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Toronto band Austra’s live shows are nothing short of magical – fans of the band will know what I mean by that. Within seconds, you will be entranced by the band’s stage presence and smooth, dark, lilting and edgy sounds. You will be impressed by lead singer Katie’s vocals and intense energy, as well as the fabulous harmonies of sisters Sari and Romy, Dorian’s tight bass and Ryan’s playful electronics. But, what gives the band its soul and sexiness are the drums – you will be seduced by the stomping beats of drummer MAYA POSTEPSKI and her laidback “I can do this in my sleep” attitude. Performing live, Postepski sits coolly at back of stage – her cockpit – pounding out those iconic Austra beats like a walk in the park while keeping the rhythms and tightness of the band in check, taking the image of the cool, sexy, talented drummer to another level. This band would not be the same without her, you will start thinking – and you would be right.
Female drummers have been overlooked and ignored for far too long in the music industry. Many have had to fight long and hard to break down stereotypes of what female percussionists can bring to the game – to prove that their gender has nothing to do with their invaluable contribution to the band and its success. Some of the most talented and iconic female drummers have suffered such terrible prejudice that they were eventually forced out of the band altogether – just look at the fate of Patty Schemel, former Hole drummer, whose life was completely blown to pieces after her scandalously calculated expulsion from the band by the then-producer Michael Beinhorn. Despite his criminal tactics, Beinhorn controversially went on to receive a Grammy nomination in 1998 for the band’s most successful album to date “Celebrity Skin” (Schemel’s face and name adorns the album sleeve even though the drum tracks are not actually hers – she was replaced during recording by an unknown male session drummer after Beinhorn set her up) – not an atypical industry story, as Courtney Love has resignedly confessed. Love later took her comments a step further, calling Beinhorn “still a nazi fuck” at a screening of 2011 documentary Hit So Hard which details the producer’s relentless bullying of Schemel and the awful tragedies that ensued. The commercial industry, it seems, continues to embrace industry males above and beyond female musicians and ethics.
Getting back to Postepski, not only is Maya one of the best drummers out there right now, finding herself ranked alongside other iconic drummers, she is a powerhouse of energy and productivity – a master remixer, producer, multi-instrumental percussionist. In addition to Austra, she has been a key member of TRUST, and continues her own project Princess Century. Ever humble, we get to know her better in this interview, where she tells us about her passion for the drums, sleeping in ex-asylums and why singer Katie Stelmanis saved her life.
Well, let’s get to know you a bit better – we like to have the artists speak openly about their backgrounds and what drives them. So much of mainstream journalism is just regurgitated information…
I don’t know why people do that. It’s like: just use your brain a little bit…
Well yeah, exactly.
I’d never become a journalist if I wasn’t actually interested in investigating things. But anyhow, that’s another discussion…
So, what’s your family background?
My family’s from Poland and I was born in South Africa. My parents were working there – they lived there for like 10 years and they had me. It was getting really weird there, so they were like, “We need to get out of here.” They applied to emigrate to Canada and Australia, and Canada just responded a couple months faster… So, I would’ve either ended up in Canada or Australia, but I ended up in Canada…
If they’d moved to Australia, do you know which city?
So, it’s that path of life that never happened and that you’ll never know…
Yeah, it was kind of random. I was thinking maybe I’d be a surfer or something! Or maybe I’d end up a drummer, who knows?
Your parents are both Polish by origin?
Did they speak Polish with you?
They did when I was a little younger, but I think they really tried to assimilate themselves into the new country. So we still spoke it a little bit, but when they were in Austria my parents spoke German, and when they lived in South Africa they learned Afrikaans. So, I guess they’re just into being wherever they are. It’s kind of cool – I guess I respect that because if I moved to Sweden tomorrow, I’m not going to just get by on my English just because everyone speaks English – I think you have to try to get into wherever you are.
Are your parents inspirational for you, in terms of branching out, not staying in the same place?
Yeah! I mean, without getting too political, I think a lot of cultures get stuck in themselves. I found that a lot of Polish kids at school wanted to be my friend just because I was Polish, and I was like, “That’s kind of not a good reason to be my friend…” It is if it’s because you’re an artist or writer or whatever, not because you’re from a country. So I find that kind of a small, closed-minded way of thinking about things. And yeah, I guess my parents were always kind of international and interested in other places and other things, and they were never scared of that. They ran away from their country because it was communist and they hated that. So yeah, I think that they are brave.
