BARBOZA Presents: Smokey Brights with Julia Massey & The Five Finger Discount + Roaming Herds of Buffalo
Saturday November 24th, 2012
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 Ryan Devlin, and his girlfriend, vocalist 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. Months before Smokey Brights played a note together, Ryan knew exactly who he wanted to accompany him on these new folk-soul-pop tunes he was dreaming up. 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 the interplay between drum and bass to new levels. 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. Interestingly, 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. 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 country and blues influenced music, is seldom found in modern “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 are in the process of releasing a series of 45s with companion music videos for the fall and winter of 2012.
Imported from the Mid-Atlantic by way of the rocky mountain state, Julia Massey brings to the city of Seattle an outer-space sized sound that she and her band have branded COSMIC-FOLK-ROCK. She and her band turn what is seemingly a collection of pop songs into a collage of compositions that display a thick stack of thin layers to be effortlessly peeled back by listeners. Unlike Radiohead or other Prog bands whose music takes years to uncover fully, all of Massey’s layers float into your psyche like a feather taking your heart and mind on a journey that ends in sunshine. Then, like all great bands, you want more.
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