Black Belt Eagle Scout is the project of Katherine Paul from Portland, Oregon. Paul is a member of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community from Western Washington State, and her music is therefore influenced not just by contemporary indie rock but also the traditional music from her upbringing. As such, Mother of My Children, the sophomore full-length from Black Belt Eagle Scout, revolves around both personal and societal themes. The album was inspired by two difficult moments in Paul’s life—the death of a mentor and the realisation that a long-term relationship was ending—and focuses this pain into something therapeutic and healing, not just for its creator but for its listeners too.
‘Soft Stud’ opens the album with turbulent guitar and Paul’s gently smoky vocals. It’s one of the loudest and most direct tracks on the album, a song full of a frustration fully evident as Paul sings, “I know you’re taken, need you want you”. However, the song also holds a sense of hope, something which is never explicitly spoken but ingrained in the sound itself, the feeling that the act of writing music and shredding on guitar can be its own form of recovery.
Things are calmer and more meditative on ‘Indians Never Die’, which as the title suggests is about the strength and persistence of indigenous peoples, their power and will in the face of oppression and attempted annihilation, not just of themselves but of the entire planet.
“It’s about how no one can kill us” says Paul in an interview with the Williamette Weekly. “I come from a line of native people, and I’m a survivor. We’re all survivors. The spirit of the indigenous people has kept the world going. We are always the protectors of Mother Earth.”
There’s a similar vibe on ‘Keyboard’, which is a Spartan Jet-Plex-style DIY synth pop song, melodic and beguiling and gently odd, while the title track is reminiscent of Yowler, creeping along in shadowy pastel tones. There’s a sense of reservation on ‘Yard’, much of which comprises of Paul’s wordless vocals. The track picks up with added percussion in its final minute, but is still a world away from the pop of the opening track, serving as a good illustration of the range in tone and tempo across the record.
For all the difficulty and heartache that clearly went into it’s creation, Mother of My Children ultimately feels like Black Belt Eagle Scout making a clarion call, a proud statement that is intended to encourage other queer people of colour to use art as a source of strength, self-knowledge and empowerment. But it’s more than just an artistic statement. The album has both focus and depth, exploring themes directly with its lyrics and more indirectly with the atmosphere it conjures. And to top it all off, there are some great pop songs too, songs that don’t need to be viewed in context to be enjoyed.
You can get the album now, as a record, tape or download, from the Black Belt Eagle Scout Bandcamp page.