Talking about being an artist, you’re quite the musical multi-tasker. But, how did you get into music and why did you decide to focus on the drums?
Well, I went to this art school when I was a kid – all through high school, actually – so it was for kids who were into music, dancing or acting and stuff. I was really lucky to go there, because it was a very untraditional education and I remember it was like a fantasy world – it seemed like we could do anything we wanted. I took mime class when I was like 8 – that’s pretty weird. And I had been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I had this strong musical background. And when I was 10, I had to choose what major I wanted to go into, which was your class that you do for 4 years. So, you choose art, drama, dance or music, and then there was a brand new category this year that I started called “percussion.” And I was like, “I don’t want to dance, I don’t want to sing, I don’t want to paint, I don’t want to act, I don’t want to play violin…” Then I was like, “Huh, what is this percussion thing?” I honestly took this form to my mum and I checked “percussion” and she didn’t even know what it was – she was like, “What IS this?” But she signed it for me and I just went to this class honestly not knowing what the hell I was going to do.
My teacher Adam was awesome, and I was really intuitive with the drums from the very first day. He did this very simple exercise where he played a rhythm and we played it back – we went back and forth and there were only like 8 of us. So we were just playing, copying him, and I was getting the rhythms perfectly because I played piano and it’s highly repetitive, but all the other kids didn’t get it and I got it straight away every time. I was actually very proud of myself. I thought, “I’m very, very good at this,” and when you’re 9 years old that’s a really big feeling. I was terrible at math, I was terrible at writing, I didn’t really care about that stuff, and so I was finally good at something at school and I was like, “Wow!” It just felt so good to be exceptional at something, finally. It just felt like I was special all of a sudden.
Yeah, it’s important, isn’t it, for kids to have access to the arts and to know they can excel in anything, even something different from the norm?
Yeah, it makes me so sad, because later on I started teaching drums to kids privately. I didn’t do it for too long – maybe for a year because then the band picked up. They were so interested in learning and practising and they were telling me, “I never do anything at school – I don’t feel challenged.” I was like, “Man, this sucks!” Kids are like sponges – all kids, no matter what they do or where they’re from – they just want to do something they’re good at, whether it’s dancing or singing or anything, you know? And so, if I have kids someday, I think I’m going to have a non-traditional education for them. The public education system’s just not good enough – I mean, there’s just no money in it, right?
Yeah, talking about education in Canada, the student protests this year were really intense – some very brave people over there looking out for the kids of the future…
Yeah, that’s all happening in Montreal with the university students – that’s really cool. But that’s Quebec: that’s like totally different, because Quebec has its own spirit. It’s incredible! They’re just so revolutionary – they’re so not afraid to just get into the streets and make a noise.
So, when you were drumming as a kid, did you already envision making music your future?
Yeah! All I remember from when I was a kid was that I left this class the first day and I was like, “I’m going to do this with my life.” I was a 9 year old girl playing the drums and I had this realisation. I don’t know, I guess other people have had that too when they’re young – just this overwhelming sensation that you’ve found what you’re supposed to do. I didn’t really care, I knew that somehow I’d make it work. And now that I’m a little bit older… yeah it’s tough and it’s been a long, hard road to get here, and I’m still not entirely satisfied with every part of my career, but you just have to keep going. What I always tell myself too is: if this ends, that’s fine – at least I tried and at least I got somewhere. There are always going to be normal jobs out there – they’re just not going to go away. So if I’m 36, and I have to go back to school for a couple of years and become a real estate agent, I’m fine with that. But I try not to think about that. You get hung up on that stuff like, “Man, I’m not making any money, I’m not having any savings, I’m just kind of living like a pirate…” but you have to not think so much about that, otherwise you can drive yourself crazy.
Yeah, it’s really tough. You made a brave decision.
It’s not a good future – I still don’t know if I’m going to ever make any money from this – REAL money – but I’m okay with that right now. It’s tough, but you just have to keep going and I’ve always believed that people who work hard will be successful and so far it’s paid off.
