Though another Halloween has come and gone, early autumn is the perfect setting to experience witch-house pioneers White Ring. The (very) slight chill in the air, the lengthening nights and diminishing sunlight, the subtle feeling of foreboding as another year starts to end — all fitting set-pieces as this ghostly duo materialize in Will's Pub on Friday.
The eldritch twosome of Bryan Kurkimilis and Adina Viarengo, recently relocated to South Florida, are playing two Florida shows this weekend (Miami and Orlando) to check out the lay of the land and introduce themselves to fellow crypt-dwellers and outsiders here in the Sunshine State.
And would it really surprise you to learn that half of White Ring is from Florida? The humid sounds of early songs like "Hands 2 Hold U Down" from 2010 do, in their own way, evoke the feeling of a sticky, delirious late July night where comforts and options are few.
"I'm from Fort Myers and missed the vibe of Florida in general," producer Kurkimilis tells Orlando Weekly of the decision to decamp from Western Massachusetts to Florida. "It's the scrappy underdog of the country and I feel that. ... I don't really know if being back in Florida is influencing my art now, but growing up here definitely did."
White Ring were one of the innovators of the "witch house" sound in the early 2000s, alongside Salem and oOoOO, entrancing underground devotees with a disorienting mix of slowed-down hip-hop beats and icy vocals punctuated by stabs of electronic knives.
Though not a prolific band, White Ring issued their defining debut, the mini-album Black Earth That Made Me, in 2010. Their origins were rooted in the early-aughts internet landscape — founding members Kurkimilis and singer Kendra Malia met during the waning days of MySpace and became email pen-pals in 2007. What started as free-ranging conversations about music and life became an exchange of song ideas, culminating in Kurkimilis moving to New York and the virtual becoming real as White Ring was born IRL.
In a cruel irony, White Ring went on hiatus in 2011, soon after Black Earth was released. The spell-casting fell silent.
White Ring reactivated in 2016 when second vocalist Viarengo joined the coven, at last issuing their first proper full-length album, Gate of Grief, in 2018. This more aggressive effort suggested that perhaps momentum would finally be on their side.
The band followed up Gates with their most recent full-length, Show Me Heaven, earlier this year. It's yet another definite step forward in terms of tone, intent and sound. Heavier and more direct industrial-metal anthems nestle comfortably next to serene and ethereal nods to Lycia and the Projekt Records family.
The album is marked by tragedy, though, with the passing of co-founder Malia — who had been dealing with health issues for several years — in 2020, during the early stages of the album's creation. The loss of Malia's aesthetics and wild, untrammeled vocals were a loss to the music world at large, but her spirit still lingers over the new record.
"Adina and I started writing demos in early 2019 for Show Me Heaven and we were gonna start recording in October of 2019, ideally. If Kendra was well enough we wanted her involved, but that wasn't the case. It was an intense process but the message we wanted to convey remained clear," remembers Kurkimilis of that fraught time. "I wanted to write something that encompasses the acceptance of loss. Kendra was very much on our minds."
Now with Show Me Heaven out in the world, Kurkimilis and Viarengo are taking gradual steps out of their Fort Myers hermitage, ready to perform and engage with musical peers and audiences. They move according to their own pace, operating their own little DIY cottage industry amongst the palms of Southwest Florida.
"We do what we want. We ship our North American orders and print all of our own merchandise here ourselves. We make our videos, album art and try to make all our own show flyers and shit," says Kurkimilis. "We do as much as we can, it's fun to do."
Come this Friday, they'll put a spell on you.