Gestalt in spirit: Must Be the Holy Ghost

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Jared Draughon wields his SG as Evan Hawkins’ second round of projected dye bleeds across the screen.

by Anthony Harrison

It starts simply.

A house beat. A riff. Orange drops of dye splattered on a screen at the rear of the stage.

Then, as water drips onto a plate atop the overhead projector, sweeping chords and another guitar line enter the sonic fray; the orange droplets lighten to yellow and bleed outwards.
After layered harmonies, more colored dyes and a quick spin of the plate on the projector, what began so stark and simply transcends its original form, both compositions — aural and visual — swirling together in tandem, wholly their own pieces of art, yet organically integrated.

And that’s just the start of the show.

Must Be the Holy Ghost represents the latest effort of Winston-Salem multi-instrumentalist Jared Draughon. In various outfits, Draughon has played the Triad for 18 years.

“I grew up in the Chapel Hill-Durham area,” Draughon said. “I played in a band in high school, a punk-rock band. We’d come play in Greensboro and Winston all the time, back when there was a place called Pablo’s on Trade Street.”

On Feb. 7, Must Be the Holy Ghost played in support of fellow Winston-Salem band Aquatic Ceremony’s album release party at the Garage. The crowd packed in thick as thieves, only clearing the space between sets to smoke cigarettes.

Must Be the Holy Ghost was second on the bill. Draughon stacked chords, riffs, lead lines and vocals to create dense tapestries of sound. The effect, along with Winston-Salem graphic artist Evan Hawkins’ amorphous light show, staggered the crowd. The two artists played off each other, seamlessly blending and balancing their respective media as though they’ve been working together for decades.

Draughon settled in Winston in 2007 and began playing with local bands such as Telescreen, composed of former members of melodic hardcore band Codeseven.

“I love the community in the Triad,” Draughon said. “Everyone seems very helpful and encouraging, instead of the kind of cutthroat thing you might experience in other towns.
Draughon started Must Be the Holy Ghost on his own in 2012.

“I wanted to form a solo project,” Draughon said. “Something that could be mine that I could do as much or as little as I wanted.

“But I didn’t really want to go do the thing with an acoustic guitar and write songs and perform under my name,” he continued. “In order to get inspired, I needed to make things a little more difficult and challenging for myself.”

Method behind the madness: Evan Hawkins applies dyes to plates, and projects them for Must Be the Holy Ghost. (Anthony Harrison)
Method behind the madness: Evan Hawkins applies dyes to plates, and projects them for Must Be the Holy Ghost. (Anthony Harrison)

Draughon found inspiration in working with loop stations.

“It took me a good year and a lot of practice to figure out how I could utilize it, and not only utilize a guitar, but also utilize my voice as another instrument, another layer,” Draughon said.

While during shows he does loop on-the-fly, Draughon also relies on pre-programmed tracks as a foundation.

“I’ve always been inspired by electronic music and hip-hop as well as rock, so I just began making beats and putting them on my loop pedal,” Draughon said. “Over time, it evolved into what Must Be the Holy Ghost is now.”

What starts simply often leads to complex results. Draughon quickly teamed with Hawkins, who began experimenting with overhead projectors at roughly the same time Draughon started familiarizing himself with loop stations.

“He’s a very clever guy who finds ways to do art in all different kinds of ways,” Draughon said.

A VH1 documentary on Woodstock referring to projecting dyes on clock faces inspired Hawkins to attempt a similar endeavor.

“I was like, ‘What the f*** does that even mean?’” Hawkins said.

As Draughon did with looping, Hawkins threw himself into projection light shows.
“There wasn’t information about it online,” Hawkins said. “So I spent a lot of hours sitting in my room and experimenting with it.
“It’s a close balance between balance of light and color,” he continued. “Figuring out the nuances is interesting, but it takes a long time. I’m still learning new things to time the visuals with the music, even though I’m not timing it all the time.”
Hawkins admitted the role of random chance working with a literally fluid medium.
“Chaos is driving what I’m doing,” Hawkins said. “It’s like holding the reins of a wild horse. But as soon as I know the tricks, all I have to know is the rhythm of the song, and I know what tricks to use when.”

The psychedelic patterns Hawkins produces are what he referred to as “nature on display” — like finding shapes in clouds, one might see dark horses, thunderheads, mushrooms or just fractals in motion. His tricks include blowing onto the dye with plastic tubes or placing an additional plate on top of the dye to pulsate the visuals in and out of time.

Draughon feels Hawkins truly represents half of Must Be the Holy Ghost.

“I try to have him with me at every show,” Draughon said. “I think we did 50 shows last year together. Hopefully, we’ll surpass that in 2015.”

Sure enough, Hawkins stood directly in front of the stage at the Garage, sporting shades as he stared into the color and light.
Draughon also said the duo will play more shows abroad in the future.

They committed to that mission by launching a nine-show tour earlier this year, working through Charlotte and Atlanta before swinging into the Midwest and coming back to the Garage last Saturday. The next night, they swung over to Chattanooga, Tenn., proving an artist’s job is never done.

“Must Be the Holy Ghost is truly an amalgamation of everything I’ve been inspired by over the years,” Draughon said, “and I’ve listened to more new and current music now than I probably have since high school. I’m just making an effort to keep it fresh.”