Spirit System in bloom
As spring blooms into summer, the Winston-Salem darkwavers in Spirit System will embark on a mini-tour across North Carolina, spreading their “little black raincloud” to soothe souls and contrast pre-summer vibes.
The tide is high for goth revival, and the folks behind Spirit System are already known for pumping lifeblood into the Winston weirdo music scene
“It is the Dark Lord’s will,” snickered Laurie Ruroden, vocalist and bassist for Spirit System and mistress of the booking arts for Monstercade, regarding the resurrection of mall goth within popular culture.
Both cheeky and somber, Ruroden is joined at the Spirit System core by guitarist (and alleged vampire) Eric Gilstrap, who recently celebrated his “313th birthday” at Monstercade, where he also hosts “NITE MOVES,” a monthly dance party (in addition to performing in Vampiros and Mauve Angels).
Beyond goth tropes and jokes, Ruroden helped open Monstercade, the award-winning weirdo Winston club, in 2017. “I’ve always booked tours for the bands I’ve been in, so booking for a venue came naturally,” she said. “It takes a fair amount of patience and organizational skills that I seem to harness,“ she noted, calling herself a “walking calendar.”
As a band, Spirit System tiptoes around the sounds and staples of the Cure or Mazzy Star, delivering a “cavernous” vocal atmosphere amidst breathy layers and “ethereal warmth.”
Ruroden and Gilstrap feed off each other’s energy, like any good bandmate or married couple (they’re both). Together, they transversed the East coast before settling into Winston; adding a third to come full circle, when drummer Jared Draughon (from Must Be the Holy Ghost), joined the fold in 2018.
Ruroden considers Draughon a “revitalizing addition” to the group. “He’s not only a multi-instrumentalist but also a brilliant recording engineer,” she noted, “we’ve been buddies for years.”
Draughon’s initiation began as casual chats around recording Spirit System following a shared tour in 2016. The conversation continued along with Draughon’s involvement until, as Ruroden put it, things “actualized” around this time last year. With Draughon on the throne, recordings are underway. The group is working on what will be their third release, and sophomore full-length follow up to 2016’s Nightfalling.
“So far we’ve completed all the tracking for bass and drums,” Ruroden said regarding the progress. “We tracked drums with John Pfiffner at his studio, Seventyfivesound. From there, Jared has taken over as head engineer,” she explained.
“We’re taking our time with this one,” Ruroden said. “We’ve recorded our past albums mostly in New York. So one element that we aren’t dealing with is time versus money,” she noted of the advantages in recording close to home.
Their goal is to have everything mixed before the end of summer.
More time to flesh out the record means more time for special guests, “Don’t be surprised if you see a few other artists getting involved,” Ruroden said, with a hint that a certain Dark Prophet may haunt a few tracks with some other folks on board.
Looking to the future, “we’ll be back in the studio recording guitar after the tour,” Ruroden noted. “The three of us get along remarkably well, so it’s hard to keep us from working,” she added. “I’m eager for the next batch of songs to unfold and see where they’ll inevitably take us.”
Most immediately, that’ll be on a little mini tour celebrating the latest release from Asheville shoegazers, VIA.
“VIA offered us to open for them at the Mothlight for their album release show,” Ruroden explained, “so I took the opportunity to book a few dates in the region.”
That opportunity will play out like a micro tour-de-force of the best dive stages North Carolina has to offer: Slim’s in Raleigh, Snug Harbor in Charlotte, the Mothlight in Asheville, and (of course) Monstercade on the homefront. Dark clubs and good vibes are prime for Spirit System.
Each show holds a particular element Ruroden finds exciting, the thrill comes from “both playing with old friends, and just getting out there and revealing our latest material to new audiences.”
Plus, “we’ve never played at the Mothlight,” Ruroden said, “so I’m especially geeked about being on that stage.”
Looking to stir some witchery and highway miles, Spirit System will be in Raleigh on May 30, Charlotte on May 31, and Asheville on June 1; with a home show at Monstercade on June 2, featuring VIA and Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands touring NC the following week, 5:30-7pm on WUAG 103.1fm.