Black Belt Eagle Scout
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Black Belt Eagle Scout

Portland, Oregon, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Dream Pop


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Black Belt Eagle Scout Combines Grunge and Dream-Pop to Heal Wounds Both Personal and Ancestral"

Katherine Paul has always had music to comfort her. She's needed it often.

As an indigenous woman, she's found herself constantly fighting inner battles, both those personal to her and passed down through shared history. Music is where she's found her strength. Suitably, her stage name, Black Belt Eagle Scout, is a symbol of striving to be her best self.

"Identity is a big part of my music. It's one of the only reasons I play music," Paul says. "There's a lot of trauma within Native communities—genocide, displacement from the United States—and even growing up in this time, I end up being affected by it and needing to get it out of me. So I end up writing music as a way to try and be happy."

Raised on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community reservation outside Anacortes, Wash., Paul grew up surrounded by music. It's often how she engaged with her heritage. She was dancing and singing in powwows from a young age. Her father led a drum circle, and her grandmother was even known as "Lady of the Drum." In third grade, Paul started learning piano, and played flute in her school band.

It wasn't until her teenage years that she picked up guitar and drums, drawing inspiration from the murky angst of Nirvana and the fiercely feminist bands of the riot grrrl movement. Around that time, Paul started writing her own music, channeling both traditional Native American and alt-rock influences, while processing the painful history embedded in her culture.

But it's not just generational demons she's needed to exorcise. Over the course of a few months in 2016, Paul endured some harsh losses. Her relationship with the woman she thought would be "the mother of my children" deteriorated. Then, her mentor, Anacortes musician and illustrator Geneviève Castrée, who was one of the first people to encourage Paul to pursue her own musical endeavors, succumbed to pancreatic cancer. Both losses hit her hard.

"I just felt like I was living in hell," Paul says, her voice softening to a pained lull. "I was waking up every day, crying in the shower. I needed to do something about it. So, I played music. Music makes me feel better."

In a classic case of transforming ache into art, Paul's debut album, Mother of My Children, is a reflection of turmoil both personal and historical. Though she had long moved off the reservation, relocating to Portland in 2007 to study anthropology at Lewis and Clark College, it was important to her that she return home to make the album. She took a trip back for the holidays, holing up at Anacortes Unknown recording studio, and recorded the entire record in just a week. She recalls the process as tedious and exhausting, but ultimately rewarding. The end result is a tapestry of atmospheric grunge steeped in dreamy vocals, folk percussion and angry guitar riffs. She sang every note, wrote every lyric, and played every instrument herself.

"It's really important for me to be able to do it all myself. Especially as an indigenous woman." she says. "It's not something I feel like I have to prove. It's more like, 'This is mine, this is what I do.'"

That sense of self-empowerment Paul finds in her music is what she wants instill in all women—namely, indigenous, queer women of color like herself.

"There aren't very many Native and indigenous women being recognized," she says. "I want to be able to carve out a way for women like me to be able to have this platform, and know that they can be successful." - Willamette Week

"Black Belt Eagle Scout's Debut Has Heartbreak and Guitar Solos"

Black Belt Eagle Scout is the musical alias of multi-instrumentalist/producer Katherine Paul. She’s a member of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and grew up on a small reservation outside of Anacortes, Washington, where she returned last winter to record a solo debut at the Unknown Recording Studio.

“The album is called Mother of My Children,” Paul says. “It’s about my best friend. We dated for a really long time, and I thought she was gonna be the mother of my children, quite literally. And so this past year, I just realized that was never going to happen... I had to let go.”

Paul’s loss was twofold: “Two months before, one of my mentors and friends died. Her name was Geneviève Castrée. She was somebody who was really important to me as a musician.”

Mother of My Children aches in all the emptiness Paul experienced last year following the death of Castrée and the end of her relationship. It’s an exercise in unearthing and externalizing grief, and in making it, Paul fully allowed herself to experience its hollowness. During that time, she notes that she felt like she was going crazy, swinging between anger, frustration, and sadness. She says making this record was a cathartic but difficult process: “I felt like I was breaking up with her all over again. I felt like I was losing somebody.”

Paul moved to Portland 10 years ago for college, played in indie bands around town (like Forest Park and Genders), and released a self-titled solo EP as Black Belt Eagle Scout in 2014 in a spur-of-the-moment decision to record with a friend. But she hesitates to call herself a songwriter—these new songs weren’t planned or designed; they were purged, and the recordings preserve their original rawness. Paul played every instrument on Mother of My Children herself: guitar, vocals, drums and percussion, bass, synth, vibraphone, organ, and piano. The result shape-shifts between post-rock, electronic, and grunge.

Paul started playing her own music in high school, when she developed an interest in Pacific Northwest grunge bands. She studied bootleg Nirvana VHS tapes to learn how to play power chords, and the first song she ever taught herself on guitar was Hole’s “Doll Parts.” But Paul says the root of her style is still the Coast Salish music she grew up with. “I sing in the way I was brought up singing Native songs... I went to powwows, and my family was always around. I grew up in a very traditional lifestyle.”

