The Strength & Resilience of Black Belt Eagle Scout

Interviews, Local Music
Janice Headley
all photos by Jake Hanson (view set)

With her 2018 debut release Mother of My Children, Portland-based artist Black Belt Eagle Scout (real name: Katherine Paul or KP) explored loss: both of her mentor, artist Geneviève Castrée, who passed away from pancreatic cancer, and from her first relationship with a woman. With her new album At the Party With My Brown Friends (out today on Saddle Creek), KP shows her gratitude for the loved ones who helped her get through that dark time. It's an album that celebrates friendship and community.

Following her enchanting session for KEXP from Rainshadow Recordings at THING Fest, KP spoke with KEXP about the new album, her video for "My Heart Dreams", and her feelings on Indigenous Peoples Day.

KEXP: You recorded your latest album at Helio Studios with the Helio Sequence. What was it like working with those guys? 

KP: They're super sweet people. They're really nice. They're super technical which is funny, because I feel like I'm not. I'm, like, the opposite. But that was really fun to experience. 

So, you've said that your new album is about "friendship, love, and what it means to support each other." What do you think is the best way that we can support each other? 

I think the best way to support one another is to have open heart and just to be nice to one another. And to not hate each other. I think there's a lot of that going around in the world right now, and it's easy to get caught up in it. It's easy to feel that from other people, but I think that for me, in particular, I try and work to take the high road. Let's just be nice and hopefully that will resonate. 

I wanted to talk to you about your video for "My Heart Dreams" which is so cute. What was it like working with director Angel Two Bulls? Did you guys come up with the concept together? 

Sort of. I came up with the concept. I wanted to involve Indigenous youth in the video. It just felt right. I had this vision of my band being all Indigenous girls, and I was like, How do I make that happen? Oh, I need to teach them how to play the song. [ laughs ] So, we set up music classes and I taught them the song and yeah, it was really fun. 

Angel and I worked together before on another music video. We did the "Loss & Relax" music video. We're friends. We mesh well together. She had the idea of going to the Pride Parade. It ended up being the only day that we were available, so we decided to go down there. And she's friends with folks in the Portland Two Spirit Society, and so she's like, we'll just shoot with them, it'll be fun. It was very much "go with the flow", kind-of whatever happens happens. And I'm down with that, I think, because I'm a Gemini, so I just bounce back and forth anyway. 

I read that your casting choice was inspired by giving more visibility to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. Can you tell us more about that? 

Yeah, I can speak to that a little bit. I don't have anybody in my family that this has happened to, but there's a huge amount of women and girls — even just all genders of people who are Indigenous — who get murdered. It's just sad and the other sad thing about it is that no one really cares. There's no justice behind it. The obvious reason is that it's because of the colonization that has happened and the disrespect for brown bodies that the U.S. government has always instilled within the government structure. I think it's really important to try and reverse that and to take steps towards that, especially because I'm an Indigenous woman and I am a part of that group that is easy to be targeted. 

So my whole thing is to show the strength of Indigenous girls and to show how resilient we are. You need to care about us. You need to change the justice system so that it's fair and that they are diligent to fixing this crisis essentially. 

Indigenous Peoples Day is right around the corner in October. What does that day mean to you? 

I always forget because there's a Canadian one, too, and I have a bunch of friends who are First Nations, so I celebrate both. 

It's interesting. On social media, everybody puts up social media things that say "Indigenous Peoples Day is every day." And that's something that I truly believe. We should be focusing in on our strength every single day. But I'm not going to turn down the awareness of this that comes up. 

At the Party With My Brown Friends is out today via Saddle Creek. Black Belt Eagle Scout play Thursday, October 24th at the Tractor Tavern. 

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