AUSTRA – Speed Dating hat noch keinem geschadet

Austra © Hella Wittenberg

Foto-Credit @ Hella Wittenberg

Kurz bevor die Corona-Krise Berlin zu einer leeren Insel macht, ist Katie Stelmanis noch in der Hauptstadt, um über ihr viertes Austra-Album namens HiRUDin zu sprechen. Zur Begrüßung stehen wir mit weniger als 1,5 Meter Abstand voreinander und winken uns dennoch zu. Die Nachrichtungen sind voll mit den Storys zum Virus, klar wird so ein Kennenlernen nun schnell komisch. Zum Glück stellt sich aber genau dieses Hallo-Wer-Bist-Du als einzige Hürde heraus. Sobald sich die Kanadierin auf ihre Couch gelümmelt hat, wirkt sie wahnsinnig entspannt – sie hat Bock auf Reden. Darüber, wieso alleine Musikmachen in Retrospektive doof ist, Lyrics lange nicht ihre erste Prio waren und warum sie nicht nachvollziehen kann, wie jemand ihre Stimme nicht mögen kann – dafür aber die von St. Vincent.

When you released the news about your new album you wrote online that you feel a bit insecure, why so?
It is always like this: I spend years working on something, it becomes very close to me and suddenly I have to give it up. It’s not mine anymore. The way the world perceives it will change how I think of the record. But I’m personally guilty of being really sensitive to criticism. If there is one review that is mean or I feel like they’re not understanding it – that drives me insane. It’s scary to think about the bad reviews. What will they gonna say this time?

Sounds stressful. Do you feel like this will change after a while?
I don’t think it ever stops, but I’m less obsessed with the success of one record now. I have four records now! I have a whole body of work representing different times of my life. I feel proud of this.

Austra 2 © Hella Wittenberg

You did HiRUDin differently than the records before. Can you tell me more about your approach?
I feel like my first three records are connected and this one is separated. Basically I always made my records by myself and I was really resistent to letting other people in. But this time I just started speed dating. I did sessions with lots and lots of people to see what worked. I can’t believe I haven’t done this before! Doing sessions with other musicians is the best way to learn how to improve your craft.

What have you learned about yourself through this way of working?
Every time I start to make an album I feel like I’ve figured it out. And two weeks within finishing it it’s the opposite. Everything seems to be a disaster. It’s this constant circle really.

But there is still a confidence there.
It comes and goes. I think when you put out a few records you don’t want to do the same thing again and again. There are constant questions that I’m battling with. Why do I wanna bring out a new one? It’s important to question myself as an artist, because it’s the only way I evolve. When I would always feel like I’m good to go I would get stuck in a routine.

Do you think Mick Jagger asks himself such questions?
There was a time where The Rolling Stones were cool and there would have been a time were they weren’t cool and he was aware of it. Even though he is still one of the most famous musicians on the planet – to suddenly see himself from being edgy to dad rocker… Probably he questions himself.

I wonder how a record of you would sound like when you would just think that you’re amazing and everything you do is awesome.
(laughs) Sometimes I feel like I’m the best. But then there are days where I think I can’t do anything at all. I’ll write a song and later I wish I could unhear it. I hate it so much!

What is first for you: lyrics or sound?
Ninety percent of the time it’s the sound first and then the lyrics. But there is a couple of songs on this record where the lyrics just came out. Like „All I Wanted“ was written in ten minutes. When I first started putting out music, lyrics meant absolutely nothing to me. Then I realized that all the people, who are writing about music care about lyrics. So I had to change my priorities.

Lyrics have to click for me and because writing is not my craft I have to wait until there is a burst of inspiration – or it won’t work.

YouTube video

Marina Abramovic once said that art has to be disturbing. Can you relate to that regarding your music?
I have such a distinctive voice and to me it is very easy to listen to, but for some people it is really not enjoyable. It’s always weird for me when people don’t get it. I just know my voice is good! But you exist in these different worlds and I guess in that sense my voice is disturbing to people.

Do you sometimes have a problem with other people’s voices?
Sure, a voice can break a project for me. But it’s not about a technically good one, it’s mostly about how things are communicated. There are some really good singers where the voice isn’t doing it for me and there are some non-singers who’s voices I love.

Can you give an example?
A voice where I really have trouble with is St. Vincent’s voice. I just feel like there is a box surrounding it, it is just hard to excess this layer of sentimentality or something. But then there is Phoebe Bridgers – she is great, but she isn’t a super dramatic, all over the place, huge range singer. I find her voice very emotive.

Das neue Austra Album HiRUDin erscheint am 1. Mai 2020

Austra live:
15. November 2020 – Metropol, Berlin

Hella Wittenberg

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