Did you have any role models, growing up? Anybody who spurred you on…
Yeah, in high school I was in this jazz band and this guy Arden was really, really good – he was always practising after school. He was like, “I’m going to do auditions to be in an orchestra” and I was like, “Wow, that’s so cool!” So, I would practise after school with him sometimes, and eventually I had the same teacher as him and did an audition to go to the University of Toronto to study classical percussion for orchestra. I got in, so I stayed there for 4 years, got a degree in percussion, and that just really made me go to a next level – you learn something about listening, I mean REALLY listening. I feel that a lot of musicians don’t really listen to who they’re playing with – they’re kind of in their bubble: “I’m playing drums, I’m going to listen to the drums…” You should just listen to everybody because it’s incredible. Playing with different people over the years, you start realising that most musicians don’t know what they’re doing.
So, are you quite fussy now about who you play with – can you tell straight away if it’s clicking?
You can tell within the first 10 seconds.
Wow! That’s fast…
But, there are also different objectives with every band. I like to play with people who are really listening and play really ‘in time’ who are willing to practise really a lot. I’m quite strict with rhythmic things and it’s hard because that’s not what everything is about. So I’ve had to learn to loosen up a little bit about that, because I’ve become a bit of a perfectionist after practising with an orchestra for 4 years – you get into a really nitpicky mentality: “That pianissimo violin note was just a hair too soon…” even though 99% of the audience won’t notice. Being in a band is a totally different mentality – there are different goals: you want to create a vibe, an ambiance, a feeling rather than playing a ‘perfect song.’ So, I’ve learned to compromise and just loosen up a bit.
So, does that mean you get to be a lot more creative now?
Exactly. And when you’re working with a strong singer, you start thinking about the song as an overall mood, rather than these little pieces of information that all fit together perfectly. It’s also a smaller ensemble, right? When you’re playing to an orchestra, there are like 50 people sometimes so you have to worry about each little ant being in the perfect place, whereas with 4 to 6 people it’s more about “Can we make this feel good?”
So, what are you up to right now?
I’m in a small town in Michigan with Austra – we’re recording in the middle of nowhere. It’s a really cool studio that our manager told us about and there’s all this old gear and analogue synthesisers, so we’re just kind of messing around. We’re just sitting in the studio all day because it’s like 50 degrees outside and we’re just playing with all this old crap…
Nice! So, are you actually recording or just trying stuff out?
Well, there’s a lot of that but we’re actually recording, yeah. We’re just kind of making demos. We don’t know if we’re going to keep everything but we’re definitely going to try and keep stuff.
So, what’s the recording lifestyle like? It must be pretty different from being on tour…
It’s funny because we’re always together in close quarters for 24 hours a day on tour, and we’re kind of doing the same thing right now. I mean, it’s a little different, because we all have our own bedroom and we sleep in the same building – it’s kind of like we’re at summer camp! And that’s cool because it means we don’t have to stay in a hotel and we get to go swimming in the lake – we’re going swimming every day. Today is our last day here, so we’re just going to review everything we’ve laid down and do a rough mix to take home with us. And tomorrow we’re going to drive home and keep writing. Maybe we’ll go for a swim later!
And at least you get some sleep, right?
Oh my god, I’m still in my bed right now! We’ve been sleeping SO MUCH lately. This is like early morning for me. I’m in a bunk bed right now – just me and 2 giant bunk beds. We’re barely like an hour and a half outside of Chicago, but that’s like nowhere in America.
Wow, so it’s very intense…
Yeah, but it’s really good. I feel like we’re all working at maximum efficiency because there’s no driving to the studio, meeting up for coffee… we all just roll out of bed and make a coffee and work.
And when you’re on tour, you make a point of not staying in regular hotels? When we talked in Manchester, you said you were excited to stay somewhere in nature…
Yeah! Sari, one of our backing singers – her job is to book us hotels. She always tries to find us weird places to stay – or weird hotels that were converted from insane asylums into hotels! There’s one in Amsterdam that’s really, really cool – we stayed in this room once with 8 beds. We were checking in and we’re like, “So, there’s 7 of us” (because we have a tour manager) and they were like, “Okay – so you’re staying in this room.” And we were like, “Um… but there’s 7 of us…” but they were like “Yeah, yeah.” And we were like, “What the fuck??” So we get into the room and there were 8 little single beds all in a row… and they’re all connected! So we all slept like little matchsticks next to each other!
