Katie Stelmanis is the lead singer of Austra, a band from Toronto. Austra, which also includes members Maya Postepski and Dorian Wolf, makes electronic music that can excite a dance floor and soothe the ears. They have a new record call Feel It Break coming out on Domino records in May, and will be playing a whole batch of shows at SXSW this year, with European and American dates to follow. Katie and bandmate Maya both identify as queer.
AfterEllen.com: When I asked you to do this interview you said, “All I ever wanted was to be a gay band.” What does being a “gay band” mean to you?
AE: What is the confusing part? What are the stereotypes, do you think?
AE: What are some of the bands that you think have actually been able to do this well?
It’s nice to see that there are more and more bands being vocal about queerness, I just wish there was more emphasis on the fact they are queer in the media.
AE: I love bringing up the Canada vs. USA equality thing into my interviews with Canadian bands because it’s mind boggling that queer Americans still don’t have the equal rights. What are your feelings on this? As a gay Canadian when you come to the US can you actually feel the oppression?
After high school I started seeing things differently and, of course, I actually came out as a lesbian. Despite the fact it’s legal for gays to get married [in Canada], I still feel a lot of homophobia, especially in the smaller towns. Big cities like Toronto and Vancouver that have thriving gay scenes are not really a good indication for the sentiment of a whole country.
I feel as though it’s the same in the USA. There are lots of very gay-positive cities, but it’s when you move away from the metropolitan centers things become more dangerous. Now that I’ve done so much traveling, I feel extremely lucky that marriage is legal where I’m from, and it blows my mind its been so hard for our neighbors down south to achieve the same rights. Part of it has to do with the fact we had a very liberal prime minister for a long time, who I think made it easier for gay marriage to happen. Now, with our conservative PM, I can’t imagine such a thing would have ever happened under his leadership.
AE: So let’s talk about your coming out — what was that like? Can you give us the story?
Though it would take me a while to feel comfortable with my gay identity — I was just figuring it out at this point — I was kind of thrown out of the closet in an unfortunate event that involved me kissing one of these openly gay lesbians drunkenly at a party, and everyone that I’ve ever known finding out about it within 24 hours. From that point on I was “a gay,” despite the fact I wasn’t quite ready to go so far and say it about myself. Apparently it wasn’t too hard for people to come to that conclusion.
Once I had actually accepted the fact that I’m gay, I didn’t have to really “come out” to anyone because they all already knew. Even my mom.
An interview with Katie Stelmanis of Austra