Like much of the rapidly vanishing, blue-collar Northwest, the town of Everett seems conflicted about its underdevelopment. Sure, it could do better, but at what cost?
As if to answer that koan, here’s Scotty Smith and Richie Owen of Fauna Shade, cruising downtown Everett’s main drag on a Tuesday afternoon. Despite the midday hour in this tight-knit community of 103,000 some 30 miles north of Seattle, Colby Avenue is mostly empty; the few pedestrians they encounter cast lingering glances, either in the know or suddenly stirred by these two scruffy dudes and their unselfconscious art-punk strut. Smith and Owen practically glow against Colby’s sleepy sidewalks and the neutral-gray spring day. They must be on their way someplace. Or they’re the jester-princes of Everett, just hanging around.
Fauna Shade is undoubtedly, if somewhat dubiously, the biggest band in Everett. Their music, as heard on last year’s debut LP Baton Rouge and their recently released Floral Hall EP, has found listeners across the country, thanks to rave reviews from Chicago-based music website Consequence of Sound and steady airplay on KEXP. Their post-grunge power-pop is compelling enough, Smith’s aggressive guitar atop a hefty, nimble rhythm section, with Owen on drums and Derek Johnson on bass. Fauna Shade songs are journeys, compact but squalling.
But the magnet, the madness of Fauna Shade is Smith’s voice. It’s the voice of skewed youth, delivered by a sensitive and solitary 22-year-old who’s swallowed too much post-adolescent anxiety and expectation and is blessedly free to let it loose at top volume. Which he’s been doing, since the start of Fauna Shade three years ago, primarily in his bedroom, which is actually the half-finished apartment above the garage behind his parents’ house in a middle-class neighborhood not far from downtown.
“Before any of this, my life was the same thing for 19 years,” Smith says, smoking a hand-rolled cig in his room. “This has been the biggest ride in my life, that’s for sure. But I don’t have a job, I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t do anything else. I don’t even play music that much. Music is a selfish thing for me. I come here to get away from things, hide from things. And that music is turning me around and sending me back out toward those things.”
Leading a band, playing shows, going on tour and being heard is expanding Smith’s idea of himself. That process—scary, vulnerable, beautiful—is the sound of Fauna Shade.
Back in 2014, when they played the EMP Sound Off! competition, Smith was calling himself Olympus. He was trying to step out of his regular self, the youngest child living at home, figuring out his shit, and assume a persona of power.
“My best friend at the time was like, ‘What the hell are you doing? You’re not that person.’ So I gave it up and now I’m definitely Scotty. And I’m learning to be Scotty.”
Fauna Shade play Chop Suey on April 7.