They were connected?? So you couldn’t even move them around?
No! And the bathtub is like really deep – it’s like you can drown in it. It was so cool…
And this was a converted asylum or something?
I think so. But when I met you in Manchester, we were staying in the Peak District.
How did that go?
Well, it was pouring rain all day when we stayed there, but we just stayed at this inn in the middle of the Peak District. It was like a pub, so we just drank cider all day and went to bed at 8 o’clock drunk – because we couldn’t go outside.
You’ve done quite a bit of moving around on this tour, but which city did you particularly enjoy?
It was really nice to be in Barcelona actually at the very end of the tour, because my girlfriend used to live there, so she showed me around and we stayed in an apartment, and I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. It was my first time really seeing that city properly and I really love it – I think it’s amazing.
Can you see yourself relocating one day? Or does it depend on what’s going on with the band?
At this point, if I suddenly was to buy a house, if I had money, I don’t know where I’d want to live. I feel like after travelling around the world so much, you just want to live everywhere. I mean, I love Toronto, which is where we’re from. I just feel like I don’t know at this point – it depends on where my life is when I get there I guess. I like everywhere! I want to live in this corner, in that corner… I could live in Sydney or New York or London… I don’t even care anymore…
It sounds like you’re really into the big cities?
Well, I don’t know why I said those 3 things actually because I feel like I would have to live in the country! I mean, I’d like to ideally have a small flat in a big city like London and then live in the country.
And only go into the city for work or shows?
Yeah. The thing about being an artist or a writer is that you don’t need to be in the city all the time.
In fact, it may drive you a bit crazy being in the city the entire time…
Yeah. I grew up in the city – I love big cities, it’s a vibe I really like. But the older I get, the more I appreciate the stillness and quietness and isolation, in fact. Not forever – I just appreciate those things after all this moving around, you know?
Yeah, definitely. So let’s talk about your creative relationship with Katie – you’ve known each other for a while…
Yeah, we’ve been working together for like 9 years.
Almost a decade!
It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had with a girl! It’s like our joke.
It’s so inspiring to see creative relationships that work well and evolve, where you respect each other and don’t end up in some massive breakup…
Yeah, I don’t like that. I’ve recently gone through one of those with my other band, Trust. It’s so awkward and sad and drama, whereas Katie and I kind of keep it real all the time.
It’s pretty difficult to find the right collaborators and you’ve worked on different projects. You were also in another band with Katie before Austra…
Well, when I was 17, I met Katie and our friend Emma and we started a band called Galaxy – it was a riot grrrl band, so we did that for 3 or 4 years. Then we broke up and Katie started doing her solo stuff and she wanted me to play drums live with her. So, I didn’t write any of that stuff, but I always kept going with her. And then eventually after a few years, it became Austra and we added more people. So, that was kind of lucky – Katie and I just met and we never stopped working together, so we kind of grew up together in that way. And we had all those shitty tours that we went through – sleeping on people’s floors, dragging gear across Europe on boats and trains. It was hell, but also at the time we were so motivated. If I had to do that right now, I’d be like “Fuck this…” and I’d probably never do that again. But I’m 5 years older now and you get comfortable with all of the luxuries, right? Like now we stay in hotels, have a driver and a tour manager. Now we’re just these lazy princesses, even though, by any normal human being’s standard, it’s not nice.
Was Austra a natural evolution or did you guys actually plan the band’s concept and setup?
No, it was like Katie doing her weird music and then she picks this weird band. Like, I was at one point playing stand-up drums, marimba and glockenspiel and singing backup – it was just a circus! And, we had this awesome guitar player. The band switched around so many times, and so now the 6-piece that we have is a very kind of ‘normal’ setup: 2 backup singers, a bass player, a key player and a drummer – it’s WAY more traditional in my mind, even though it’s still kind of ‘out there’ by most people’s standards. Most people were like, “Who IS this? It’s like a circus…” So it was never calculated. It was all just like, “Oh, we met Dorian the bass player… Oh, and then we met Ryan…” – it was super natural.
Austra has gathered a very loyal following because you’re known now for your brilliant performances as well as the music – you’ve got the whole package. Were you aware that the crowds love the setup?
No, it makes me really happy to hear that, because I think that my band is really great and everybody in it is really special. I’m glad to hear that people like us together.
