-old has be­come an artist now tap­ping into an en­gag­ing, fluid, ac­com­plished sound.

You’ll hear the width and depth of Stel­ma­nis’ grand vi­sion on Feel It Break, her new al­bum as Aus­tra, where tracks such as Lose It and the dra­matic Beat and The Pulse are re­mark­ably fo­cused and poised. While she’s put her name to other re­leases – there was an­other Stel­ma­nis al­bum in 2008 and she also ap­peared on Fucked Up’s The Chem­istry Of Com­mon Life al­bum that year – the strik­ing, in­ven­tive and cool Feel It Break sounds like Stel­ma­nis has truly found her direc­tion.

Stel­ma­nis moved from the clas­si­cal world a long time ago, but those years of study­ing opera, vi­ola and piano have stayed with her.

“When I orig­i­nally made the tran­si­tion from clas­si­cal mu­sic to writ­ing my own mu­sic, I was prob­a­bly heav­ily in­flu­enced by artists who’d made a sim­i­lar tran­si­tion and who had a clas­si­cal back­ground, peo­ple like Björk and Kate Bush and Owen Pal­lett and Nine Inch Nails. You could hear the train­ing in their mu­sic and that ap­pealed to me. I wanted to make clas­si­cal mu­sic with re­ally messed up and dis­torted sounds.”

That train­ing also in­flu­enced her song­writ­ing. “When I first started writ­ing my own mu­sic, I was very drawn to and in­spired by the lyri­cal for­mat you get in clas­si­cal mu­sic as a way of telling sto­ries and it evolved from there,” she ex­plains

“Writ­ing for me al­ways came from my roots in opera and clas­si­cal mu­sic. There was a time when I looked back and re­gret­ted leav­ing that world. But at this point in my life, I def­i­nitely see it as some­thing which was a valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence, but which I don’t think about too much. It was very help­ful and in­for­ma­tive but my mu­sic ca­reer has gone in a much dif­fer­ent way.”

Stel­ma­nis is based in Toronto, a city with a very ac­tive and di­verse mu­si­cal com­mu­nity, though she never con­sid­ered her­self part of any scene.

“Be­cause there are so many artists here,

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