Inspiring Austrian Women: Gustav aka Eva Jantschitsch

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2016 we would like to introduce you to a few Austrian women that have impressed and inspired us. Today Stephanie Altmann writes about Gustav aka Eva Jantschitsch.

Gustav! That’s what Austrian artist Eva Jantschitsch’s father called her for nothing less but the first three years of her life. Influenced by her parent’s conviction of the importance of musical education, young Eva started to learn how to play the violin and the piano at an early age. Even though she did not particularly enjoy the drill of learning those instruments, her musical ear, in combination with her socio-critical and feminist approach, have made her a talented and very unique musician in a market characterised by commercialism, masculinity and Einheitsbrei (mishmash).

Gustav 1
Photo: Matthias Kestel

In 1997, Eva moved from Graz to Vienna to study media design and digital art at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. During her studies she came across the feminist, sociological and political discourses that would later influence her music. She started to teach herself all the necessary skills to produce music, composed songs at home on her laptop and soon founded a label for electronic music. Around her 20th Birthday she found out that her father had hoped for a son hence called her Gustav when she was little. Rather than feeling hurt or upset though, Eva took this as an opportunity to understand and interpret gender as something that’s constructed by society rather than anything natural or given.

Calling her project Gustav, she kicked off a discussion: a woman with a man’s name who makes music that is characterised by feminism and social criticism – now that’s something quite different!

Gustav’s first gig at the “Frauenbandfest” (all-female band festival) in 2002 helped to put her music in a feminist context. At the same time she started to feel pushed into gender stereotypes in which the female is mainly perceived as sexual and emotional but not necessarily independent and intelligent. While her male colleagues were seen as the “musicians” and “programmers”, she was simply referred to as the singer. But Eva wanted to be taken seriously as a professional musician who’s able to make a living from music. Gustav’s debut album “Rettet die Wale” (Save the Wales) was released in 2004 and proof for Eva’s talent – she produced the entire work herself (from playing and recording the instruments to designing the cover).


Gustav 2
Album Cover by Gustav

The album was enormously successful but it also created some hype around her persona that started to annoy Gustav. Rather than being commercially successful and “sell-able”, she wanted to continue asking questions about the state of society through music (so Eva in an FM4 interview). Winning the Amadeus Music Award in the category “FM4 Alternative Act of the Year” in 2005, friends urged Gustav to produce a second album and capitalize on her success. But Eva decided not to feed the masses but took a step back from the commercial music market. Her musical focus at that time wasn’t to produce sell-able hits, instead Eva started composing music for theatre, film as well as performance art. A good few years passed before Eva released the second album “Verlass die Stadt” (Leave the City) in 2008. As “Verlass die Stadt” shows, the term Indie is almost too squishy when describing Gustav’s music. Both the complexity of her compositions as well as the playing around with various genres reflects well on the defensiveness that characterises her music. Instead of encouraging a “happy sing-a-long”, Gustav’s music forces the listener to contemplate about the lyrics and their content. And we love it!

Gustav 3

In 2013 Eva was awarded the “Wiener Frauenpreis (Vienna Women Prize) for her “critical emancipatory reflection of gender stereotypes”. Gustav’s criticism on prevailing female stereotypes is perfectly represented in her song Total Quality Woman which we would like to recommend as the perfect sound track to the approaching International Women’s Day 2016. Enjoy!

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