Yeah, for sure! People are really appreciating each of you individually in the sound and on stage…
Yeah, it makes me happy that people know that it’s a band and it’s not just Katie with a bunch of studio musicians.
Yeah, talking about musicians not receiving credit, drummers – especially female drummers – have tended to be overlooked or boxed by the media which makes it hard for them to be taken seriously by the industry. Do you think this is getting better?
I don’t know. I still watch music videos and even concerts sometimes. I try not to watch anything to do with us, because I find it kind of weird – I don’t like to read press or any of that stuff. But sometimes I see videos of us and it’s not anything to do with the band, it’s just a stupid camera person who only focuses on Katie’s face – that’s not interesting first of all, by any aesthetic standard, and then it’s just weird how camera people don’t cover the whole band… It is a project that incorporates all of us, so it’s weird to me when people with cameras only focus on one person.
Let’s talk about you on stage. You all look like you’re having so much fun, and you’re probably the most laidback drummer I’ve seen live…
I think that on stage I just try and relax and have fun, and just enjoy playing my instrument. I really love playing drums so much that I think it’s kind of relaxing – it’s like having a glass of wine and a cigarette.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a musician talk about being on stage like that!
It is! And not because I want to seem casual, but I just feel calm and so happy, you know?
Yeah, that’s impressive. So, if that’s your relaxation, what stresses you out? And what else do you do to blow off steam?
There’s lots of stress on tour. I like to do lots of stretches before I play and I like to go for a run usually after soundcheck before dinner. And yeah, I kind of like to be alone, because there’s so little alone time on tour. Before I get on stage, if I have a lot of things to do, I get a little stressed out – if I have to do some little photo thing or do my makeup, or if there’s lots of friends backstage, I get stressed out sometimes.
I guess that’s the good thing about being a band and not a solo artist – you can understand and help each other, especially I guess with Katie?
Yeah, the whole band is really intuitive with each other at this point. It’s like we don’t even have to speak to know what we’re feeling. Everyone in the band is really sensitive to everything, really gentle and open.
Now there are a lot of electro bands coming out of Toronto or Montreal, Austra is one of the bands heading that new wave electro sound. But, I heard that when you and Katie started up, you found it tricky because people didn’t really get what you were doing…
People thought we were like freaks! I think people thought we were really interesting and they could appreciate that Katie’s really good at singing and that I was good at drumming, but they were kind of baffled by us as a duo – they were like, “What the fuck are these girls doing?” But, when I look at an old show I’m like, “Wow, we were total freaks.” Now the band seems so much more dumbed down or traditional or something… I still feel like Austra’s going to go back there though. I think in the future it’s just going to go crazy – it’s just going to go into full opera mode! If we could get like a set designer, I just think it’s going to go crazy!
The Austra opera – it’s doable. Electro opera!
People love that stuff!
Yeah, it’s true. Your performances now are so honed and tight that it’s exciting to imagine where Austra’s going to head in the future…
When we first released Austra, I was like, “I don’t know what people are going to think of this – it could go one way or the other.” But when “Beat and the Pulse” comes on, it’s like we’re really cool… It’s like “the nerds made it!”
Yeah, what I love is that you guys also really care about your look – you have a perfect combination of music and edgy videos (“Lose It” is a surrealist’s wet dream, “Beat and the Pulse” was controversially censored by YouTube for some very tame bearing of female flesh). The UK industry has become quite stale so it’s great to have inspiration from bands from North America who invest in creative videos, style and sound…
I don’t know why a band wouldn’t do that – that’s where you can have fun, that’s where the magic is, so why make a shitty, boring music video?? It doesn’t make sense – it’s totally weird… when you could be making something fun and imaginative. I’m happy to hear that there are a lot of bands coming over from North America, and Canada has a lot of incredible talent, so I’m glad that you guys are open to it because the UK is a very important market for bands from North America – it’s kind of like if you make it in the UK, you’ll be fine for a little while.
So where do you feel you’re at? Are you breaking the UK market?
Well, it’s hard to tell – we haven’t done a huge tour of the UK ever. We did a bigger one this summer, but I just think we haven’t spent enough time out there. But, hopefully with the new record, we can make sure we’re over there more often because it’s such an important place for music. All or most of my favourite musicians, bands or DJs come from the UK. It’s such a small place in the world, but so important for our music history – for some reason, there’s such an incredible amount of talent on this tiny island!
