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Sunny Disposition 

Seattle trio Duke Evers' new album is surprisingly full of bright pop-rock

click to enlarge Duke Evers lead singer Josh Starkel, right, grew up in Spokane. - ERICK DOXEY
  • Erick Doxey
  • Duke Evers lead singer Josh Starkel, right, grew up in Spokane.

We've all heard the stories of Seattle's weather acting as inspiration for musical creativity, the city's gloomy skies and rainfall forcing artists to hole up inside and woodshed their chops.

That's part of Duke Evers' story, but the band's experience recording its first full-length album, Velvet Hips, for San Diego-based indie label Randm Records lines up more with the vibrant, upbeat pop-rock filling its 11 songs.

Back in February 2016, founders Josh Starkel and Kyle Veazey were incorporating a new member, multi-instrumentalist Dune Butler, to their guitar/drums two-piece, and the excitement of creating new music with the expanded lineup for a label that had sought them out dovetailed perfectly with the experience of heading to sunny SoCal to work in the studio.

"We were literally right on the beach," recalls Starkel, who lived in Spokane from roughly kindergarten until midway through high school. (His dad still lives here.) "It was a completely different setting than we're used to. Usually we're recording underground and coming upstairs into the cold. We were on the beach, 80 degrees. It was cool to be in that environment, and be with your two best friends in a hotel room, just running amok.

"It's not something too many people get to experience, and maybe something we'll never get to experience again, and we had a great time."

The two weeks in San Diego wasn't all fun and games, as older songs had to evolve to include the bass and keyboard of Butler, and the trio wrote some new songs on the fly. The results are remarkably solid, even as Starkel calls the record "kind of a hodgepodge" of material.

What comes through — as seen last year when the group thrilled at Volume and Elkfest — is a band confident in its ability to bounce seamlessly from style to style, never losing a sense of melody that turns songs like opener "Touch of Skin" and "Here We Go" into instant earworms. The last song on the album, the sprawling hard-rock "Delusioning," is the first the band wrote as a three-piece and, Starkel says, "a good indication of where we might be going" as the current lineup continues to write new songs.

Throughout, Starkel's vocals stand out as remarkably pliable; no matter what style the musicians tackle, his voice's ability to move from a growl to a sweet croon is a weapon not every young band can boast. His confidence as a frontman wasn't always a given, he says, and comes thanks to his confidence in his bandmates and "a lot of time in the practice space being bad, then gaining the courage to get up there and just kind of do it." ♦

Duke Evers with Supervillain, Griffey and the South Hill • Thu, Jan. 26, at 7:30 pm • $6/$8 day of • All-ages • The Big Dipper • 171 S. Washington • bigdipperevents.com • 863-8098

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