Main Stage, 3:00 p.m.
The moment that Toronto electro band Austra completed its world tour to support its sophomore album, Olympia, its lead singer and songwriter Katie Stelmanis hit the books and began a voracious reading cycle.
“I had felt that music had consumed my life for the previous five years and I really just wanted to exercise other parts of my brain,” Stelmanis said last week in a phone interview. “So I really did get into reading, which doesn’t really sound like a big deal, but I hadn’t read a book since high school.
“I started making a list of all the books that I had read, because I was able to see this quantifiable gain in my smartness every time I read a book. I tried to read as many as possible.”
It wasn’t the only activity Stelmanis undertook during her performance hiatus. There were French and Spanish language studies, ballet lessons and cooking as she moved from Montreal to New York to Mexico City before returning to Toronto.
But the books she read directly informed much of the subject matter in the 11 songs on Austra’s third album, Future Politics.
Musically, it’s an album full of nuanced, throbbing synthesizers, brisk dance rhythms and Stelmanis’s angelic, operatic-inspired warbling. Lyrically, it’s a big-picture observation of social concerns ranging from capitalism to the environment, mentioned in such songs as “Future Politics,” “Utopia,” “Gaia,” “Freepower” and “Beyond a Mortal.”
– The Toronto Star