Growing up in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, a small Indian Reservation on Washington’s Puget Sound, Katherine Paul’s childhood was immersed in native drumming, singing and arts. At an early age, she began singing and dancing at powwows, with these experiences forging her strongest memories. As a teenager, Paul armed herself with a handful of Nirvana and Hole VHS tapes and taught herself how to play guitar and drums. Relocating to Portland, Oregon to attend college, Katherine dived headfirst into the city’s music scene. Playing guitar and drums for a number of bands while evolving her own artistic persona.
Emerging as Black Belt Eagle Scout, Paul recorded debut album Mother of My Children near her hometown in Northwest Washington. These winter sessions produced an album of true beauty that addresses love, life, loss and identity with a profound connection to the landscape around her. Reflecting on the creation of the record, Paul said:
“I wrote this album in the fall of 2016 after two pretty big losses in my life. My mentor, Geneviève Castrée, had just died from pancreatic cancer and the relationship I had with the first woman I loved had drastically lessened and changed.”Writing songs that “are about grief and love for people, but also about being a native person in what is the United States today.”
Opening with Soft Stud, the early Seattle Sound influences of Paul are evident in the six deceptive minutes of this track. Described by Paul as her “Queer Anthem”, Soft Stud is “about the hardships of queer desire within an open relationship.” Its tight, driven guitars back Paul’s quietly commanding voice with an air of classic garage, that when the track finishes, you’d swear you were listening for half the time.
Indians Never Die is the beginning of a range of different textures on this album. One that Paul plays every instrument on. Her gentle harmonies rise over hypnotic click percussion and shimmering ride cymbals in this call to the Earth’s colonizers. As Standing Rock was happening, many people in Paul’s life were coming together to fight for not only their way of life, but also the very means necessary to sustain life itself. “Our treaty rights weren’t being honored,” Paul laments:
“Imagine hearing on the news that the government doesn’t support you as a human being and never has. ‘Indians Never Die’ is 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. Indians never die because this is our land that we will forever protect in the present and the afterlife.”
Title track Mother of My Children is rich in melodies that grow like flesh over the bones of simple guitar riff. Resonating with the indigenous descants Paul is inextricably connected to. The sparse guitar track of Yard gives the open space for her vocals to soar high above and circle around.
A jolt of feedback introduces the return of crunching guitars on Just Lie Down. Written when Paul was turfed out of her Portland apartment, pushed aside by the rising tide of gentrification. It’s a reminder to us all that in times of disconnection, we’re constantly connected to the planet we inhabit. Even in times of personal and global turmoil beauty surrounds us.
Mother of My Children is a record that connects those tumults. That turmoil within us and around us is connected by one seamless thread. Grief and elation are separated by a fine line, which can shift without warning. Connecting with the beauty within us and around us can help us all move forward, individually and collectively. The beauty of this album is wonderful place to begin to find it.
Mother of My Children is out September 14th in The US and September 28th in The UK on Saddle Creek and can be purchased here.