And how is the Toronto music scene these days? I guess you don’t get much chance to be there since you’re on the move…
Over the past 2 years, we’ve been away so I don’t know any Toronto bands. I haven’t seen a show in Toronto in 2 or 3 years because we’ve been on tour, so I’m out of the loop to be honest. Every time we go to Toronto, I’m like, “Holy crap, that city’s changing so quickly… wow, that bar’s closed, there’s all these new restaurants…” I don’t know what’s going on in Toronto, but apparently it’s good from what I hear. It’s fun to be away for so long and come home, and you’re like, “Wow, it’s been 2 years…”
So do you have a timeline for when the new Austra material will be coming out?
Yeah, so we’re doing demos now, then we’re going to go back on the road one more time – we have a tour in September. Then we want to record in the fall – in October. And if everything goes smoothly, we’ll have something out in May or June… spring/summer…
It’s a long haul, isn’t it?
There’s so much lead time, right? Like press, and when you’re putting a record together a lot of other things happen
So, how are you feeling about the new album?
After this week in the studio, I’m SO excited – I wish I could tell you how excited I am! The new material’s sounding – I mean, it’s just crazy – it’s like all my dreams for Austra coming true! And also we’re collaborating more, so it really feels like a lot of different spices are being put into the pot, not just one.
Austra is proving to be a very successful collaboration, but working with other artists comes with its ups and downs and there was some controversy with the other band you were in, Trust. Has that blown over now?
I wouldn’t say it’s over… I have a really good attitude about it – I love working with Robert, but we’ve had a bit of a falling out. I wish him the best of luck on tour. He’s a very talented person and I just want to work with him again one day, but it’s just not the right time right now and that’s it. I’m doing one thing; he’s doing another. Hopefully we’ll meet up someday again in the middle.
You sound very philosophical about it…
I’m really proud with the work we’ve done – he’s my colleague and I wish him the best. I just can’t be in 2 bands at once – that’s just the reality of it. Too bad, eh…
It makes total sense if you’re being stretched too thin. And of course your Austra backing singers Sari and Romy are doing their own thing too?
Yeah, they have an awesome project called Tasseomancy. We’ve all kind of sacrificed our own things to focus on Austra. I have a solo project called Princess Century which has been a bit on the backburner for a while, but I’m releasing a record I think in the fall. I made a record last year and it’s being made right now: it’s mastered and it’s done – I just need to get it out, and it’s coming out on a little label in London called Kennington Records.
That’s cool, we’d love to hear some of the tracks…
Yeah sure! It’s really introspective – it’s like my journal. I don’t really write a journal, so instead I just write tracks. It’s terrifying! Onstage with Austra and Trust, I’m super confident, but with Princess Century it’s the most terrifying experience of my life.
So, it’s very personal? All your thoughts go in there?
Exactly. And then if it’s a good song, I donate it to Trust or Austra!
I’ve often found that artists have 2 sides to their personality: the ultra-confident person who’s enjoying their music and the other person who’s kind of fragile and introverted. Do you relate to that?
Yeah, that’s why I’ve got a therapist! I think any good artist puts on a very good mask, and I’m trying to break away from that and just be more honest with all of the work I do, but it’s hard. I mean, the work I do is very pure – I don’t hide anything. But when you’re onstage, or in interviews or meetings with people, it’s easy to put on this shell that’s like, “I’m cool, I’ve got my shit together, I’m doing everything.” But really, I’m just like a little ant – I’ve just got a little ant inside here that’s like “Hello!” and I’m in this big shell. I think a lot of musicians are like that – they can easily pretend to be totally cool.
Yeah, it’s hard to stay confident. Many musicians suffer from a kind of creative block and go through sometimes long periods of not even playing their instrument. What would you say to artists who are struggling to be creative?
