For Seattle singer-songwriter Ryan Devlin, performing vocally often requires assuming a persona or taking on the modes of a character. And Devlin, the co-frontperson (along with his wife, Kim West) for the rock band Smokey Brights, has taken on a new personality in his group’s latest release, “Come To Terms,” the first single off their upcoming EP of the same name.
“My vocal approach on everything I do,” says Devlin, “if it’s successful, is a kind of method acting. I either have to inhabit a persona or dream one up. And on this song, it’s a little more anguished, spiteful in a youthful way – but not in a resigned-everything-is-fucked-sort-of-way.”
The temperament of the track, he says, harkens back to his roots in punk music. The song expresses aggravation, unsettledness and is a general call out of those responsible for the divisive and traumatic political culture permeating our lives today. “It’s a reclaiming of your voice,” says Devlin. “And then using that voice to say, ‘Go fuck yourself, you don’t get to light the world on fire and then tell me everything is okay.’”
The song also asks the band members, themselves, to think about their positions in the world both musically and socially. “It feels like if you’re creating art right now,” Devlin says, “or if you’re given a microphone and you’re not speaking up, I have to question why. [We have to] speak up and call out things that are dysfunctional and hurtful – and, having been raised white and middle-class in Seattle, the onus is doubly on us.”
But messages aside, the music on Come To Terms is a serious step forward for the band. It’s mature, direct and focused – not just good music, but pointed music. At times, Devlin can sound like members of the Cold War Kids or Dr. Dog. And the sonics of the entire EP, which will be released Jan. 20, are bold and powerful. “We thought,” Devlin explains, “lets write four rock songs that have clear meanings and clear hooks and clear grooves. And then let’s work really hard on making them great.”