BY M. BRIANNA STALLINGS It’s such a clean, resounding band name, isn’t it? Purity Ring. It has a purity of purpose. And there’s the underlying tongue-in-cheek humor of it; the Canadian duo — self-described as a purveyor of “future pop” — took its name from a cornerstone of our nation’s Christian abstinence-only sex ed movement.
It’s such a clean, resounding band name, isn’t it? Purity Ring. It has a purity of purpose. And there’s the underlying tongue-in-cheek humor of it; the Canadian duo — self-described as a purveyor of “future pop” — took its name from a cornerstone of our nation’s Christian abstinence-only sex ed movement.
There is something inherently pure and clean, even crystalline, about Purity Ring’s sound. As Purity Ring, Corin Roddick’s intricate instrumentals and Megan James’ angelic vocals and dark lyrics elevate electronic music to a transcendent level. It’s a sound they defined on hit 2012 debut “Shrines” and solidified with “Another Eternity,” released in March. Their first record was virtual collaboration, with Roddick in Montreal and James more than 750 miles away in Halifax. “Another Eternity” found the wunderkind twosome together IRL in their hometown of Edmonton, Alberta.
After a sold-out world tour in the spring and stellar TV performances — think “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “Conan” — Purity Ring has reclaimed the road on its fall tour. The duo last played Santa Fe in 2012, and their triumphant nuevomexicano return (and first gig in Albuquerque) is slated for Friday, Sept. 4, at the Historic El Rey Theater (622 Central SW).
ABQ Free Press spoke by phone with Purity Ring’s Megan James about the power of an Edmonton winter, the challenges of translating music into representative videos, and what Burque fans can expect at their live show.
ABQ Free Press: Tell me more about Purity Ring’s latest album “Another Eternity.” What was it like making an album IRL with Corin?
Megan James: I wouldn’t go back. It was so much easier. We actually had the time and space to communicate what we wanted. It was also a more collaborative effort.
Was there a sense of ease because y’all were recording together in your hometown of Edmonton?
That did help, too. It was comfortable. I could just go home after. It was a nice way to have a break. See, when you’re not at home and you’re writing, it’s like this 24-hour thing. I think breaks in the writing process are so vital; otherwise, you can go crazy and start wanting to shoot yourself. (Laughs) So yeah, it was nice to do the record at home.
Do you feel as though growing up in the frozen, industrial landscape of Edmonton influenced your work, or do you think your sound is just informed by the two of you, together? A little of both?
Definitely both. We each came from the hardcore community there. Part of it transformed into a noise community. We were there for years. I’m still fascinated with the community in Edmonton and the things that come out of it. And I think with “Another Eternity,” being there lent a certain crispness to the vocals. I’m very influenced by the weather, and the winter is pretty abrasive there.
With the videos for “push pull” and “Bodyache,” slow, methodical visuals underscore the energy of the music. I know that you, Megan, have a great deal of input on Purity Ring’s video and visual aesthetics. Tell me more about that.
“Bodyache” was more art than video work. And “push pull” was kind of … Actually, I wish there were more [Purity Ring] videos right now. It’s been a slow process. We don’t want to put things out that we aren’t completely on side with. I’d like to have a relationship with a director in a way that’s actually collaborative. With videos, you hire a director; then they come in and shoot what they want with your budget. I do like a lot of our videos, but it’s important for us to maintain our ideas and our process. It’s as important as our live show or our songs.
What informs your live performance aesthetic?
We did a lot of research in terms of what certain kinds of lights can do, what the stage setup would be like, looking at what other people had. What we have right now was originally designed by a company in the UK that has an art installation. It’s made so you could walk into the lights and be surrounded by them. We took that idea and interpreted it in terms of a stage setting, where you don’t go into it, but you see what it looks like from afar, and it makes a different, but just as effective, impression from that perspective. We chose to use that because we could format it around the songs really well based on Corin’s instruments. It’s really just about presenting the songs in such a way that does them justice.
I was really impressed by the style of your recent performance of “Bodyache” on “Conan.” There was a tall, crystal-shaped drum stand that Corin was playing, an array of natural crystals blinking in rhythm as they surrounded you, and a rolling cloud of fog encircling your feet. Can we expect a similar theatricality for the ABQ show?
It won’t be quite the same. There will be a lot of lights and a lot of fog. (Laughs) But no, it won’t be the same as it was on “Conan.” We don’t tour or travel with those crystal lamps, because they’re really heavy. We have a more efficient aesthetic on tour, but hopefully it’ll be as visually interesting for people.
— M. Brianna Stallings writes so you don’t have to.
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