Artist Website Buy on iTunes
Warm, vintage, pop, savvy, yet slightly wry rock music. The kind that streams from the boombox all day at your uncle's barbecue, or crackles through the AM radio on an all night drive through some expansive American highway. The music is the result of loving song craft and collaboration between five veteran Seattle musicians, two of whom are soon to be married, all of whom are best friends. If Smokey Brights look like they're having more fun than anyone in the room, it's because they are.
The beginnings of Smokey Brights can be found in a batch of homespun gifts given out around Christmas of 2009. Being too strapped for cash to afford gifts that year, guitarist and vocalist Ryan Devlin, and girlfriend, vocalist and pianist Kim West, made a three song Christmas album together for family and friends. In it, they recorded tunes by Built to Spill, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan. Although not traditional Christmas songs by any means, they were songs the couple loved that seemed appropriate for the season. To Ryan and Kim’s delight, their voices harmonized naturally, and they used the project as a starting point to begin singing together on a more regular basis.
By spring of 2010, Ryan had a finished a collection of songs he’d been working on for a few years. Though he was playing bass in The Whore Moans, Seattle’s brash and energetic garage outfit now known as Hounds of the Wild Hunt, this new collection of tunes had a much different sound. Having played in the Seattle music scene for years, Ryan already had an idea of what musicians he wanted to help him with this new sound. The band with its current members was already cast in Ryan’s head, and, with Kim’s encouragement, he sought out the musicians he wanted.
Bassist Jim Vermillion and drummer Nick Krivchenia are a package deal, which is exactly what Ryan wanted. Jim and Nick have played bass and drums together nearly exclusively since they met in 2003 at Evergreen State College, where they studied audio engineering. They have a brother-like existence, complete with the inside jokes, the bickering, and the love that only derives from countless hours of forced cohabitation. This closeness comes through in their precise and unique rhythmic work. One can hear them as a two-piece in their other band Armed With Legs, where they take bass loops and complex rhythms to create live electro influenced art rock. Jim and Nick bring rhythmic precision, a willingness to experiment, and a background in audio to the table. Jim and Nick were also an easy duo to approach, being that Ryan, Jim, and Nick all worked at the same restaurant at the time, Seattle’s Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria. Coincidentally, this was the same restaurant where Ryan and Kim had met at years prior. (Strangely, Tutta Bella has had just as much to do with the formation of Smokey Brights as anything else.)
Mike Kalnoky, like Ryan, had been playing in punk and garage bands in Seattle for years (What What Now, Thunderbird Motel.) It was in this environment Mike’s unique guitar style first caught Ryan’s ear. Heavily rooted in the blues and pentatonics, Mike’s part-Nashville, part-rock and roll Telecaster technique is reminiscent of Mike Bloomfield. This style of lead guitar, so integral to classic American rock, is seldom found in modern indie/Americana bands. When Mike plugged in with the yet unnamed project, the sound Ryan had been envisioning started to solidify. In winter of 2010, Smokey Brights had officially formed, and played their first show as a four piece at Seattle’s Cafe Racer.
Wasting little time, the boys began recording a few months after getting together. They spent a week in the woods outside of Olympia, Washington, at Jim’s childhood home self-recording “Can’t Rightly Say,” their first musical offering. Though Smokey Brights had only been playing for a few months, the record captured a natural, airy cohesiveness and instantly caught some national attention. Kim sang on the record, and then joined the band in an official capacity in summer of 2011. The harmonies first captured on Kim and Ryan’s Christmas album are now an integral piece to the Smokey’s sound. Smokey Brights continue to push themselves compositionally, and are currently breaking free of the folk influence that dominates their first record, in favor of a more driving and cohesive rock sound.
Smokey Brights have since released two seven inch records and are in the process of making their first official full length, expected to be released in summer of 2014. In the meantime, their first single for London Tone Music, Viejo, is a fun, quirky and hooky indie pop song, full of great harmonies, rollicking rhythm, a strong melody and a youthful energy and appeal.