With complex rhythms unfolding next to epic guitar solos on the opening track, “Soft Stud,” and closing track, “Sam, a Dream,” Mother of My Children is among the best local releases of 2017. One of its most interesting songs is “Keyboard,” which Paul recorded after finding a working Casio keyboard in a free box. She plays a haunting melody over drum machine loops, and sings about the tendency of sadness to find you when it’s dark. But the title track is the album’s standout and centerpiece—it’s understated and electric, as Paul coos over acoustic guitar and percussion that vibrates like insects at night.

She says the beat in “Indians Never Die” is “reminiscent of hand-drumming.” In the bio on Black Belt Eagle Scout’s Facebook page, Paul describes the song as “a call out to colonizers and those who don’t respect the Earth; they don’t care about the water, they don’t care about how they are destroying what is around them. Indigenous people are the protectors of this land, and others need to wake up and get on the same page.”

“One thing that I’m not really afraid of is that I’m very open about my identity, and the fact that I’m Native and queer,” she says. “I’m definitely okay with having people know that about me... I want to be able send a positive message to people who identify like me or people who are allies to support people who identify like me. That’s why I’m being very open. I’m queer, I’m indigenous, this is who I am. That’s where my art is centered from.” - The Stranger / The Portland Mercury

"Premiere: “Soft Stud,” by Black Belt Eagle Scout"

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. - She Shreds Magazine

"New Music: Black Belt Eagle Scout “Indians Never Die”"

“Having this identity—radical indigenous queer feminist—keeps me going. My music and my identity come from the same foundation of being a Native woman,” says Katherine Paul, the mind and voice behind ‘Mother Of My Children‘, adding even greater depth to “Indians Never Die“, the lead track from a striking new record to be released later this year via Good Cheer Records.

Informed by a whole variety of things – from growing up on a small Indian reserve, to seeing those same ideals stomped upon by those in power – Paul’s music retains a delicacy that makes her message even more poignant; the below track is indicative of such sentiments, quietly treading through a beautiful four-and-a-half minutes that rises from a tender fist-half to something altogether more sturdy and empowered.

“I don’t play music to write songs,” Paul says in the foreword to Mother Of My Children. “I play music to process feelings, and sometimes what comes out of that is a song.” Already feeling like a substantial and important release, even through the simmering but restrained atmosphere of this first song, Black Belt Eagle Scout are certainly adept at processing their feelings and channeling them in to song, untethered but supremely focused, like these words always needed to be released.

Check out “Indians Never Die” below – you can pre-order the full record here too. - GoldFlakePaint


2014 Black Belt Eagle Scout ST
2017 Black Belt Eagle Scout Mother of My Children


Feeling a bit camera shy



“Having this identity—radical indigenous queer feminist—keeps me going. My music and my identity come from the same foundation of being a Native woman.” Katherine Paul is Black Belt Eagle Scout, and after releasing an EP in 2014 Paul has wrapped up the band’s first full-length. Recorded in the middle of winter near her hometown in Northwest Washington, the landscape’s eerie beauty and Paul’s connection to it are palpable on Mother of My Children. Stemming from this place, the album traces the full spectrum of confronting buried feelings and the loss of what life was supposed to look like. 

Growing up on a small Indian reservation, Paul’s family was focused on native drumming, singing, and arts. “Native American music is the foundation for all of my music,” Paul explains. With the support of her family and a handful of bootleg Hole and Nirvana VHS tapes, Paul taught herself how to play guitar. In 2007, Paul moved to Portland, OR, to attend school and get involved with the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls. Paul has switched between guitar and drums in an assortment of projects over the last decade, citing Forest Park as a particularly strong influence on how her songwriting has grown. “It was my introduction to post-rock,” Paul recalls, “From there, I was able to develop my own sound and style more.” 

On Mother of MChildren, Black Belt Eagle Scout tenderly blends post-rock with Paul’s earlier grunge influences and later, more confessional Pacific Northwest artists like Ô Paon and Mirah. The album begins with the singles “Soft Stud” and “Indians Never Die”, and on the latter, Paul’s message is clear: “It’s a call out to colonizers and those who don’t respect the Earth; they don’t care about the water, they don’t care about how they are destroying what is around them. Indigenous people are the protectors of this land, and others need to wake up and get on the same page.” The songs weave together to capture both the enduring and fleeting experiences of loss, frustration, and dreaming. The structures are traditional, but the lyrics don’t adhere to any format other than what feels right in the moment. “I don’t play music to write songs,” Paul explains, “I play music to process feelings, and sometimes what comes out of that is a song.” Paired with Paul’s clear and measured voice, each song leaves the listener feeling as if they were there when the song was written, the immediate, candid emotion tangible.

Mother of My Children is a life chapter gently preserved, and the access listeners have to such vulnerability feels special and generous. We are left wanting more, and all signs point to Black Belt Eagle Scout just getting started. The album is out on Good Cheer Records in August 2017.

—Alex Hebler


Band Members