Draughon’s ‘Overflow’ cries holy and makes peace with demons

Jared Draughon spoke about his new album after finishing a shift at Slappy's Chicken.

The six songs on Overflow, the new Must Be The Holy Ghost album, sound more emotionally direct, fully formed and organic than its predecessor, Get Off.

That, in large part, is because Jared Draughon — the band’s musical visionary, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist — has been performing them live for at least a year. They tumbled out almost as soon as Get Off was released, almost as an extension of the first album: Hence, an overflow.

“They usually dwell in the darker experiences — heartbreak, frustration, sadness,” Draughon said of his songs.

A Durham native, Draughon’s first band was the Chapel Hill group Blankface, which played frequently in the Triad at venues like Pablo’s in Winston-Salem and Somewhere Else Tavern in Greensboro. He helped found another band, Telescreen, in 2007 with former members of Codeseven, and moved to Winston-Salem the following year. After performing with Telescreen, Draughon took a break from music for a while. When he was ready to start performing again, he conceived Holy Ghost as a solo act, but early on the liquid light shows produced by Evan Hawkins of Weapons of Mass Projection became an essential part of the project.

“He started messing around with a projector, and it seemed like a good vibe, and it fit and we kept doing it,” Draughon recalled during an interview after he finished working a recent lunch shift at Slappy’s Chicken in Winston-Salem’s Washington Park neighborhood. “He kind of became a part of the group. I haven’t played a show without him since the beginning of 2015.”

The soft-spoken Draughon pulled out a box of newly pressed cassettes, still nestled in foam peanuts at Slappy’s. A copy lay on the counter next to the cash register, teasing customers. The album is officially slated for release on Friday, marking the launch of a six-week tour, and in the meantime Draughon is banking shifts at the restaurant to save money for the outing. The 21-stop tour kicks off at Urban Grinders in Greensboro, swings up the East Coast to New York City before returning eight days later to the Garage in Winston-Salem, and then arcs across the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains to the West Coast and loops back across the Sunbelt, landing at Snug Harbor in Charlotte on Oct. 29.

A Must Be The Holy Ghost set matches the undulating patterns of Hawkins’ light show with a layered wall of sound that Draughon builds through a succession of guitar and vocal loops set to a drum-machine beat. The multisensory assault produces a hypnotic effect, the mercurial squibs of light projected onstage mimicking the loops in a fashion that is more like a wave crashing onshore and retreating, or a heartbeat, than a linear narrative.

Must Be The Holy Ghost performs at Urban Grinders in Greensboro on Friday and at the Garage in Winston-Salem on Sept. 24.

From a sonic standpoint the songs possess both delicately phrased melody and sludgy heaviness. Draughon owns a rich tenor that can slip effortlessly from a dreamy reverie into an anguished falsetto. His voice is more like another instrument than anything else, with lyrics taking secondary importance to the overall sonic pastiche. The feeling conveyed by the music is more important than any implied meaning.

“When the songs are in their early stages — I generally write lyrics last,” Draughon said. “I have a way of singing gibberish when I’m writing songs. So many times the gibberish turns into vowels and consonants that turn into words. In this weird, prophetic way, the words kind of fill in the blanks.”

Possessed with a kind of innate musicality, Draughon seemed to muse about what he had just said after finishing sentences during his interview and then absent-mindedly hum a snippet of melody or a vocal from the Genesis or Fleetwood Mac song playing in the background at Slappy’s.

“It usually starts with a beat that I have in my head or on my computer,” he said, explaining his song craft. “With the guitar riffs, since what I do involves looping, I figure ’em out as I start looping, or jamming, if you will. I try fingering different places on the guitar neck and different rhythms. With looping you can fill too much space, and it becomes a mush, so sometimes you have to pare back. It’s been a learning curve with each song.”

From the inception of Holy Ghost, making music on his own appealed to Draughon after playing in various bands.

“I suppose a lot of it is having the control — total control,” he said. “I was intrigued about the idea of having a sound that was large like a full band. I produce and mix music as well. I need to make things difficult for myself to get off. Music is my outlet. It’s my therapy. I have to do it.”

Although the music transports him back to the difficulty that gave birth to it, the songs demand too much to allow Draughon to dwell in darkness.

“I don’t think too much about it because my mind is so fixated on what’s coming next,” he said. “What pedal I’m pushing. What lyric is coming next. It’s almost like I’m a conductor. I’m definitely a different person. It’s semi out of body. It’s kind of my outlet, my way of just releasing and making peace with whatever demons are there. That feels good. It feels like a cleansing of sorts.”