How Austra Is Coping with Isolation: 'Star Trek,' Sourdough and Making an Instrumental Record

After leaving her London residency mid-month, Katie Stelmanis is back home and working on new music
How Austra Is Coping with Isolation: 'Star Trek,' Sourdough and Making an Instrumental Record
Operatic Toronto electro-pop songwriter Austra is releasing a new album, HiRUDiN, on May 1. Normally, that would mean touring and other promotional efforts; instead, project leader Katie Stelmanis is back home in Toronto and is already working on more new music. We caught up with her about her abrupt exit from a London residency and what's she's been up to alone in her apartment.

What's your self-isolation setup?

I was meant to be doing a residency at a club in London for the month of March, but that got cut short mid-month. I had rented out my apartment in Toronto already, so I ended up quarantining at my parents' house with two friends who also flew home on short notice from London. It was fun being in quarantine with two friends; we just cooked a lot and watched movies and took turns calming each other down between COVID-related panic attacks. Now i'm moved back into my apartment and on my own, so things are getting a little weirder...

Are you working on any music while on lockdown?

I'm trying to, yeah, I was supposed to be on tour pretty soon and all those shows are obviously cancelled. I've got a record coming out in two weeks and normally I wouldn't have time to get back to writing so quickly, but as is the case, I'm back in my studio and not mad about it.

What are you watching and listening to?

For the past five years, the only show I really watch when i'm alone is Star Trek (and, actually, I only watch it while i'm alone because no one ever wants to watch it with me). I find it really soothing and it often puts me to sleep on tour, so it's been for keeping me calm during this pandemic. i just finished the TNG series after around 5 years of watching, and am now on Deep Space Nine.

How do you feel about the response to coronavirus?

The response is frustrating in a million ways because a lot of this could have been avoided had pandemic preparation and research been properly funded. But, unfortunately, we've been living under neoliberalism and austerity for decades now and the erosion of our social support system is becoming very apparent.

Have you picked up any new hobbies or routines in isolation?

I'm super basic and like everyone else I'm attempting to bake sourdough, garden, cook, and make an instrumental record.

Find out what other Canadian musicians have been up to under self-quarantine with our Isolation Nation questionnaire.