A Chat with Eva Walker: Lead Singer of The Black Tones & the New Host of Audioasis on KEXP

Interviews
08/14/2018
Jake Uitti
 

KEXP is excited to announce a new host for the Pacific Northwest’s longest-running local music radio show, Audioasis. Beginning September 8th, Eva Walker will become the new host of Audioasis on KEXP, airing 6-9 PM on Saturday evenings. Walker, of Seattle rock ‘n roll band The Black Tones, is a born and raised Seattleite, a music teacher, and a lover of music of all kinds.

“I believe in discovering, listening and experiencing music as much as possible,” says Walker. “I’m beyond excited to start at KEXP as the host of Audioasis. It’s a big responsibility because Audioasis is the window through which so many are introduced to local music. I want listeners to hear the real Northwest, the underrepresented voices of the many Northwest communities of all backgrounds and genres, not just what they're used to hearing. I have a big love for Seattle music — from Jimi Hendrix to Jimmy James — and can’t wait to discover even more, learn, and grow with the KEXP audience!”

Walker takes over primary hosting duties from DJ Sharlese Metcalf, who has been the host of the program for 10 years. Metcalf, who will continue to be a guest host and contributor on the program, announced her decision to step back from Audioasis in July, in order to focus more of her efforts on growing KEXP’s Community and Education work.

“We are lucky to have such a great person taking over on Audioasis to represent KEXP in our local music scene,” said John Richards, Director of On-Air Programming and host of the Morning Show on KEXP. “Artists and bands out there will also benefit from Eva's love of new and local music. I’m looking forward to hearing Eva bring to light many records, singles, and bands that are overlooked in our scene. A huge thank-you to DJ Sharlese for her leadership in championing local music over the past decade.”

If you’ve looked at any show poster for live music this summer, chances are, it had The Black Tones on it. The three-piece rock ‘n’ roll band has been busy during the sunny months, playing festivals like Doe Bay and The Capitol Hill Block Party to house shows, private shows, and playing outside the city in Tacoma and Olympia. And on Friday, August 24th, you can catch The Black Tones at Concerts at the Mural with Jo Passed and The Moondoggies, during which lead singer Eva Walker will assuredly belt out songs about ghetto spaceships, spiders, plaid pants and more.

The Black Tones — comprised of Eva, her twin brother Cedric and bassist Robby Little — have much in store for fans as fall sets in, including a rumored new record release with songs recorded by the Grunge Father himself, Jack Endino. But before news of that goes any further, we wanted to catch up with Eva [ed. note: who is, SPOILER ALERT, also our writer's longtime girlfriend!] and ask her about the foundations of her art and what family means to her. 


KEXP: What do you think is the biggest responsibility of your new position as host of Audioasis? 

I think the biggest responsibility is to introduce the Northwest to what’s in their backyard. There’s so much here in the Northwest that we need to appreciate it more. We’re living on a gold mine of artists and musicians. A lot of people think music has to be this distant thing like a pop star living in L.A. or New York. Like all of your heroes should be distant. No, they’re also in your community. And it’s important to introduce people to that. Especially under-represented voices in the music community, people that are looked over more than others. People making all different kinds of music, not just rock. The Northwest is known for grunge but there’s a lot of other music that I think should be introduced. I think that’s my job as a DJ, to bring that out and help it blossom. But obviously, I can’t do that alone. When I tell friends about it, I say this is a community effort. The community is going to listen to this radio station so the community should be involved in what’s being played. I like when people send me music or I go out to shows. It’s not the "What Eva Only Likes Show," it’s Audioasis. 

What does the word “family” mean to you?

Love is the first thing that comes to mind. And support. And foundation. And trust. They mean everything to me. I do what I do because I love it but I also do it for them. I want them to be proud of me. I do it for their honor. And I couldn’t do it without them, frankly. 

The Walkers at the Paramount Theatre 90th Anniversary Celebration 6-23-2018 // photo by Eric Tra

 

Can you tell me one of the earliest memories you have of you and your twin brother, Cedric?

The first memory that comes to mind was of us wearing these t-shirts and shorts and they were pretty much the same pattern but different colors. His was supposed to be the boys' version and mine was the girls' version. I think they were OshKosh B’gosh. We were on the porch standing next to each other and my mom took a picture of us down the steps. I’m pretty sure it was our first day of preschool. That’s as far back as I can go.

You recently released a song called “Plaid Pants” about your grandparents. How does their memory influence your writing?

They were such a big influence on my mannerisms and my style. Of course, there’s music that inspires my writing but there’s also things that aren’t technically music-related that inspire me. Like the wood paneling on the walls of the house where I grew up, that’s a big influence on the aesthetic of The Black Tones. Or the avocado green appliances in my grandma’s kitchen. We grew up in a late 60s early 70s-style household and all of that is part of who I am. My upbringing is an influence on the music. Like the way, they’d make up words or how they said them, their southern dialect. The phrases they would use — they weren’t proverbs but they would say things like — if I was worried about what someone thought of me, they’d say, “Oh, they don’t care a bit more than the man on the moon.” Stuff like that. Or, I had these jeans with holes in them and my grandma was just like, “Oh, lord. You look like Charlie Rough Dry.” What does that even mean? All these phrases they’d come up with that were passed down. Or, “You look like the missing or last button on Gabel’s coat.” I don’t know what that means!

Given that family is such a foundational aspect to your music, what did it feel like to write a popular song with the refrain, “They want us dead”?

Unfortunate is what it felt like. Because all the things that my grandparents went through in the south, like my grandfather trying to find an engineering job and being rejected because of his skin color, the hatred toward them because of their identity, that’s still relevant now. Back then, there was probably a lot of people who wanted him dead because he was black and now there’s still a lot of people who want us dead because we’re black, queer or trans, or whatever the case. And it’s ridiculous. So, thinking of my family’s history and the things they went through, it’s like, Wow we have to go through this again? Granted, it’s not to the degree they had it. I’m not going to say I experience the things they did being born in the 20s and growing up in the 30s and 40s in the American south. But even as someone born in the Northwest, I still felt I needed to write a song like this. That says something. We’re not done here; we still have a long way to go.

AT THE PARAMOUNT THEATRE 90TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION 6-23-2018 // PHOTO BY ERIC TRA

 

Your brother and his fiancé welcomed a new daughter into the world, little 10-month-old Olivia. How does her presence in your life shape how you look at your role in music?

She is a half-black child and I think my presence, along with the presence of other black or mixed or brown women, is important for her to see. It’s cool when she sees us perform and she smiles and wiggles her arms all over. It makes my soul so happy! If you can inspire someone in your own family, that’s really awesome. I’m sure she’ll get older and grow out of me eventually, but I still think that little girls that look like her need the representation — and not just of me but of a lot of other brown women. The more the better. Also... she’ll get free music lessons. 


The Black Tones will close out the 2018 Concerts at the Mural series on Friday, August 24th with Jo Passed and The Moondoggies. The next day, Saturday, August 25th, you can catch them at Vanfest 8, a one-day music fest benefitting the Maple Valley Food Bank. Walker hosts her first edition of Audioasis on Saturday, September 8th

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