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  • Haven Magazine

Spirit and the Cosmic Heart

Winter Haven’s historic Ritz Theatre will get an otherworldly dose of dream pop from Spirit and the Cosmic Heart later this month. The band is headlining a show at the Ritz on August 27 at 8 pm, joined by special guest Brett Staska. Spirit’s lineup of local bandmates includes Joshua Miller on guitar and vocals, Daniel Miller on bass, Ian Lopez on drums, Dallas Smith on keyboards and trumpet, and Melody Wells on guitar and vocals. Their sound is an intoxicating meld of synth and shadow, like a shoegaze daydream.

“The first time I saw Spirit and the Cosmic Heart, they had me in like a trance. I was immediately hooked. It was one of those moments where you just realize that this band is going to go far. That was almost three years ago, and they haven’t played in Winter Haven since,” said Austin Tharp, a volunteer for the Ritz Theatre. The last time Tharp caught a Spirit and the Cosmic Heart show, he told Joshua Miller, “I’m going to get you all to play at the Ritz in Winter Haven, and we are going to sell out.” Tharp went to Executive Director Alyssa Garber with the idea. “I really enjoy what’s going on at The Ritz, and I love seeing it filled up. One of my goals is to bring awareness to some of the great local musical talent we have here in Winter Haven,” Tharp added. “The talent is here, they just need a stage to show it and someone to advocate for them, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Artist William Larence is creating an installation for the show. Guitarist and vocalist for the band, Joshua Miller said of Larence, “Bill is a creative force, and a very close friend for decades. As soon as we began organizing the Ritz show, I knew Bill needed to be involved. His artistic vision inspires us to prepare the best musical performance possible, to match the creative energy he’s putting into the visual aspect of the night.”

Larence said he is “creating a dynamic, multidimensional, art installation that combined, wholehearted and energetically with Spirit and the Cosmic Heart’s musical performance, will pulsate cosmic, loving sensations and [...] help the audience transcend into the electromagnetic vortex of the universe.”

HAVEN spoke with Spirit’s Joshua Miller about the band, the upcoming Ritz Theatre performance, and their next album.

HAVEN (HV): Tell me the Spirit origin story.

JOSHUA MILLER (JM): A few years ago, Daniel (bass) and I were in a place where we felt putting a band together was a good idea. Ian (drums) and I have played music together since middle school; he naturally joined. Dallas and Melody came later. They bring a very important element to the sound and vision of Spirit.

HV: Who were some early inspirations?

JM: Gravitating toward vintage and analog gear: Roland Juno 60, Wurlitzer Piano and the Jazz Chorus amps – a deep love for bands like The Cure and pop songwriting sensibility like the Beach Boys. Now we find most inspiration from each other’s creativity really. We’ve played music together for the right amount of time. We can sense what each member’s role in the song will be, giving space for one another.

HV: You released the EPs “Dreams” (2018), “Memories” (2019), and “Moments” (2021) which was also your first physical form of music with a limited cassette release with New Granada Records. You mentioned that Spirit is finishing writing your first full-length album leading up to the Ritz show. Do you have a title and a release date?

JM: Yes, finally, a full-length album. Our creative process takes much longer than desired. With getting older, life can bring unexpected responsibilities that require time and energy. Staying in a band can sometimes be tough through it all. Keeping it all together, putting yourself out there can feel impossible. But I’ve been dreaming of what this album will sound like for years. Watching it come together is beautiful. Being able to share our new songs live for the first time at the Ritz is exciting and also a bit scary. Spending the energy and holding onto them, crafting, editing, making the best possible versions. After the wild ride the world has been on these last years, it feels more important than ever to create something like this. Spirit is our therapy, the escape from all the fuzz in the world - and we hope when people listen to the music or watch us play live, they feel that too.

HV: Tell me about the overall mood/ theme of this new album. Was there a specific inspiration or direction when writing it? What can fans expect?

JM: As songs slowly reveal themselves, the direction becomes more clear. Once everything is complete and recorded, I can really understand what the intentions and concepts are. That seems like an odd way to approach songwriting or art, but it does come from an honest place. I might not know what I’m trying to tell you in a song, but I know afterward, we’ll both be feeling something.

HV: Will it release solely digitally or physical copies too?

JM: Vinyl is the dream for this one. Streaming is the necessity.

HV: What is it like to play around your home county versus elsewhere out on the road?

JM: Traveling in a van with friends and performing music feels like magic. Playing these songs in different states, seeing people connect to the music feels surreal. We did a 10-day southeast tour last Spring. Every night was special.

HV: Will this be your first time playing the Ritz?

JM: About 20 years ago, Ian and I played a DIY show at the Ritz. There were parts of the theatre roped off with holes in the floor. It feels like a true homecoming to have the opportunity to perform at the Ritz Theatre. It will be a special night for all of us.

Spirit and the Cosmic Heart

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