Ryan Devlin is a record bandit, though not a malicious one. All of his admitted record thievery happened when he was a kid, discovering musical tastes from his parents' and others' dusty record bins.
"I took Joe Jackson Look Sharp when I was in forth or fifth grade and was learning how to play bass guitar," he admitted. "I learned every bass line on that album. My mom never got that one back," remembered Devlin in an interview with the Source. "By the time I got to high school I stole a few from my girlfriend's parents' house. I got my first Tom Waits record there. Neil Young Harvest is another one. I remember finding that record and turning it over, and seeing this picture of Neil Young and his band in a barn and for whatever reason, that stuck with me. It's got that big spacious open sound, which I love in records."
There are echoes of that openness on Taste for Blood, the first full-length release from Smokey Brights, Devlin's current band. Recorded in a barn in rural Washington, the album has a nostalgic sound and is as varied as the records Devlin never returned to their rightful owners.
"Sometime in late 2013, the writing took a turn and got a little more—not gothic—but a little darker. We recorded this record over the span of a week in this big, huge renovated barn. It was dark and chilly and spooky, and I think that came through on the record. Our only concern was that it was going to be freezing, which it was. When you listen to the record, imagine us wearing beanies and jackets."
Bundled in reverb, with a dash of David Bowie and Paul Simon, the 12 tracks on Taste for Blood are vampiric in their familiar narcissism. You can almost see Devlin's breath in the air bounding off the microphone with every poetic epode, and every chilling, bouncing guitar strum. The music sounds as if it's being played into the abyss, fading into the distance without any constraints.
The sound is in sharp contrast to the band members' other Seattle projects. Devlin plays guitar and is the primary songwriter for punk outfit Hounds of the Wild Hunt, but takes on a much softer vocal quality as he sings harmonies with his wife Kim West, who also plays keyboards for Smokey Brights. Members of another punk collective, What What Now, and bass-looping duo Armed with Legs, James Weston Vermillion and Nicolas Krivchenia and James Weston round out the group, all taking on a fresh, nuanced life in Smokey Brights.
"The writing in my punk project is more immediate. It's a lot more personal and not so varied in tonality and washes of nuance," said Devlin in his measured lyrical fashion. "When I play in punk bands, what I'm saying is what I'm saying. Punk is pretty literal. That's why I love punk. When it says fuck you it means fuck you. In Smokey it is important to me to not have such a heavy specificity to things. I really like songs that medically you understand what they're about, but it's not so specific it can't be about you."
9 pm. Mon., Dec. 15
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr. $5.