Black Belt Eagle Scout is the one-woman project of Katherine Paul, a multi-instrumentalist from the Pacific Northwest.
Paul is a member of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, which is based near the San Juan Islands off of Washington’s northwest coast. Growing up, she was immersed in the music and art traditions of her community, and as she got older she developed a taste for rock bands such as Nirvana and Hole. She taught herself how to play guitar, and after moving to Portland in 2007, she spent the next several years playing guitar and drums in a number of projects before striking out on her own.
With Black Belt Eagle Scout, Paul draws influences from both rock and experimental/indie songwriters, and Native American music traditions. “Most of the time when I’m creating, I’m singing and playing in the moment because it’s therapeutic for me to get out what’s going on in my head and heart,” she says. “It felt weird for me to ‘polish’ up some of the lyrics on songs because to me, the song felt the truest in conception. I think this also stems from my native heritage…We have a lot of songs that have repeating phrases and chants. The melodies and the beats of them are constant throughout. I was raised singing in my native language and dancing to songs my family’s drum group sang, so naturally that is in me.”
Following an EP in 2014, Paul will release Black Belt Eagle Scout’s debut LP, Mother of My Children, on Good Cheer Records this August. The album was recorded in December, 2016 with Nich Wilbur during a week-long session at Anacortes Unknown, a studio conveniently close to Paul’s family’s home. “It was actually very cute and pleasant. I was staying with my parents and my mom would pack me a lunch every day and I would drive the 20 minutes from my parents house into Anacortes in my dad’s rez truck. It felt very remedying to be on my ancestral land while pouring my heart out in a little church on an island,” she says.
The slow, atmospheric album closer “Sam, A Dream,” was initially slated as its opener, but Paul eventually swapped it for the upbeat indie rock of “Soft Stud.” “I decided I wanted a really loud and ‘poppy’ song as the first song. I wanted to start strong and unfold into something lighter then build up at the end. “Soft Stud” is one of the songs that feels most like a rock band is playing. Even though Black Belt Eagle Scout is just me, I wanted to create songs that felt like a whole band or arrangement of players shared the stage together, songs that could as easily be played with a band while as solo.”
“Soft Stud’s” laid back riffs paired with Paul’s chill vocals provide a sharp contrast to the song’s lyrical themes about “wanting more from someone who can’t give that to you,” and the frustration and heartache that can accompany that type of experience. “I think there’s a lot of anger and frustration in this album, to be honest. Only, I tend to sing it in a sweet way,” Paul says. “Sometimes the only way I can feel better is if I scream or play fast fills on drums, or have guitar solo breakdowns in the music I create.”
On “Soft Stud,” she channels those feelings into a crunchy, soulful solo she describes as “a big ‘F you, I’m guitar solo-ing right now and can survive without you’ kind of thing. I mean, my logical advice for dealing with those kinds of situations would be to talk it out but also write songs with guitar solos at the end.”
Listen to “Soft Stud” now and keep your eye on Good Cheer Records for order info for Mother of My Children.