What Palmer High School graduate Katie Eastburn doesn't do isn't much. Dancer, actor, and now lead singer in the L.A.based band Young People (after the Judy Garland film of the same title), Eastburn -- daughter of Indy contributing editor Kathryn Eastburn and City Councilman Ted Eastburn -- is busy doing what restless, creative minds do: making things happen.
Released on Kill Rock Stars' experimental label 5 Rue Christine (5RC), Young People's eponymous debut album is one of those rare works whose originality seems spawned in an uncolonized void, with only the most incidental traces of likenesses: a little bit of the dissonant and screechy post-country sound of the Dirty Three with another wee thread leading possibly to the harmonic Salt Lake City slow-core of Low.
Beyond that, there's a bit of the old Irish dirge (completely unintentionally, says Eastburn: "I don't have any connection whatsoever to Irish music. I don't know anything about it.") Eastburn cites her influences differently: The Beatles, The Flaming Lips, Patsy Cline, Radiohead, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams as well as underground art rock outfits like Deerhoof, Get Hustle, Arcic Universe, Erase Errata and Quixotic.
What makes this album haunting and momentous is what you can't figure out, which is most of it. Harmonic melodies stripped of melody, percussive arrhythmia, song titles bearing porn star names, impeccably unpredictable arrangements of guitar and violin, and lyrics as sticky as superglue to hold it all together.
After Eastburn was raised in "Nashville, Hawaii, Nashville, Colorado Springs," she went to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and studied theater. After Brown, she landed in the performing arts community in San Francisco.
It was there that she met musician Jeff Rosenberg (of Pink and Brown and The Jews) in 1999. After collaborating on a dance piece in which Eastburn also sang, she and Rosenberg began to write songs together. Rosenberg followed Eastburn to Berlin where she'd gone to study Butoh Theater that same year and the two wrote a number of songs that would make their way onto their first album.
After returning from Berlin, Eastburn and Rosenberg moved to Los Angeles and met Jarrett Silberman -- founder of the L.A. punk rock club The Smell and member of the band Uphill Gardeners -- who became their drummer.
"Once Jeff and Jarrett get together, they get pretty noisy. It was not straight forward with any kind of style," said Eastburn, who initially thought they'd be a country band.
After just a few months, the band found that their somewhat improbable collaboration was working. Most often, Eastburn would write the melody of a song while driving around L.A.'s web of pavement. Then she'd take the song in her car to Jeff and Jarrett and they'd either have music ready or make music for her melody. "Or sometimes Jarrett [a film school student] will bring movies to our attention and we'll all sit around and watch it and then go separate ways and then come back and put a song together," said Eastburn. "That's really hard. It's three different ideas that we have to try to figure out if they work together or not."
After making a 10-song demo, playing around L.A., and touring the west coast for about a year, Young People stopped in Olympia, Wash. for a gig and invited Kill Rock Stars impresario Slim Moon to the show. Moon loved them, and signed the group to his 5RC label the next morning, agreeing to release the ten songs on their demo along with three additional tracks recorded afterward in the cafeteria of an old nunnery in L.A.
Though Eastburn's looking forward to touring next spring, she's also still active with her cabaret-and-variety style dance theater company, Janet Pants Dans Theeatree, which she runs, along with two other friends in L.A. She also has another musical side project going with DJ Mount Sims, and just finished performing in a theater project in New York City called Holes Before Bedtime with 4 Hard Gulps Theater Company.
I'm gonna go take a nap now.
-- Noel Black