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White Ring is here to cast a witch house music into a renaissance.
Image: Courtesy of White Ring

The internet can be a deeply unsettling place, especially when you stumble upon videos that you probably should’ve left alone. But, if you were like me in 2011, you sought out the weirdest of websites and the creepiest of pastas, then shared your intel with all your post-emo friends.

By 2016, I was surfing the internet for some quality spooky material during my college years when I stumbled across something called witch house.

It was a musical genre most had pronounced dead — and yet was still surviving and thriving in the weirdest corners of the internet. Two major artists from the early days of witch house, known as White Ring and †‡† (pronounced Ritualz), have been instrumental in helping keep the genre going.

“I really don’t know if witch house was ever really alive honestly,” Bryan Kurkimilis, one-third of White Ring admits. “It seems like it’s always going to be in a perpetual adolescence when it came out 10 years ago, and it’s kind of stuck there now.”

Kurkimilis’ White Ring started off back in 2006 as a duo featuring him and vocalist Kendra Malia. In 2011, the duo went on hiatus, and in 2016 Adina Viarengo joined the band to serve as the group’s second vocalist. Now in 2018, with their debut album Gate of Grieffinally complete, White Ring is back on track and very much determined to keep witch house relevant.

According to Vulture, witch house music was birthed during the late 2000s and early 2010s during the end of the Myspace era. But the genre’s deep, dark electro-wave sound, and the occult imagery in its lyrics, fashion, and music videos have continued to draw fans in well past the genre’s prime. 

Early witch house artists typically produced spooky tracks that sampled from ’90s and ’00s horror films and hip-hop records. They layered these samples with heavy bass riffs, lots of synth, and sometimes vocals. Visually and aesthetically, people in the community reflected this dark music by incorporating magic symbols, upside down crosses, and pentagrams into all black hip-hop clothing. 

Like many things created on the internet, witch house had a relatively short shelf life. The term itself appears to have come about in 2009. Travis Egedy (known as Pictureplane) used it in an interview to describe the music he and his friends were producing. 

“Mark our words, 2010 will be straight up witchy,” Egedy wrote in Pitchfork. 

Travis Egedy in his warehouse/studio

Image: Denver Post via Getty Images

He wasn’t wrong about 2010, but mainstream interest in witch house didn’t last long. The genre tapered off in the early ’10s when it was overshadowed by vaporwave, another internet-fueled genre of music.

“I think people are still looking and hoping for witch house bands that have gone away to find a way to come back,” Adina Viarengo of White Ring said. “I feel like there’s a really devoted base that wants more of this kind of stuff. There’s a need for it right now.”

The demand for this type of music is something that drives artists like JC Lobo of Ritualz to continue to producing tracks. He started his career on Myspace in late 2009 with just a computer, and to this day Lobo continues to make music that is influenced by this largely forgotten era of music. He released a Ritualz album titled Doom earlier this year.

“It’s really different now because witch house isn’t as visual anymore because everyone’s been a part of the scene for a while,” Lobo explained in a phone call. “But the music is different. It’s definitely a lot more techno and ravey compared to its earlier hip-hop sound.”

“I’m not really a part of the scene anymore,” Lobo said. “But when I’m on tour, I play witch house songs and all of the kids from the community come out and listen along.”

Lobo posing for the camera.

Image: Courtesy of JC Lobo / Taken by Francisco Mendez

“Witch house was innovative,” Lobo said. “It was new and dark, which was really important because it had been a long time since that kind of music was appealing to a large audience.”

What made witch house such a strange phenomenon was its purposeful obscurity. Witch house musicians hid. When I accidentally stumbled upon the genre after listening to a witch house remix of a Charli XCX song by BLVCK CEILING, I was happy to know there were a ton of artists and tracks out there — even if they were hiding their names behind band names made up of random symbols.

While BLVCK CEILING was my own personal introduction to the genre, other artists from the community have made their mark on the scene, some even as early as the Myspace era. A few notable artists from the community include GR†LLGR†LL (pronounced GrillGrill), oOoOO, and Salem.

Artist names featuring crosses and inscrutable symbols are typical. For someone outside of the scene, it’s a challenge to find specific tracks or musicians. While Ritualz hid behind crosses, White Ring had an all-white Myspace page that required the user to highlight the entire page to see text about new tracks and announcements.

“I always think of it as having a punk spirit where everything is always a ‘fuck you,'” Kurkimilis said. “It’s like I’m gonna release a song, but I’m gonna do it in this weird way.”

Having an immortal punk spirit is obviously cool and all, but the people who helped cultivate it eventually moved onto other projects. While White Ring and Ritualz are the only major figures to release full albums in recent years, other notable artists in the community find interesting ways to stay relevant.

Image: Courtesy of white ring

Take witch house rapper Gvcci Hvcci (pronounced Goo-chee Hoo-chee), who was a major figure back in 2011. As one of the very few prominent women producing witch house tracks, Gvcci amassed a cult following.

In 2012, a post on crvckhouse, a Tumblr page dedicated to promoting witch house artists, claimed that Gvcci Hvcci had passed away. Lobo, who was apparently the last person to collaborate with the rapper, was the first to speak about the news, and confirmed her “death.”

