Austra and xx like Yin and Yang

Photo by Allyson Stone / Austra’s Katie Stelmanis produces a vibrant soprano voice on-stage, a quality that has been a large part of the band’s identity.

The Tabernacle has never been one to let concert-goers leave unsatisfied and un-rocked. By all accounts, the venue has been one of the most consistent in the city in terms of providing exceptional musical entertainment. But this past week, the indie-superstar combination of The xx and Austra set the bar high, with both bands bringing in a captivating show with their laid-back beats and hypnotizing vocals. 

The opening act, Austra, originally hails from Toronto. Their 2011 debut album, Feel It Break, was met with a vast array of approval from both Canadian and American critics, no doubt paving the way for bigger things to come in the band’s future.

…their performance was not lacking in content.

Led by singer Katie Stelmanis, along with drummer Maya Postepski, bassist Dorian Wolf and keyboardist Ryan Wonsiak, the band has gradually become one of the major players in electronic music. Originally, Stelmanis was a solo artist and asked the others to tour with her under the name Katie Stelmanis, but eventually the group became known as Austra. While this band name may seem rather unique, it actually holds a double meaning, being both the title of the Latvian goddess of light, as well as Stelmanis’s middle name.

Before the show, the Technique had the chance to interview Stelmanis about her band and their song, “Lose It.”

Tell me how Austra started…

Well, I guess it started out as a solo project. I used to tour as myself, Katie Stelmanis. Then I guess I started assembling a band, Maya was my drummer, we hired Dorian who started playing bass. And I guess everything started falling into place, and then we decided to give ourselves a name, because bands need a name, and that’s how Austra was born.

Neat, how did you get the name?

It’s actually my middle name.

Wow, pretty name! So I did a little research on your video for, “Lose It.” What’s the story behind it? It seems like there’s a lot going on.

The Director gave us this concept of us saving the world…from the rocket ship I guess. We didn’t understand the concept behind the video, or what we were doing, or how exactly we were saving the world. But it turned out to be one of my favorite videos. It’s so unexpected and random!

Are you looking forward to touring with The xx? What’s the best thing you’re looking forward to?

The xx is really fun to hang out with! They’re really shy, but they’re a ton of fun to hang out with. I’m just excited, and we’re going to have a lot of fun together!

Are you excited to come to Atlanta?

I love going to Georgia, I love going to the South, like Florida and such. And the route for this tour is so fun, and we’re really looking forward to playing in the places we’re playing at.

The band’s performance at the Tabernacle was a forty-five minute set that showcased their synth-pop talent along with some more atmospheric tracks to inspire the mood of the audience. Although Austra only has one album to date, their performance was not lacking in content. They ended their set with one of their most well-known songs, “Lose It,” leaving their audience with a lasting impression that this band is one to look out for in the future. Overall, Austra’s chemistry made it clear that these people were friends to begin with, and they do not let stage presence tear that bond apart.

Though Austra’s act eventually did have to wrap up, that atmosphere that they created with their soulful notes was the perfect lead-in to the headliner of the night, The xx.

The xx is well known for their minimal stage presence and reserved beats…

Forming in 2005, The xx has seen their fair share of ups and downs in their experience with the music industry. Band members have come and gone, and the band itself has been featured on many “Best Of” lists due to several of their more popular songs from their well-known album, Basic Space. This act has been around the block a few times in terms of musical experience and success, resulting in the far-reaching musical footprint and impressive fan base they hold today. In 2012, however, The xx came out with the album Coexist, which showed the world a different side to the band. Indeed, the album received reviews that mentioned the band “peeling back layers” of their introverted selves.

As a performing act, The xx is well known for their minimal stage presence and reserved beats, which create an atmospheric vibe that comes across as an interesting comparison to house music when heard live. Regardless of the sounds that the band members produce, their calm and collected stature was engulfed with screams and cheers the moment they stepped on stage. Such a combination of the fiery aura of the audience with the serenity of the band on stage  resulted in an energy throughout the venue that could almost be described as surreal. It was a contradiction that would have seemed completely unenjoyable to the outside viewer, but for those attending the concert, the wide range of sounds flowed together like magic. While it may not be considered the standard style for more mainstream acts, contradiction after contradiction made the entire xx experience completely in equilibrium, combining both performer and audience output to form a unified and excitingly dynamic whole.

On the whole, pairing Austra and The xx together was probably one of the better choices made in the music industry lately. Although their rhythms are similar, each band brought different atmospheres that ultimately formed an entire atmospheric experience, engulfing the audience in a wave of smooth yet electric melodies. Katie Stelmanis brought with her a flute-like soprano voice, which later in the night was countered by the dark, chesty bass and alto voices of Madley Croft and Oliver Sim of The xx.

The whole experience was nothing less than mentally captivating and something that could not be accurately described in words, except perhaps to say that the combination of Austra and The xx was one of the strongest shows to have graced the Tabernacle in the last few years.