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Purity Ring

Purity Ring

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Monday 30th July, 2012 10:25AM

Montreal duo Purity Ring have just released their album Shrines on 4AD. It's a lilting, electronic ode to all things otherworldly, and UTR caught up with singer Megan James to discuss the premise for the band and whether she thinks Purity Ring are part of a bigger music in movement at the moment.

Hey Megan. You and Corin (Roddick) have been writing music together for a while now. It must be nice to have the album out?

I’m so excited to finally have it past the release date: it feels really good to be at the point where people have access to it.

Tell us about writing and recording Shrines.

So it was late 2010 – November – and Corin sent me an email asking if I would like to help him out with these tracks he had been writing. He was on tour with a band called Born Gold and it was like a five month tour where he spent a lot of time in the car. During that time he learned how to produce on Ableton and wrote a bunch of songs on that, and then asked me if I would like to sing over the top of them.

I found it really weird trying to sing over an electronic track but I really liked the music so it wasn’t something I thought was impossible: it was something I knew I could really get into I just had to figure out how. We didn’t live in the same city so when I went home for Christmas we recorded our first song and then we’ve continued to write in that same way: he’ll send me a track and I’ll record a demo over it and send it back and then we get together and record the vocals. He then finishes the track by intertwining the vocals, and that’s the process.

How does it feel to take someone elses track and put your own spin on it?

I don’t actually think about it that much: I usually do it in about a day. He’ll send me a track and all of my lyrics are written in journals, so I’ll go through my books and find something that I think will work. I don’t think about it too much – that’s pretty much what I do: listen to the song, find something that works, try out a few things and send it back.

Reflecting on the album as a full body of work: have you picked up any overarching idea, feeling or sound from Shrines, that perhaps you weren't intentionally trying to create?

Um, I think the title represents how I feel about it as a body of work which is what I think the title of an album should do for a band. Throughout the process of making it I didn’t give much to how it would be received, I just kind of put whichever parts of myself it needed into it without restraint and I think that is the same for Corin. In that sense each song is sort of something to us that is a massive symbol for a massive thing that is very meaningful to us.

The name of the band, and then the album title, it’s all pretty etherial and mystical. Are these things you’re interested in?

We pay a lot of attention to aesthetic for sure, particularly with physical images that are associated with us but also the types of words we choose. Writing the music has been a really natural process and we haven’t really planned what it would sound like but when it comes to the visual part it’s been a pretty important thing for us to be really thorough and consistent with.

Speaking of which, the video for “Fineshrine” is great. Tell us a little bit about what you wanted to do with that clip?

That’s basically the director’s interpretation of the song. We’d been speaking to the director for a long time, about a year, and he finally made something for us. We basically left it up to him because we really like a lot of his work so wanted him to have a lot of free reign. We think what he came up with is amazing: really fitting and moving and stuff.

It seems like Purity Ring is part of a subcultural sound at the moment: a group of bands who are creating an electronic, etherial sound. What are your thoughts on this ‘movement’, if you even think there is one?

There are definitely people we feel a kinship with because we’re all sort of doing similar things at the same time, but it’s not like any of us are trying or are really paying attention to each other I don’t think. We are keeping up with what’s going on around us but I don't think any of us are consciously trying to be a part of it. You say a movement, but I think it’s something that’s just happening; a number of people are doing the same thing at the same time and it’s kind of a coincidence. And because these people are doing this thing that is similar, you feel like you should know them but it’s not an obvious club that’s based in a place or anything. It’s just happening and it’s wonderful and we’re loving being part of a bunch of bands creating this sound.

It’s always interesting musing on why certain sounds come around at particular times: do you have any thoughts as to why this sound is popular at he moment?

No I don’t really know why, I think it’s time in relation to all the things that have been happening in music in the past few years. There are a lot of cross-genre things that are being made and there are a lot of things going on in terms of that. So this ‘movement’ as we’ll call it, was bound to happen but it’s very organic and quite hard to define.

What are you guys looking forward to doing over the next few months?

All we’re really doing is touring and we’re really excited about that: I’m looking forward to learning a lot about the different people and cultures and meeting people in different countries who appreciate what we’re doing. I think that’s the really fascinating thing about travelling anywhere. And after that going home and relaxing will be really nice.

How does the Purity Ring sound translate live?

We’ve found a few ways to translate it well. Corin’s built a bunch of lanterns that surround him and he hits them with sticks and they light up and also trigger the melody which is really nice. We have a few other things going on too. I think it’s just a really comfortable thing to look at, but also a bit like ‘what’s going on’. Ultimately we think it’s really beautiful. We also have a cloth backdrop with lights behind it and we have a big drum that gets hit sometimes and it kind of looks like the moon: it’s all pretty easy on the eye and really nice.

Purity Ring - Fineshrine by @secondglance