Meet Katherine Christie Evans: Velodrome musician and Harpy heroine
I meet Katherine on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in a Shoreditch café. It feels a little like we’ve been set up on a blind date; after furiously emailing for a few weeks, this is the first time we’ve clapped eyes on one another. Sheepishly settling into a booth and exchanging pleasantries, we awkwardly set up laptops on our tiny table (Shoreditch cafes famously not known for their ergonomic appropriateness). Both profusely apologising for our respective tardiness, I at once felt at ease in her presence.
Softly spoken and highly modest Katherine (Kate) is the genius behind Velodrome, an experimental rock project that utilises Kate’s abilities with a guitar, bass, drums and vocals. Velodrome’s first single ‘His Physique’, about gender and body dysmorphia, is available on Spotify and YouTube (the latter being where we recommend you listen as you’ll get to experience the single’s phenomenal video, too).
Coming from a musical family (both Kate’s parents are piano teachers) she describes her upbringing as one in which she ‘absorbed’ music. Entirely self-taught (playing since the age of 13 and writing songs since 17) music has clearly always come naturally to Kate. Though she wouldn’t recommend the self-taught pathway, it’s clear that this tough ascent has been important for her music. ‘His Physique’ and the songs on Velodrome’s forthcoming album were all written by a 17-year-old Kate, but it is only now, having spent several years building up her confidence, that she has felt comfortable putting them out there.
This early diffidence was clearly a formative experience for Kate. She speaks sagely about the crippling effects of a lack of self-confidence, especially for younger, less-privileged women. ‘If you come from a poor background, with no mentor, and you’re doing everything yourself, it takes so much longer’ she states, adding nonchalantly: ‘of course, I always forget about my eating disorder’. An anorexia sufferer since the age of 17, Kate describes it as ‘a huge obstacle to overcome. I cannot describe the ways in which it takes up your time, holds you back, destroys your confidence.’ Music and the Velodrome persona, however, enabled her to come out to her family and friends about her eating disorder – something that was ‘actually a bigger deal than coming out as gay because it’s more stigmatised’. Kate’s music documents her experience of suffering from both chronic anxiety issues, as well as being queer, and I ask her if developing anorexia at 17 had any connection to her starting to write songs at 17, too. ‘I’ve never thought about that’ she replies musingly, ‘though it probably does. Music is such an outlet for feelings, it’s sort of pre-linguistic. I have OCD and anorexia and they intermingle with each other. I guess music is one of the only things I can do that gives me mindfulness – not to sound like a hipster!’ she laughs.
I ask Kate if she thinks it was important to front her music with her eating disorder and OCD. Although she questioned whether doing so constituted a cynical marketing strategy, the importance of proliferating these kind of role models far outweighed any problematic promotional decisions. ‘There are people functioning every day, making music and going to work and doing things, while having an eating disorder, OCD, depression’ she explains, ‘but as a society we keep it in the closet.’
Celebrating these kind of role models is something Kate is very passionate about; one of the reasons she timed the release of Velodrome’s debut single with Mental Health Awareness Week 2018. Asserting the disproportionate effects of mental health issues on women, Kate describes how it took her so long to get to the point of thinking ‘I’m good enough’. This, she proclaims, is a problem that stems directly from the patriarchy, resulting in mental health issues, eating disorders and scant self-confidence in women, meaning they often ‘just give up’. But if you can see other women who are both suffering, and doing stuff, ‘it’s almost like someone gives you permission’.
Kate is therefore putting on Diverse Minds; an informal night for female, non-binary & LGBTQIA+ identifying people to share their short films, artwork and spoken word, in a supportive and friendly space, with a theme of mental health. Though she'll be debuting the music video to ‘His Physique’, Kate wants the event to be a pilot light for other artists. ‘I want to know who else is making music on my theme!’ she says excitedly. Calling for spoken word, music videos, film, poems and artwork, this is a no pressure, DIY event – one that has a refreshing feel away from the usual formality of the London music scene. If you're interested in taking part, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As our meeting draws to a close, I am struck by Kate’s acute perception of the harsh reality of ‘making it’ in the music industry – something seldom vocalised in interviews. ‘Anything worth having and worth making takes a lot of time, actually. Good work doesn’t just come’. Kate is mindful of how damaging it can be to constantly hear about artists creating work so young and so – according to them – easily. ‘What you don’t hear’ she scoffs ‘is that they probably had a trust fund and tons of help along the way’. She worries these sorts of narratives might put people off who haven’t had it so easy. Hence the reason for her event. ‘I can’t fix the world,’ she surmises, ‘but this is a tiny gesture to try and get some people that might be struggling to submit their artwork.’
Kate, we salute you.
Diverse Minds is on Tuesday 19th June at 7.30pm at DIY Space for London, 96-108 Ormside St, London SE15 1TF. Tickets are £5. Velodrome's single, ‘His Physique’ is available on Spotify and YouTube. You can follow Velodrome on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.