Purity Ring’s Search for Sparkle

Published July 24, 2012

ABOVE: PURITY RING. PHOTO COURTESY OF LANDON SPEERS.

Much to their delight of their growing fan base, Canadian duo Purity Ring, comprising vocalist Megan James and beat-maker Corin Roddick, release their debut album, Shrines, today. James and Roddick are bringing back 90s future-pop and making it their own, creating a layered world of dreamy vocals and sci-fi beats. Interview recently spoked with the duo about working in different cities, performing live, the band name, and the future of Purity Ring.

AVA LONERGAN: Hey guys. So, you’re right in the middle of your tour promoting Shrines. How’s that been going?

MEGAN JAMES: Pretty good. We’re both really excited.

LONERGAN: And you guys were touring with Neon Indian earlier in the year?

MEGAN JAMES: We did a short tour with them, just to South By Southwest and back. It was like a long time ago, but um… yeah. They’ve been on like a super tour. They’ve been on tour for like, a year or something. Or were going to be.

LONERGAN: And have you opened for Dirty Projectors yet, or is that coming up?

JAMES: That’s tomorrow.

LONERGAN: Are you excited for that?

JAMES: Yeah. I think they’ll all be really good shows. They’re playing really good venues.

LONERGAN: I’ve read your music described as “haunted house” music. Do you think this is a good description?

JAMES: Uhh… haunted house music!

CORIN RODDICK: I disagree.

JAMES: Um, sort of. In some ways that’s a good description, but I think there are better ways to describe it.

RODDICK: I think that describes a very narrow part of our music. But not all of it.

JAMES: Yeah, it’s like some parts of it are sort of creepy and haunted-seeming but it’s also really like, bright and cheerful at times.

LONERGAN: For both of you, what influences your style—Megan, your style of singing, and Corin, your beats and production. Who are some of your favorite musicians or artists?

JAMES: I don’t really focus a lot on other musicians or artists when I’m writing parts for a song. I think Corin does likewise. We aren’t really thinking about or trying in great effort to make something that other people make. It’s more focused on making things that we think are really appealing. Like our focus is more on doing things that maintain attention.

RODDICK: I listen to a lot of types of music and I take very small moments from anything. There are lots of artists or songs where I don’t really care for the song as a whole but there’s like, one little sparkly moment in there that I obsess over and then that’ll influence me and then there’ll be a combination of tons of those things from all different genres, all different types. I just listen for the moments that  kind of…sometimes when you hear something, it just makes you kind of like go, “Yeah!” You know? It’s just the kind of moment where you’re like, that one thing is the best thing I’ve ever heard!

JAMES: That’s what I mean, that’s what we’re trying to create. For ourselves and for other people to feel when they’re listening to it.

RODDICK: When I’m writing music, I try to make myself feel that way. Make it feel like I’m creating those exciting moments.

LONERGAN:I can definitely pick that up in your music. I think you’ve got it down. And are you guys living in different cities and working in different cities?

JAMES: Yeah. Corin lives here in Montreal and I live in Halifax on the east coast.

LONERGAN: So what’s it like working separately in different cities, and how does it affect the music? How do you put it together?

JAMES: The entire time Purity Ring has existed, we’ve lived in different cities. We knew each other from before. We both grew up in the same place, but Corin started writing these tracks after he moved and sent them to me when I was living in Halifax at the time. So it’s always been an independent writing process and it will be for time to come.

RODDICK: Yeah, our roles in the band are very separate. Megan doesn’t have anything to do with the production or beats and I don’t have anything to do with the lyrics or vocals, so we can really come up with those parts independently and then we just have to get together for a short period of time and hash out a few details.

JAMES: Usually they work pretty cohesively in the first place, like there’s not that much to change, but yeah, it’s not unusual for us to do it that way.

RODDICK: That’s the only way we’ve ever worked, so it just feels normal to us.

LONERGAN: So how does that affect you when you’re playing live? Is your live music any different—does it have a different feel from the recorded music?

RODDICK: No, I’d say it sounds like it’s the same songs, it sounds very similar. It’s a little more playful. Megan and I add elements and change things just to make it more interesting to listen to if you’re already familiar with the songs. In general, the songs are very recognizable to the recordings. It’s the same sound.

JAMES: We’ve paid a lot of attention to translating our recorded sounds and the way we feel when we’re practicing and recording into our live performance. We’ve done things with lighting and the way we perform with our instruments, and the small things we do like that. And the overall appearance of it, we make it so it’s very comfortable to us. So it’s easier in that sense. Also, I think that contributes to why it’s an unusual thing to see, because we have a weird light set-up and things most bands don’t do—because it’s not typical instruments, it’s like home-made things and stuff like that.

LONERGAN:I have a question about the name of the band, Purity Ring. Where did that come from?

RODDICK: I had that name kicking around for a long time; I thought it would be a good band name. I don’t have a lot of feelings attached to those particular words. I thought it would be a good vessel for the sound of the thing that we’re making. Just kind of the way it comes out of your mouth, the way it flows. I think band names are kind of silly in the first place, might as well have one that sounds nice.

JAMES: They’re rarely really good, and if the music is sustainable after a certain amount of time, the name isn’t even noticed.

LONERGAN: Yeah, the name just becomes synonymous with the music itself. And about your song titles—all of the titles on Shrines are one word or two words combined into one word. What’s the reasoning behind that decision?

JAMES: It’s kind of the same as the band name, like there was never an initial decision. The first couple songs just ended up being  made up words and combinations of words and then we were like, oh, that’s kind of a good method, we should do that with all the songs we write. Unless something doesn’t come to mind for it, then that’s pretty much what we do. It’s kind of important in the sense that we’ve created this music and we don’t want to name it according to things that already exist. I really like the idea of adding these other entities that are questionable to it. But yeah, there’s not a reason we do that. I mean, I kind of just described one, but—

RODDICK: [interrupting] Pretty much, I think song names are usually silly, too. So we might as well make our own cool, fun names.

LONERGAN: Yeah, I think it’s interesting. I like it.

JAMES: Yeah, it feels a lot more natural, I think, than trying to name a song, like, common words.

LONERGAN: Yeah, I think the titles go perfectly with the songs themselves.

JAMES: Yeah, that’s the idea.

LONERGAN: Ok, I have two more questions. Where do you see Purity Ring in the next couple of years? What plans do you each have for the future?

JAMES: In the next couple of years, hopefully we will have finished or be working on another album.

RODDICK: Yeah, in two years hopefully we should have another one done.

JAMES:  I’m sure it will be exciting.

RODDICK: Oh, it will be. No question about it. It’ll be the next step from what we’ve already made. It will be different.

JAMES: Yeah, we plan on growing internally. Progressing with our sound. So, it’ll be something different. We don’t know what yet.

RODDICK: We have some personal goals, too. I’d like to start producing a little bit for other artists on the side. Producing tracks for pop artists. And Megan is definitely interested in getting more involved in fashion.

LONERGAN: Oh really?

JAMES: Yeah, I sew a lot of clothes. So I’d love to get into that.

PURITY RING’S DEBUT ALBUM, SHRINES, COMES OUT TODAY, JULY 24TH.