Katherine Paul is a Swinomish/Iñupiaq singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her music is influenced by post-rock, alternative rock, and Native American traditional music. She has released an EP and two albums under the moniker Black Belt Eagle Scout. Her self-titled EP as Black Belt Eagle Scout was released in June 2014. Her debut studio album, Mother of My Children, was first released by Portland tape label Good Cheer Records in 2017, then re-released in September 2018 by Saddle Creek Records. On April 26, 2019, Saddle Creek released a new Black Belt Eagle Scout single titled "Loss & Relax" on a seven-inch vinyl backed with b-side track titled "Half Colored Hair”.
Musical background and influences
Paul grew up in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community on the Puget Sound in Washington. Her earliest musical experiences included listening to and singing indigenous music of the Coast Salish. She was a jingle dress dancer at regional pow wows with her family's drum group, the Skagit Valley Singers. At a young age, Paul began learning to play the piano and played the flute in her school band. Her interest in the guitar and drums began when she came into the possession of some bootleg VHS tapes of Hole and Nirvana, from which she taught herself to play those two instruments by pausing the tapes and studying the musicians’ fingerings and techniques.
During high school Paul became involved in the small DIY music scene in Anacortes, Washington near the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, driving her parents’ car to attend shows at the Department of Safety venue. The venue, located in an old firehouse, is where she met Canadian artist and musician Geneviève Castrée who became a mentor to Paul. An inspiration of Paul's, Castrée would attend her early performances, encouraging her and praising her for her playing.
In 2007, Paul moved from Washington to Portland, Oregon to attend college at Lewis & Clark College. While in Portland she became involved with the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, and later contributed guitar, drums, and vocals for Portland-based bands Forest Park and Genders.
Mother of My Children (2017)
Paul's first release as Black Belt Eagle Scout was an eight-song self-titled EP in 2014. Her next release was 2017's Mother Of My Children, Black Belt Eagle Scout's debut album. Paul played all the instruments on the album including bass, keyboard, percussion, organ, vibraphone, and piano, in addition to guitar, drums, and vocals. The album was recorded at the Unknown recording studio, a converted church in Anacortes. During the recording session, Paul stayed on the reservation with her parents. The first two tracks are accompanied by music videos by Diné filmmakers Demian DinéYazhi’ (“Soft Stud”) and Evan James Wood (“Indians Never Die”). Songs on the album deal with topics such as loss, grief, heartbreak, and Paul's identity as an indigenous queer woman. In 2016, her mentor Geneviève Castrée died of pancreatic cancer. Paul says music is what helped her process her grief during this time. This Paul accredits to her Native upbringing and the healing, spiritual roles that singing and drumming played for her during her upbringing. The album's second track “Indians Never Die” is a response to both the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock and to gentrification occurring in Portland. Paul is open and vocal about her identity as a “radical indigenous queer feminist”.
Black Belt Eagle Scout has been compared to other West Coast bands such as Mazzy Star and Nirvana. The Seattle Times refers to Black Belt Eagle Scout's sound as “intrinsically Northwest,” because of Paul's blending of Pacific Northwest rock and Coast Salish traditional music. Pitchfork magazine calls Mother of My Children “a collection of pensive rock songs saturated with an oceanic mood.”
- Mother of My Children (2017)
- At the Party with My Brown Friends (2019)
- Black Belt Eagle Scout (2014)
- "Loss & Relax" (2019)
- "Half Colored Hair" (2019)
- "My Heart Dreams" (July 24, 2019)
- "Run It to Ya" (August 27, 2019)
- Bemrose, Bekki. "Black Belt Eagle Scout | Artist Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2019-4-17.
- Rietmulder, Michael (October 31, 2018). "Black Belt Eagle Scout pushes for representation with intrinsically Northwest indie rock". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2019-4-17.
- Lange, Maggie (September 17, 2018). "Black Belt Eagle Scout Mother of My Children". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2019-4-17.
- Kershner, Lauren (March 13, 2018). "Black Belt Eagle Scout Combines Grunge and Dream-Pop to Heal Wounds Both Personal and Ancestral". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2019-4-17.
- Jacobson, Rebecca (August 29, 2018). "Meet queer Indigenous musician Black Belt Eagle Scout". Travel Portland. Retrieved 2019-4-17.
- Forest Park EP (January 12, 2012). https://forestpark.bandcamp.com/. Retrieved 2019-5-2.
- Genders. https://genderspdx.bandcamp.com/. Retrieved 2019-5-2.
- Mother Of My Children (September 14, 2018). blackbelteaglescout.bandcamp.com. Retrieved 2019-4-25.
- Black Belt Eagle Scout - Indians Never Die (September 6, 2018). Youtube. Retrieved 2019-4-25. Black Belt Eagle Scout - Soft Stud (January 16, 2019). Youtube. Retrieved 2019-4-25.
- Hebler, Alex (September 29, 2018). "Black Belt Eagle Scout". Indigenous Goddess Gang. Retrieved 2019-4-17.