It’s springtime in Washington! The sun is finally shining, the flowers and trees are in full bloom, and most importantly—music festival season is almost upon us. Kick off the most exciting time of year by seeing Seattle rock quintet Smokey Brights at the Upstream Music Festival on May 12. This sumptuous five-piece plays rock in its truest, most classic form. Don’t mistake that as synonymous with middle-of-the-road rock, however, because Smokey Brights is anything but. Equal parts crunchy and polished, classic and psychedelic, Smokey Brights’ brand of rock is one that many likely thought was extinct, especially in Seattle.
Smokey Bright’s last album, Hot Candy was released in October of 2016 to critical acclaim. The band consists of singer-songwriter and guitar player Ryan Devlin, his wife and co-singer- songwriter Kim West, bassist Jim Vermillion, drummer Nick Krivchenia and guitarist Mike Kalnoky. Kim and Ryan were kind enough to chat with CULTURE about the Smokey Brights’ story which involves making music and falling in love.
“The legalization of cannabis in Washington State has been profoundly helpful to a lot of musicians and creative types. You can just go into a recreational store and say, ‘We’re going to record an album’ and they can recommend product accordingly. As far as the audience, I mean, I hope people are consuming cannabis and listening to our music. We really try to create a lot of space, atmosphere and texture in our music, and I think those elements are particularly enhanced by cannabis.”
How did Smokey Brights get started?
Ryan Devlin: Most of us met while working at a pizza restaurant! We all worked at the same place, except for Mike our guitar player. He was getting his Master’s degree in physics as a scientist. We were all in our own separate bands or projects. So we knew each other and played shows together with each other’s bands. So anyway, I had a new batch of songs, and I sort of came up with my dream team of people I’d like to play with, so I reached out to Jim, Nick and Mike, and we recorded a demo, and that’s kind of how it all got started. Kim was working at the same restaurant, we weren’t dating at the time. But I’m not telling that part of the story . . .
Kim West: So we weren’t dating at the time, and we didn’t start dating for a few years. I had never been in a band before, but they just kind of pulled me into record on their demo. We started realizing that we were getting a lot of attention just for the demo. We realized it’s not just a recording project, it actually has some legs to it, and we should see what happens. So we started playing out and getting love and growing and developing.
Where are you all from?
West: Nick is originally from Ohio, Jim and Nick are from California. We all met in Seattle, and all live here. So it’s definitely the home base for us.
Who are some of your musical influences?
West: We have a saying, “Write it, don’t be it.” We pull from a lot of influences, but it’s not like we’re a Beatles cover band or something. It’s not something you can put in a box. But our influences, Fleetwood Mac is definitely a huge influence for us.
Ryan Devlin: Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Wings, your standard ’70s rock band, but particularly a lot of late ’70s, early ’80s progressive stuff, when synths started getting in the mix a lot, and things started getting textured and trippy.
Has the Pacific Northwest’s cannabis culture impacted your sound, audience or creative process at all?
Ryan Devlin: All three. For me, cannabis and music have always had a nice little relationship. Enhancing listening, and playing music. The legalization of cannabis in Washington State has been profoundly helpful to a lot of musicians and creative types. You can just go into a recreational store and say, “We’re going to record an album” and they can recommend product accordingly. As far as the audience, I mean, I hope people are consuming cannabis and listening to our music. We really try to create a lot of space, atmosphere and texture in our music, and I think those elements are particularly enhanced by cannabis.
What’s your favorite thing to listen to when you’re heavily medicated?
West: It’s interesting. A lot of it is the pretty quintessential stuff like Floyd and all that stuff. But also, a lot of hip-hop. We’ve found that lyrics kind of pop out more on certain strains. So it’s like you’ll listen to something you’ve listened to 1,000 times, like I was listening to Kendrick Lamar the other day, and I’ve listened to it so many times, but for the first time I will be like “Oh that’s what he’s saying. Cannabis often just makes you a more intentional listener.”
SEE SMOKEY BRIGHTS LIVE:
*Upstream Music Fest + Summit 2017, Seattle, May 11-13; upstreammusicfest.com.
*The Crocodile, Seattle, June 9;