“There was a time when I looked back and regretted leaving that world. But at this point, I definitely see it as a valuable experience”
it’s a great place to grow as an artist. You can see how others work and be encouraged and motivated by that. But in terms of the music I wanted to make, I felt I was alone in some regards. I remember thinking when I started that I didn’t know anyone who was doing what I was doing. There didn’t seem to be anyone else experimenting with electronic music in this way.”
Now, when she looks back on first album Join Us, Stelmanis can see the limitations that hampered her work. “The resources I had to work with were very lo-fi. All I had was a very basic home studio with a sample bank and that’s what I used to write the songs. There were certain samples and sounds which I was quite partial to using quite frequently and that shows on the album.”
For Feel It Break, Stelmanis knew it was time for some changes to produce a new shape and sound. “For a start, I wanted it to become a more collaborative project, and it didn’t make sense for it to be under just my name. It also took time to get it done, both to it get it recorded and to get it released.
“There’s songs from the last four years on it so it’s hard to see any theme linking them all together, but it definitely feels like a stronger collection of songs to me. It’s not about fads or fashions, I think there’s a real depth to the songs and I hope people can see that. I don’t want to be seen as someone who just happens to be popular right now.”
One of the most welcome transformations for Stelmanis has been in terms of her live show. Harking back to her opera days, she wanted a show that would pack a punch – and an Austra performance certainly ticks that box with Stelmanis and her band playing out of their skins.
“The performance element is now a huge part of what we do and it’s always been something I’ve loved doing. I’ve always wanted to bring in as much as I can in terms of theatrics into the band’s live show. One of the reasons I love opera is that it uses every art form at the same time. You have the lyrics, you have the music, you have acting, you have the art direc- tion and I’ve love how all these elements come together.”
Stelmanis also continues to manage herself, though she expects this situation will change soon. It’s interesting to come across an artist at this stage of a career, with worldwide opportunities and tours to be considered and managed, who combines both the administrative and creative sides.
“I suppose I’m very careful about who I am working with,” she says. “A manager is almost like an extra band member and it’s a very important relationship in your life. I feel totally capable of managing myself but lately, it’s been more management than creative and I don’t think that’s necessarily what I want to do. It’s just a matter of finding someone that I can relate to and connect with on all levels and trust with the project.”
Yet Stelmanis feels that the more analytical aspects of her brain have also had an impact on her songwriting.
“While I have a creative side, I think I use the left side of my brain a lot, even in the way I write music. To me, there is a linear format to writing music and there’s obviously an emotional aspect which plays a huge role. But at the same time, thinking about the arrangements and how I’m going to do it is a very quantitative process.”