Yeah, I went through that maybe 4 years ago. I was like, “I need to get better, I need to just work, I need to write, I need to…” and I just kept talking and talking and talking about it. And my best friend, Jenna – she’s a painter and quite successful – she told me, “You just have to try every day, go into your studio and try and write a song, or try and write a drumbeat, or try and write anything… anything you do that sucks, at least you know you tried.” So, if you’re a writer: try and write a story, a poem, whatever! Even if you chuck it in the bin, eventually you’re going to do good stuff, right? So that’s what I did – I went into my studio every single day for like 8 hours and the first month or 2 was like crap… terrible crap. Then eventually, I just kept doing this routine and really good stuff happened – REALLY good stuff! And then, I started working with Robert [Alfons] and then we wrote a record. And all of a sudden, we had things happening, and it just goes and goes – it’s like a train, once it starts, it just goes…
I guess it’s like when an athlete is training…
Yeah! Like, the first time you go for a month you’re going to be stopping, but if you train for a month, you’ll be totally fine to run for like half an hour. I think it’s just discipline and not pitying yourself, and not being like, “Oh poor me.” Just shut up and do it! It’s a really harsh approach, but a lot of people talk and talk and talk… Go play your instrument and get good at it! Go write a story! Go write 25 stories and get really good at writing! Just stop talking – and do it!
Yeah, everyone really struggles in different ways and the key is to find your own rhythm that works for you…
Yeah, I made a routine every day. I like to work in the morning – that’s my power time. Some people work at 5 in the morning. I found that my best productive work was from 9am to 5pm, so every day I worked from 9 to 5 and I treated it like my job. You’re committing to yourself, you know? It feels so nice to give yourself power – like, “You know what? I’m not going to go out for lunch with my friend today – I’m working…”
Yeah, building your own rhythm and structure is really hard, and it’s important for people around you to understand that. Do you have a good balance now?
I don’t think I’ve actually found a balance. It’s really extreme being on tour because you’re giving 100% to your music all day, every day. I’ve had to teach myself to stay in touch with people and communicate better, and make sure I call my mum every couple of weeks. Time and space are so different on tour as well – anyone who’s gone on a long trip knows that suddenly a week goes by and it’s like, “Whoa, I forgot!“ I think the people I’m closest to in my life just get it now when I don’t call for a couple of weeks or don’t send an email back right away, but it’s not very nice and I’m still struggling. I think what my problem is right now is that I give everything to music, so it’s difficult for me to keep a good romantic relationship. Not just because I’m not in once place, but it’s because I’m not willing to give up all that energy, you know? And it’s selfish for sure, but I’ve been given this moment in my life to really do something that my dream is, so I’m okay with it because not a lot of people get here, and I feel like I can’t just fuck it up – I want to do it 100% right now.
Some people in the band have longterm, committed relationships, and I’m just not that good at it right now – I’m kind of like, “Ok, I can give 100% or 0%.” So, I’m figuring it out. I’m seeing someone right now and we’re sorting it out a little bit, but every month is different – some days are good and some days are not so good. Luckily, she’s also a musician and she’s toured so she kind of gets it more than a normal person would – she gets when I don’t call for a few days, because sometimes on tour you’re just exhausted and you can’t go on Skype at 2 in the morning after your show. So, we’re figuring it out but it’s not easy…
I guess that’s just the way it is when you’re really into what you’re doing – it can be challenging. And your mid-20s can be a very intense period if you have dreams you want to pursue…
I’m 26 – an old lady! I always wanted to be successful by the time I was this old…
Well, you’re doing pretty well!
It’s great that you and Katie can be such brilliant role models as artists but also with being openly gay. Do you think role models are important, particularly for kids?
Yeah, I’m so happy that Katie’s so open. I think it’s important she’s a role model for certain people – I mean, she never ‘tried’ to do that, but it’s cool that she’s open and talks about it. And I think it’s really important because, growing up, I was like, “I don’t know anything – I’m gonna watch The L Word!” I grew up in the suburbs, so I’d just watch The L Word in my room. It so terrible… but it was something, right? I just wanted to see girls making out…
So, meeting Katie must have been a major turning point for you…
Yeah I didn’t have any friends in my high school. I was friends with Katie and Emma and I was like, “These girls are saving my life! They’re gay, I’m gay, and we’re in a band – this is so empowering!”
Especially as it was a riot grrl band…
A couple of years into the band, I didn’t even know what that meant. I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing…” I was just this girl from the suburbs and it just felt really cool, and these girls saved me…
I guess music really changed your life. And on that note, let’s end with a message of advice for people who want to do what you do?
Get on with it! Go do something!!