WHO: Katherine Paul (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals).
SOUNDS LIKE: The prayer songs of America's last chance to save humanity from the coming Armageddon.
FOR FANS OF: Feist, Karen O's film soundtracks, early Cat Power.
It took Katherine Paul 10 years, four bands and the mastery of numerous instruments to discover that her most important asset was one she had all along. With Black Belt Eagle Scout, she's finally found her voice. Well, sort of.
"I don't really write lyrics," Paul says in between bites of scone at Good Coffee on Southeast Division Street. "The best way I can explain it is, I play music to help me feel better. All the songs, everything I'm playing, i'm just pushing out of myself."
As a member of beloved local projects like Forest Park and Genders, Paul employed her musical endeavors as a therapeutic release of tension, a sort of proactive way of dealing with negative emotional territory. And it worked for a while—until last winter, during an especially difficult time over the Christmas holiday. Paul began writing some of what would become the first Black Belt Eagle Scout album, Mother of My Children, and realized a whole new level of catharsis.
"Someone who I admired, looked up to and was a mentor for me, died," she says. "My best friend and I were also going through some rocky stuff in our relationship. I felt like people were abandoning me."
She describes some of the louder, more chaotic moments on the record in an attempt to translate her intention behind them. She specifies the immense feelings of anger and inner turmoil she was feeling on songs like "Just Lie Down," a furious cascade of distortion that washes out into a sinister, palm-muted riff over a booming tom beat. But it's ultimately the quieter, more complex moments that resonate the most.
"Indians Never Die" is the quintessential Black Belt track, with a slow, minor-chord momentum creeping up the neck of Paul's guitar over and over on a seemingly endless burn. It builds up to the audio equivalent of an explosion captured in a vacuum—a sort of anticlimactic groove sparked and carried through to a sudden end.
"That song is about indigenous people," says Paul, who grew up in northwest Washington on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Reservation. "It's about how no one can kill us. I come from a line of native people, and I'm a survivor. We're all survivors. The spirit of the indigenous people has kept the world going. We are always the protectors of Mother Earth."
Growing up on the reservation, Paul was steeped in a culture and tradition most Americans would be unfamiliar with. But the experience helped shape her into a singular singer, with a voice wholly her own.
"I don't know if people will totally get what the album's about because it's very personal. My identity is very unique," she says. "I don't meet many people like me."
SEE IT: Black Belt Eagle Scout plays Fremont Theater, 2393 NE Fremont St., with Blackwater (Holylight) and Shortline, on Thursday, Sept. 7. 8 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. All ages.