Holding two jobs, fronting an indie rock band and having recently finished a dance performance DVD, Katie Eastburn could be a nominee for the title of Hardest-Working Girl in the Indie scene.
Eastburn, though, dismisses the idea with a laugh. "Maybe not the Hardest-Working, but definitely the Most Underpaid."
Eastburn spent many years in Colorado Springs, attending Palmer High School before heading east to go to college. After moving around the country, she's found her home in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Her new dance performance DVD, The Starter Set, which she curated and performs in, is out on the indie/punk label, Kill Rock Stars. Her band, Young People, finds her singing and playing multiple instruments, with Jarrett Silberman. They just released the band's third album, the haunting and sparse All at Once.
The Indy caught up with Eastburn at her home in Brooklyn, during a brief respite between European and North American tours.
Indy: Tell me about how you got started on this whole starving artist gig.
KE: I've always been a performer, but I started first in dance, and then theater. I was always in a choir growing up, and my mom [Indy contributing editor Kathryn Eastburn] always found a church wherever we went, usually Methodist, for the community and, of course, the singing.
I didn't start writing music or paying attention to the fact that I could write music until after college. I was living in San Francisco, and I created my first solo dance, and wrote the soundtrack. ...
Soon, I picked up and moved to Berlin and studied with a dance instructor there, and really started to write music. I had a bike that I'd ride around town, and there's something about being in a foreign country, that you don't really care what other people think of you. So I'd ride around on my bike, singing really loud, writing a bunch of songs that later became Young People songs.
Indy: What did you make of the local music and performance scene while you were here?
KE: I guess I didn't really know anything about music at all. It's only when my little brothers had their own bands that I had any exposure to Springs bands. The extent of my arts exposure was my dance classes at CC, and going to Denver and Boulder for shows. I don't remember anyone coming through Colorado Springs. We always had to go out of town. I think that's changed since then. Back then, there was nowhere to play. High Life House changed a lot of that all sorts of people came through there. But that didn't exist when I was in high school.
Indy: But now High Life House is gone.
KE: I know! But something will rise in its wake.
Indy: Oh, things already have: The Everyday House, and then The Black Sheep. But overall, why do you think it's so lagging here?
KE: I have no idea. It's a big enough town. The schools provide a lot of cultural possibilities. Growing up there, I know that what we always did was hang out in the mountains and Garden of the Gods ... but you know, there also wasn't really the Internet, either, and I think that's just changed everything. Kids who live in "the middle of nowhere" can network, and get touring bands to come through. I think we were pretty isolated at the time. And having Denver that close, bands just naturally routed through there or Boulder, where there's 40,000 students ready to go to a show.
Indy: Have you been able to incorporate anything from the Springs into your work?
KE: The landscape, certainly. I learned to appreciate the landscape, and sort of developed a deep sense of place. Just recently, I wrote a song while on tour, about being trapped in a certain place for a number of days while the van was broken down. It really just came straight from the landscape.
Plus, I think everyone who grows up there comes away with a strong sense of irony, because there's so many bizarre contrasts in the Springs. My music isn't jokey, but there's a lot of humor in it generally, we know if something's good if it makes us laugh. Not because it's funny, but because there's a surprise or something unexpected in it.
Indy: But your family plays a big part in your music, too. Your song, "Rhumba," is a march that your military brother, Teddy, taught you, set to a new beat.
KE: Yeah, I'm not a very inspired lyricist, and so from the beginning, I've always collaged lyrics from various places. When he came home with all these cadences, I thought, "Wow! These are great lyrics!" And my mom's a very bookish person, leaving poetry books around the house and stuff.
Indy: How do you support all of your projects?
KE: I work as a part-time teacher of dance and songwriting and part-time salesgirl at a really upscale boutique in SoHo. I've always taught that's a love labor. The clerkship pays the bills. But it's interesting. I never knew anything about fashion before.
Indy: Does it feed into your music, having to stretch yourself that thin?
KE: Yeah, I think the new album was heavily influenced by what I'm doing in New York, experiencing extremes here. Working with public school kids, and then people in SoHo, who easily spend as much as I make in a year in one afternoon, is really bizarre. It created a certain backdrop, I suppose.
Indy: The new album feels a lot darker, and more cinematic than your previous work. Was it due to working with Jarrett from opposite coasts?
KE: Definitely. There wasn't a lot of urgency involved. We weren't standing in a room together, figuring out our parts. We were writing when inspiration hit, and sending fragments to each other, and really taking our time to respond to those fragments.
However, the whole time I was writing, my brother was in the war, and that really had a huge impact on the sound. I was just constantly praying for him every day, and praying for the world. You know, it's a pretty dismal time that we're in right now not that it's ever been any better but my head was in other places. There's just a lot going on.