When I brought up Austra with Regina Folk Festival artistic director Sandra Butel, I think she sensed a bit of hesitation in my voice. Or maybe it was my use of the words “distinct and unusual” to describe the Katie Stelmanis-fronted project that caused Butel to immediately respond back with “Do you like them?”
Right now, I’m not 100 per cent sure. For one, I haven’t yet had the chance yet to listen to all of their debut album, Feel It Break. It was released in 2011 by Paper Bag Records, a Canadian label based in Stelmanis home of Toronto.
Chris Morin wrote a prairie dog preview for their November 23, 2011 show in Regina where he talked about Austra’s “densely hypnotic” music as well as the stage show they put on:
Flanked by backup singers Sari and Romy Lightman of Tasseomancy, Stelmanis plays the role of frontwoman perfectly, energized and tragic at the same time.
It’s hard to tear your eyes away from her, despite the temptation of twin sisters pulsing rhythmically to the music.
Butel had seen them live prior to booking them, so she knows what the audience is in for.
“There’s a line where it’s like, ‘OK, what can the regular audience take?’ but I feel like Austra is one that I want audiences to discover this. They have their fans who are going to really understand where their music is coming from, but I think people will be excited to see them,” says Butel.
She continues, “There’s a lot of music that’s really pleasant, but I need music that shakes you up, and Austra does that.”
We’ll see if I’m one of the shook up.