Flavorwire Premiere: KATIEE’s “Passersby” Is Dance Music for Sci-Fi Nerds

In the early 2000s, Young People was one of Los Angeles’ most interesting underground bands. They merged noise-rock with musical theater and lyrical nods to hymnals, classic movies, and early American literature. At first its members got together to write dance scores and intended to be a country act, which should give you a sense of vastness regarding the trio’s frame of reference. Young People released their self-titled debut on Kill Rock Stars in 2002, moved to Brooklyn in 2003, and eventually called it quits a few years later. And for a few years after that, Young People vocalist and choreographer Katie Eastburn figured out how to play by herself, this time with a more electronic sound.

“At first I was like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, each limb playing a different instrument,” Eastburn says. “It was heavy choreography: I lugged around an 88-key electric piano, a kick drum on my left foot, a tambourine on my right, a shaker in one hand or the other.”

At the time, Katie was was directing a music program for teenage girls called viBe SongMakers. When her friend, the composer Ray Sweeten, taught the girls to program his Dr. Groove vintage drum machine, Katie instantly fell for the instrument, which was full of “sick” beats her buddy had made. “I started manipulating them and KATIEE songs started popping out of them,” she says. “I’m a dinosaur, I don’t know how to work a sampler, so even with these electronic elements I’m playing them in a straightforward, analog kind of way.”

Eventually she grew bored of playing by herself, so to round out the Juno 106 synthesizer she’d inherited, her husband and two close friends rounded out her new KATIEE project on bass, synth, sax, and a full drum kit, respectively. Their first release came out earlier this year, and this August, they’ll have a new 7-inch out. Flavorwire is pleased to premiere “Passersby,” a characteristically angular and unsettling song off this new 7-inch.

“Lyrically, ‘Passersby’ is a collage of military cadences I learned from my brother, who served in Iraq, dialogue from the classic films In a Lonely Place and Born to Be Bad, and an old hymnal,” Eastburn says.

Sonically, KATIEE draws comparisons to sci-fi soundtracks, such as Vangelis’ Blade Runner score. “My friend and fellow musician Sam Mickens calls KATIEE ‘thunderdome pop.’ A fellow RN [registered nurse] called it ‘space music.’ I’m a sci-fi reader as well, so it’s definitely a head space I enjoy.”