(extended version of an article published in Star News, with additional Q&A below)
By Brian Tucker
Jared Draughon was looking to challenge himself before creating his current music project Must Be the Holy Ghost. A few tears ago he decided to go solo after playing in bands Classic Case and Telescreen. But MBTHG is more than just a solo project; it’s an immersive experience musically and visually. Performing itself is challenging – he sings and plays guitar against a backdrop of looped percussion while also looping his vocals and guitar playing to create multi-layered songs in a live setting.
Two days after taking part in this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, Must Be the Holy Ghost will perform with Wilmington’s Youth League at Satellite Bar & Lounge on Saturday, September 12th.
The two acts shared a bill last February at Reggie’s, making for a powerful, visceral experience. Musically, they stood in contrast yet both performances impact was highly emotional. MBTHG’s hypnotic set played out mostly in the dark save for Evan Hawkins’ artistic backdrop – an overhead projector painting a screen with swirling liquid colors.
“Working with Evan has been a pleasure,” Draughon said. “We have developed little ways of understanding what each other are doing to make it one experience. He knows when and what to expect from me musically and how to manipulate the visuals to complement that.”
Hawkins’ addition at shows (they’ve played over fifty this year) helps a listener to get lost in the dreamy atmosphere of Draughon’s electronic and hazy guitar drenched music.
“With loop based music you have to be creative with maintaining a song structure, of some kind, in the loops,” Draughon said. “I wanted to still have some kind of structure, but didn’t have any rules about verse-chorus-verse type of songs. Anything goes with MBTHG, so long as there is a vibe, emotion, and atmosphere surrounding the song.”
Get Off, MBTHG’s debut EP, was released last year on Cardigan Records. The label recently issued a new version with extra songs, on cassette and digitally. Draughon, at the time, wanted the debut to be “short and sweet.”
“I felt like, less was more and wanted people to hear the best I had to offer, hopefully from front to back in a thirty minute record. So, I decided to leave a couple of older tracks off it. Cardigan Records was interested in releasing it on cassette so I figured, why not add some B-sides to it since it’s been out for over a year now? Now I’m stoked that those two tracks are included and it’s available as a “deluxe” released on cassette as well as digitally.”
These are songs outside verse-chorus-verse construction, built and slightly reinvented with each show, making for organic performances. He maintains that songs are fairly consistent show to show, but each night has its moments of improvisation and reinvention.
“Everything surrounding a show adds or subtracts from the output. But after playing many different venues over the years, when it’s time to play, I’ve learned to go into my own little world and hope that it connects with the audience. I trust that if I’m honest with myself during a performance that it will translate.”
Was playing in a band becoming troublesome?
Draughon: There is an amazing chemistry that can evolve when playing in a band, with other people, but it can come with a lot of trials as well. Since I’d always played in bands before starting MBTHG I figured I’d give a “solo project” a go for a change. I was looking for a challenge when performing live without just grabbing an acoustic guitar and writing songs like I had done in the past.
Starting out, did fans of Classic Case follow your new music?
Draughon: I’m not really sure who was keeping tabs on me after Classic Case. That ended in 2006 and then I spent time playing in a band called Telescreen. After that I kind of fell off the map for a bit and didn’t do too much musically for awhile. When I started MBTHG I really wasn’t concerned with the past but focused on starting fresh and moving forward. I hope some folks out there have reconnected with what I’m doing currently and approach it with fresh ears.
Does Evan create in the moment, following the flow of your music?
Draughon: Both the music and the visuals are organic and unique each show. I’ve developed a way to make songs fairly consistent from show to show but each night has its moments of improvisation and reinvention. Working with Evan has been a pleasure. I wouldn’t even say we try and “work” together.
We’ve never even held a practice together, we have just developed little ways of understanding what each other are doing over time to make it one experience. We have played over fifty shows together this year alone so he knows when and what to expect from me musically and how to manipulate the visuals to complement that.
Will you expand on your sound or go in a new direction?
Draughon: Yes, I’ve quietly been working on another album in my spare time. I’m not sure when it will be released but I’m hoping sometime in 2016. I’ve been playing a lot of the new stuff at shows this year to try and work them out live before laying them down in the studio. This next album should pick up where the first one left off but with added dimensions.
You touring with He is Legend was interesting. How were crowds reacting?
Draughon: I wondered that same thing. I’ve been close friends with the guys in HIL for a decade now so I knew we would have a great time touring together, but wasn’t sure what the crowd reaction would be. The crowds have been amazing though. Their fans have been super open-minded and appreciative. I think MBTHG was a welcomed and different experience each night before HIL got on stage rocked.