Austra’s Utopia

05.12.2016 | Blog , Music | BY:

The third album from Canadian electronic band Austra, Future Politics, is a record for now. Using rich visuals throughout which lend an aesthetic sensibility to the album, Austra (led by by Katie Stelmanis) explores the themes of future: dystopia vs utopia, creativity through individualism and injustice in a closed world. Written, produced, and engineered by Stelmanis, her mellifluous vocals ride over a catchy synth beats to create a songs that are designed to inspire listeners to get involved and take control of their future. Twin caught up with Katie Stelmanis to talk musical influences, the challenges of a third album and Trump.

Why was it important for you to create this album?

I saw Massive Attack play a show a few years ago in Belgium and having not really listened to them previously, I was totally blown away by the show. I loved how they fused politics and music together in such a way that that felt emotional, rather than being lectured. I think when you receive political commentary through music it allows you to more easily welcome what you are hearing as it seems more genuine and compassionate. I wanted to try to do something similar with my new album; rather than speak about the sadness surrounding a personal breakup, I wanted to communicate the collective sadness felt by our generation and myself concerning the terrifying state of our world atm.

How has the social and political climate shaped the final product?

I actually completed this record months before Trump won the presidency, and started it years before he was even a candidate. So in a way the album wasn’t even intended to be a commentary on what we are currently going through though the themes fit pretty well. I was more obsessed with this idea of the future as being something mutable and controllable and something that we need to tackle with radical ideas, and I think this message is more important than ever.

How did living in Mexico City and Montreal influence and inspire the album?

I lived in Montreal during the winter when it was cold and dark and I hibernated for a few months. The songs that came out of that time are definitely the darker ones, I was feeling quite hopeless personally and also with the state of our world. When I move to Mexico I was immediately inspired and re-awaked, it is visually the complete opposite of Mexico with colour and light everywhere, and the energy of that city if reflected in the songs on the record.

Austra - Photo Credit Renata Raksha - General 005 - 300dpi

This is your third album, how did you feel your sound developed on the record?

I actually feel like I reverted to old techniques in making this record being that I made the whole thing on my laptop, just like Feel It Break. I wanted to do that so I could maintain control of the whole process again. I did however learn a lot about production while making it, which is part of the reason I wanted to do it myself, to gain that knowledge and experience.

Does it get easier to put out an album with experience, or do you feel that you’re still learning?

I think it gets harder in a way. The more you know, the more critical you are. There is something so wonderful about naivety and what can come out of that, I often miss being in that place, although I feel that from where I am now I just have to keep learning in order to be able to make music that sounds like what I hear in my head.

Where there any challenges of creating a soundtrack that reflected and embodied your beliefs?

It is challenging to try to make your ideas come across as concise and sensical. When I was writing these songs there was like a million things I wanted to talk about and I had to work really hard to narrow it all down to a few key points. That was very hard!

Musically speaking, who are you influenced by?

This record was influenced by Massive Attack, Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, Chancha Via Circuito, Grimes.

What are your goals with the album? And how will you be spending the rest of 2016?

My goal with this album is to get people really invigorated by the idea that the future is in their control – that we can start spreading ideas we want to become reality in the underworld and that those ideas will eventually make it through to the mainstream.

Future Politics is released Jan 20th 2017, you can pre-order it here.

Photo credit: Renata Raksha General

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