WHITE RING was originally the duo of Bryan Kurkimilis and Kendra Malia, before they were joined by Adina Kurkimilis. One of the most acclaimed proponents of the "Witch House" movement, WHITE RING blend heavy, distorted electronics with eerie, unsettling vocals. However, their new material, created over the course of seven years, pushes the boundaries further, subverting genre ideas and mashing them all together, with industrial, metal, rave, chopped and screwed, rap, grunge, neo folk, post punk and new wave all in the mix. As Bryan Kurkimilis explains; “We treat our influences like tools to create a certain feeling. We are interested in covering more ground than sticking to a certain formula.”
Bryan and Kendra originally met on Myspace in 2006. At the time Bryan lived in New Orleans and Kendra was in New York, and they didn’t even meet face-to-face until 2008 after they had already released a few singles. In 2010 they released the EP Black Earth That Made Me, which was a collection of songs that they mostly recorded before they met in person. The record confounded expectations by selling out immediately on pre-order, making it very rare and highly sought after, with copies going on Ebay for upwards of $100. It was reissued by Rocket Girl in 2011 and still continues to sell in voluminous amounts.
They started playing live in 2009 and rapidly grew a reputation for their captivating performances, usually bringing their own lighting equipment and putting on a spectacular laser show. They have played for crowds of over 800 people in their hometown of NYC and toured the UK in 2010 in support of their sold out split 7" with oOoOO, playing InTheCity and SWN festivals – which were their first shows outside of New York. They have since shared the stage with the likes of Cold Cave, araabMUZIK, Liturgy, Blank Dogs, Gatekeeper, Blondes, oOoOO, Clams Casino, and others.
They started recording Gate Of Grief in 2010, with the hope of exploring new musical territory, however they took a while to find their path. Bryan and Kendra had some tough personal battles to fight, a sense that pervades the whole album. Thematically it delves in to some pretty dark places whilst exploring the concept of time and what it does to people, relationships and society. As Bryan explains; “There is a lot of tragedy in this album but there is also hope at the end of it.”
By 2016 pressure was building to finish recording, however due to Kendra’s ill health, they needed to bring in someone new to stand-in on vocals. Fortunately they found Adina Kurkimilis, who had played in various bands and gave them the impetus needed to complete the album. Shortly after meeting in Brooklyn, Bryan and Adina moved to Joshua Tree, California to finish recording the album, before settling in Massachusetts. Her vocal style fitted in seamlessly with what Kendra had been doing, and although she sang on half the songs, it’s almost impossible to tell who is singing on which track
Gate of Grief can be considered the second part of Black Earth That Made Me, or rather, they are the first two chapters in an overarching trilogy about evolution. As Bryan explains; “First you are born but then you realize what you are and what is against you and it’s a flood of emotion that you can only hope to hold on for and let it pass.”
The album title, Gate of Grief, refers to the real gate between Africa and Saudi Arabia that is believed to be the spot where the first humans migrated out of Africa and went on to populate the rest of the world. The album art ties in with this concept, with an image depicting a group of settlers in the USA in early 1900 during a parade. They were actually from a cult in the early 1900s in Bryan’s hometown of Fort Myers, Florida, as he explains; “A fledgling society peacocking to show their achievements but actually is naive and can be very devastating when you realize no amount of technology is going to save you.”
Dwelling on the outskirts of pop music, WHITE RING grew up in the age of the internet and were exposed to a huge range of music. They have developed a unique style based more on the idea of achieving certain feelings of loss and acceptance while pushing the boundaries of accessibility and musical genre. They have created a piece of art that is brimming with symbolism and underlying tensions, that seduces and scares in equal measure.