“Shortly after our track came out, people kept asking me where she was,” Lobo said. “I eventually just started to say ‘she’s dead’ because I was friends with her producer who said she closed all of her accounts and was going to stop releasing tracks.” 

Prior to her “death,” Kurkimilis says he actually had a brief interaction with the mysterious figure in 2011 over the phone. Around this time, rumors began to circulate that the pictures Gvcci Hvcci had used to promote herself were fake. Her entire identity was in question. 

“I know for sure it’s an actual girl,” Kurkimilis claims. “She was not the girl in the photos, because a friend of hers showed me a real picture of her. I know she’s a real person.”

After seemingly catfishing everyone in the community, Gvcci Hvcci had made a name for herself. Her infamy would continue to grow after her supposed “death.”

Just two short years later, to everyone’s shock, Gvcci Hvcci released a track titled “Bullet in the Head.” The witch house community went into a frenzy. The rapper, who was now revealed to be alive, took advantage of the cultural moment. As the lyrics go, Gvcci was officially “back from the dead.”

Had Gvcci Hvcci really faked her own death for recognition? The answer is murky. Some community members aren’t convinced that the Gvcci Hvcci who returned is the same artist from 2011. 

“I just never denied anything and I was playing along with the myth of Gvcci Hvcci,” Lobo admitted. “The producer found a different girl, or unreleased tracks, I’m not sure which. I didn’t really keep up with the story but it’s funny how people are still speculating years later.” 

These days Gvcci Hvcci is relatively silent. An unfinished track titled “ttryan” which was released in January of this year serves as her most recent published work on Soundcloud. When we approached her on Facebook for a statement, the anonymous rapper responded with: “Guess what? Chicken butt,” and sent a link to her Go Fund Me page. 

Gvcci Hvcci continuing to troll in 2018

Image: Mashable / Xavier Piedra

On the page, Gvcci Hvcci is asking for $2,500 to help produce and release her work-in-progress track, “Issa night.” In the past six months, Gvcci Hvcci has raised $130 from three people of her $2,500. As of September 2018, there have been no updates on production of the new song.

Song titles hiding behind symbols and artists with mysterious personas are what makes witch house unique — and what’s kept the genre fresh. 

Song titles hiding behind symbols and artists with mysterious personas are what makes witch house unique — and what’s kept the genre fresh. 

When musicians like Gvcci Hvcci fake their deaths, or when artists like White Ring return from a years-long hiatus, it helps revitalize the community. Like any dedicated fanbase, lovers of the niche genre get excited when they hear news about their favorite artists, good or bad.

Without witch house, we wouldn’t have mainstream artists like Charli XCX, Chvrches, and Grimes, who’ve attributed parts of their style and sound to this genre of music.

“It’s hip-hop for goths,” Charli said during an interview with Self-titled magazine in 2012. “I like the whole scene – the cult imagery, the upside down crosses. I love witch house.”

Charli XCX during the early days of her career in 2013.

Image: Caitlin Mogridge / Getty Images

Despite its age, witch house still has a place within our culture. While the dark aesthetic and sound might not appeal to everyone, witch house continues to persist, especially on the internet. In fact, Lobo’s a firm believer that witch house marks a major chapter in the history of internet culture and music.

“I think witch house has amazing value as being one of the first generations of music born from the internet,” Lobo said. “Before then you didn’t have any dark or ambient music, so it was a really good balance for internet music genres like chillwave and vaporwave that had mainstream appeal.”

The sound itself has shifted a bit over the past ten years, and whether or not it’s a positive change is up for debate. Shifting from its hip-hop-inspired sound, witch house has become more clubby and electronic than ever. Lobo attributes this change to the need for faster music that people can dance to.

“I wish it would go back a bit to the days of droning sounds and anonymous artists,” Lobo said. “It seems like a lot of people are trying to make it about dancing, and I notice that’s a big focus for producers. But the appeal at first was to listen to this weird and dark ambient noise.”

But why should anyone listen to this music in 2018? “I think its good to have a balance in your life especially with music,” Lobo explained. “Listening to different music will help you understand different people and communities, so it’s important you give it a chance and try a bit of everything.”

Image: Courtesy of Ritualz / Taken by Daniela Quant

Like any genre of music, witch house has cultivated a community of followers who are dedicated to their favorite artists. Specifically within the witch house Reddit community, the page stays somewhat active as new artists create and share new tracks, or when, for example, White Ring makes an unexpected return.

“Once a genre is created, it can never really go away,” Viarengo said. “I know there are pockets of people all over the world who are into witch house that are going to continue experimenting with it.”

Lobo agrees and believes that witch house’s hip-hop and electronic roots will allow it to evolve alongside these genres.

“I don’t think it will ever get stuck,” Lobo said. “Hip-hop and electronic music has been changing over the past 30 years, and witch house’s sound will continue to be influenced by those two styles of music. Audience-wise it might get stuck, but it can get bigger still, it just need some more time.”

With White Ring and Ritualz at the recent forefront of the witch house movement, the community and genre are still in good hands. While I wait for more tracks to feed my goth fantasies, I’ll be casting spells to Gate of Grief and Doom on repeat.

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/witch-house-white-ring-ritualz/

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