Austra has a both musical and political power, a manifesto for beauty and politics. Like in a spiritual and intellectual quest, it is an immersive experience that awakes both body and mind, which is rare in a time where we constantly look for distractions.
Thanks to a meaningful minimalism, Austra offers a global vision of the world in which politics and art, commitment and storytelling meet each others with harmony.
Katie Stelmani’s art has always been meaningful, political and aesthetic, following the idea of utopia, a better world beyond the real one. Future Politics is therefore the Olympia logical continuum.
We met Austra some months after Future Politics’ release. In this short time, world political situation dramatically changed. In an almost Cold War scenario, with a dangerous extreme right resurgence, a deep conversation with Katie Stelmanis about spirituality, feminism and a future world.
Do you have the feeling that we arrived at the end of something?
I think we are at the end and at the beginning at the same time. It is difficult to know. I would like to think that this resurgence of the right wings in politics is the end of something. But it is also scary to imagine that it could be the beginning.
Do you think there is a link between the research of justice in art and the claim for justice in politics?
I wrote this stuff because I was reacting emotionally to something at a very personal level. When you read news on the Internet, you sometimes ask how can it exist today? It is very sad, so I was kind of writing songs that came from an emotional perspective. So for me, they are universally accessible, because everyone is experiencing his basic emotions.
What do you think about the political situation in the US right now?
It is terrifying. It is scary, it is hard to read the news. But you know, I guess I am optimistic. I guess I think something will happen. Maybe he will get impeached. It would be very positive if there were a re-emergence of the other side of the spectrum, like an anti-Trump movement that would become more powerful than Trump himself.
I have the impression that in your music you look for a kind of spiritual harmony, which is deeply connected with social issues and politics, I think. Why this word, “harmony”, is important for you?
It is interesting because I do not know if we are speaking about the same type of harmony. When I am thinking from a musical perspective, it is quite obvious because there is harmony in music and it has always been a crucial part of what I do. I come from a choral background, that also why harmony is an important element of the music I make.
I am not really able to communicate what I want unless there is harmony between people and music. People are unable to feel what you are trying to express unless they can feel into it, and that is how to create harmony. And I suppose, when you link that to the concept of politics… Well, it is all about how politics and people interact with each other. The political situation has an impact on people everywhere in the world, so I guess it is necessary to find harmony.
Do you think we live in a world where women can express themselves freely?
No. I don’t think so, unfortunately. I think that maybe they can express themselves, but there are not enough platforms available. So it is harder to be taken seriously, it is harder to be considered as a genius, it is harder for your work. So, for all these reasons, female history is not as present as the male one.
Is spirituality important for you, especially in your music?
To be honest, when I was composing this album I discovered this religion called new pantheism, that believes that there are not enough evidences about hell, so basically, what is really to worship is Earth. I really identify myself with that because it is sort of able to encourage people realize the majesty and the magic of our planet. A lot of highly religious people think that afterlife is more important than the current life. This justifies environmental destruction and issues like that. So yes, all kind of spirituality I can have is strictly linked with Earth.
It is true that in your songs there are often some mythology or magic elements. Even the name, Austra, comes from mythology. What is your vision on that?
I think it is just something I have always been interested in. It is more fun and interesting to sing about dreamworlds, fantasy worlds. The name Austra is actually just my second name. After, I found it was the name of the Latvian goddess of light.
I was at on of your concert, four or five years ago in Rennes, it was a little intimate one. There was a mystical atmosphere, a sort of collective energy. I felt like a catharsis. Is it important for you to create this vibe?
Absolutely. It’s a big part of our live show, allowing this collective catharsis to happen. I think part of the reason of that is about the fact of being queer. I am speaking about that because we really wish to create a comfortable environment for people, a place where they can be queer and be dressed in a weird way and being themselves… Yes, it is about making people comfortable.
Recently, a singer told me something that made me think about. She told me that when you are thirty you become less stubborn, that you are more calm in your claims and in your composition process. Do you feel the same?
I mean, I feel the opposite I suppose. It is definitely about being more in line with yourself, which is very important, but I do not feel less stubborn. I feel more sure, I feel able to say no. I become older and also more critical, a more aware person. Being like 20 or 21 is considered as the perfect age for a woman, because your are young and beautiful. And then you get older. In a way, according to a certain way of thinking, older women are less and less useful. It is a strange contradiction, you become smaller and smaller when you get old, but in the same time you become more powerful. It is an interesting relationship.
Are you scared about getting older?
Hum… I would not say I am not scared, I definitely am concerned with the fact of being older. I have always been, I remember when I had 21 I was like devastated. It has always been a thing.