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Purple Pilgrims Share New Album 'Perfumed Earth' + Interview

Purple Pilgrims Share New Album 'Perfumed Earth' + Interview

Chris Cudby / Friday 9th August, 2019 9:02AM

Following a sublime run of singles, Purple Pilgrims have unveiled their evocatively titled second studio album Perfumed Earth. Written and recorded in the semi-isolated wilderness surrounds of Valentine and Clementine Nixon's current home in the Coromandel Peninsula, Perfumed Earth eschews the digital percussion of their 2015 debut Eternal Delight for a more organic yet no less intoxicating sound palette – featuring instrumental contributions on selected tracks from Roy Montgomery, Gary War, Jimmy Mac (Scuba Diva), Jeff Henderson and Joshua Kennedy (Surf City).

You can experience the Christchurch / Hong Kong-raised sibling duo performing at Tāmaki Makaurau's The Others Way festival in late August, as well as South Island events with John Maus and Gary War, before they head back overseas to tour their new record in the US and Europe. Open your ears to Perfumed Earth and scroll down to read Chris Cudby's interview with Valentine Nixon, who kindly spared some time to discuss the conditions which helped shape Purple Pilgrims' latest creation...

Chris Cudby: When I was talking to Clementine a little while ago about the 'Two Worlds Apart' single, she mentioned that it was strange to hear that song separate from the rest of the album, which made me wonder – do you see Perfumed Earth as one continuous piece?

Valentine Nixon: From the outset, we’ve always seen our music as a story, so every release we’ve made has been a whole body of work. Singles have been like disembodied limbs to it because we’re so used to thinking of it as a whole.

Do you seem this record as being in continuum with your previous album Eternal Delight?

We recorded the albums in the same place, in the wilderness in the Coromandel. I think with the first album we’d just moved there and there was a bit of a culture shock going on, moving here from Hong Kong and we were interpreting that kind of environment through the music. This time we were doing a similar thing, we were really influenced by our environment, but I think this time we've become a lot more at peace with it and I think that came through quite strongly. There's more of a tranquilness.

Was the entire album recorded in the Coromandel? What’s your lifestyle been like in the Coromandel over the past three years?

Most of the record was recorded there, we did live drums this time. Jimmy Mac plays live drums, before that we just did drum machine. We didn't record that ourselves because that would be awkward, so we recorded them at a studio in Auckland.

It's an isolated spot... we’ve just been totally off the grid... it was a three year gap between albums, but I didn't even realise that before it was mentioned, because it just felt very natural to be doing things in nature.

I really love the foregrounding of your incredible vocals over some quite soundscapey passages on the album, as well as there being some really catchy songs on there. I'm quite interested in the collaborative process between yourself and Clementine and how the songs took shape. Do you each come in with specific ideas in mind? How do things happen?

Usually one of us will have an idea. For me, it’s usually a melody and for Clem it's usually a texture and we’ll marry those together early on and build from there. When you were talking about soundscapey stuff, Clem will build that up and then I’ll bring in a vocal, usually, but it can also be the other way around. There’s not really a formula in terms of how we write.

When do words get introduced?

They almost have a life of their own, they usually come in the latter part, I would say.

How did all of those various contributors come to be involved with the record?

We collaborated with Roy Montgomery last year on his album Suffuse and it was just a really natural and pleasant experience. Before that we’d been pretty insular for the most part. We had done some stuff with with Gary War before, but for the most part, the two of us are quite secretive I guess. Working with Roy opened us up to the idea, but it's kind of fun to work with other people too. All of the people who play on it are really masterful in what they're doing, so it's nice to have them help create the vision that we have in our heads... they're all friends and it was very organic.

Speaking of collaborations, there was the incredible painting of yourselves by artist Liz Maw revealed last week. Was that always planned to be exhibited at the same time as your album launch, or was that just an amazing coincidence?

That was purely coincidental and very well timed, but not planned.

I remember after you had put out Eternal Delight, I asked if Purple Pilgrims were going on tour and you were like “oh no, we’re just going to get working on the next album straight away”, and now it's out. I know that you’ll be playing around New Zealand. Will you be travelling overseas as well?

We will be, we’re touring with John Maus in Australia as well this month, and we’re doing Supersense festival in Melbourne... we're going to head over to The States and then Europe as well, so a busy time ahead.

Will you be travelling back to Hong Kong anytime soon? It's a politically intense time over there at the moment.

It's such a crazy time, it’s quite bizarre checking up on friends who are so heavily involved in this crazy time. Hong Kong’s always home to us, after the Christchurch earthquakes that was our last place that felt normal, now it doesn't feel that normal. I do hope we’ll get back there soon.

'Perfumed Earth' is out now via Flying Nun Records.


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The Others Way
Fri 30th Aug
Various K Road Venues , Auckland