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Five questions

Five Questions with Kate Larson

Kate Larson is the reigning pancake queen of New Paltz, NY. She is also a DIY whiz who is involved in numerous projects and bands, including No Better Than Apples, the Hudson Galaxy Gazette, Food Cats, Klessa (the best band ever) and the internet sensation Dear Mariah. She took a bit of time out of her busy schedule to supply us with some answers to our five questions…

1. Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Kate Larson and I play music, help organize a monthly calendar of free community skill-shares and events, make art, write zines, and make enormous breakfasts for myself most mornings in New York’s Hudson Valley.

2. What does DIY mean to you?
To me, DIY means feeling empowered as an individual, and realizing the potential you and your friends/community have to make amazing things happen. To start trusting yourself and thinking of yourself as capable of pretty much anything. Using that to be creative and make constructive things happen ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Making your life rule just a little bit more than it already does. Because, why wouldn’t you?

DIY can extend to most every part of your life, if you want it to. It is most often be associated with music scenes, but do it yourself ethics can be applied further, as anyone who’s ever ventured into the realms of growing their own vegetables or building up their own free-schools knows. We can support ourselves and each other, we can learn so much from each other, and we can accomplish a ton in the meanwhile. And it all can feel pretty satisfying.

Opening up your living space for community events and shows is doing something incredible. Forming a mental health support group in your area for those who cannot afford traditional medical attention or are otherwise uncomfortable with it is doing something worthwhile for so many. Hosting a workshop to teach people how to do bike repair or save seeds for the next year’s garden can pass on so much knowledge. Making a meal solely from food you’ve foraged or grown yourself can feel so empowering. Some of my favorite writers only self-publish. Some of my favorite musicians release everything they’ve got on their own terms. The list is endless. DIY is about so much of this: making everyone’s contributions valuable, making room for everyone’s voice to be heard and talents be shown. Creating spaces that nurture this ethic. Growing and learning through trying, making, and doing, and leaving a boatload of awesome projects behind in your tracks.

3. Why should people choose the DIY method?
People should choose the DIY method because it believes in them. It knows you can do more than you’re letting on. It knows how much you have to offer. DIY is smart like this. It knows you’ll feel pretty amazing once you’ve mastered the art of making homebrew beer or traded guitar lessons for drum lessons with a new friend. Once you start doing things yourself, you’ll probably feel so great about yourself and your community, and you’ll be running amok in the streets wanting to show everyone the zine you just made. And you’ll just keep doing amazing things. And when you’re feeling not-so-hot, someone will be there to encourage/inspire/feed you. It’s a vicious cycle that isn’t even so vicious at all.

4. What do you want to get off your chest right now?
I’ve had my left arm in a cast for the past month and it comes off tomorrow. Having it has meant that I haven’t been able to play guitar, have only been able to play half the piano I’d like to, have been the worst vegetable chopper on the planet, haven’t been able to lift much of anything, and ultimately, it has meant that I have had to ask for lots of help. Advocating for one’s needs is something I preach pretty heavily, but it’s still a process for me to learn and live. It is so important to be able to say what you need, and to keep an eye out in your community for those who might need help, too. Whether it’s a broken wrist or depression rearing its head.

Having to reach out to friends and strangers over this past month has taught me a lot, has humbled me and made me grateful to be surrounded by so many people willing to do my dishes, button up my jacket, learn my guitar parts so our band doesn’t have to cancel a show, carry my groceries, and hot-glue rainbow rhinestones onto my cast. I’ve still been driving a car, the jury’s out on how legal that is. I’m not really calling this stuff an aspect of DIY culture, but it’s still a part of living well amongst other humans, which requires some cooperation and generosity. Ultimately, what I’d like to get off my chest is a thing of common sense: be good to each other.

5. Are there any people, places or ideas that you think folks should know about?
Yes! There are!

Willie Mae Rock Camp is a place I had the pleasure of teaching guitar and band coaching at this past summer in Brooklyn. It hosts girls from ages 8-18 for an intense week of rock boot camp and fun. The girls get instrument instruction every day, participate in rotating workshops on topics like radical self-defense, protest art/zine-making, gender identity, and sound checking, have visiting performers every day at lunch time, design and silkscreen their own band shirts, and have band practice. They get to know gear, they form bands, they write original songs, and they perform them at the end of the week in front of a sold-out crowd. These girls rock out so hard and empower themselves through music, and it’s really one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of. There are girls rock camps all over the country, too, and more popping up every year!

Hudson Valley B.R.A.W.L. (Broads Regional Arm Wrestling League) is another amazing organization that I’ve been so glad to be involved with. Their mission in the Hudson Valley is to raise money for women charities in need, and do it while empowering women and having a really ridiculously zany time. Each BRAWL event has 8 costumed women arm-wrestlers pinned against each other in feats of strength and tomfoolery. Their entourages collect “bets” from the crowds, and all the money goes straight to the charity of the night. Since their start in 2009, they have raised thousands of dollars for groups like the Bard Prison Initiative, Planned Parenthood, The Ulster County Crime Victims Assistance Services, and Birds and Bees. The events always bring together enormous crowds for the love of the spectacle and the cause, it always ends up being the most entertaining (and feel-good) night you can possibly have. I’ve arm-wrestled in two BRAWLS and entouraged in a couple more. They’re always looking for new wrestlers, and new arm-wrestling leagues are popping up all around the country! My friend Cheryl just started one up in Rochester!

My band-mate, house-mate, and dear friend Matt Ross plays music under the name of SubPixel, and has just released a tape, The Wave, that you should probably hear immediately. The A side is 6 songs all performed with live instruments, and the B side is those same 6 songs all made in 8-bit format as chip-tunes, like all your favorite old school Nintendo game jams. Both sides can be played simultaneously in sync, and he’s working on an app that will allow you to mix between the two formats as they play. He’s also in Breakfast in Fur, Los Doggies, The Gremlins, and 3DCosby, and is the most talented (and most humble) musician I know.

Kate is also an avid fan of melons.

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