Interview :: Purity Ring
August 6th 2012
Released in 2011, Purity Ring’s killer single ‘Ungirthed’ captured the attention of the music world for its dreamy vocals and pulsing, liquidised production. Less than twelve months later, there’s a debut album, Shrines, already a critical darling for the way it has taken everything that made ‘Ungirthed’ fresh and relevant and woven it cohesively through forty righteous minutes of Canadian electro. The FLOG’s Max Quinn recently caught up with the duo’s vocalist, Megan James, to talk new pants and ‘the sound of 2012’.
Max: Hello! What’s happening today?
Megan: Today I’m in New York City. I bought some new jeans.
Black and blue.
I have a pair of bright green pants.
You should get two pairs. I bought two pairs today.
Did you treat yourself to celebrate the album? How are you feeling right now?
Um! I feel pretty good. It’s a hard question to answer. Yesterday was a great day, and the feedback we’ve been receiving has been just as good today. It’s pretty amazing. Corin’s not with me today, but we’re both very excited.
Do you spend a lot of time apart?
Yeah. I live in Halifax and he lives in Montreal, so we mostly only see each other when we tour and right before so we can practise.
Tell me about how the album has been received so far. From where I’m sitting it looks like there’s been a wave of positivity.
That’s how I’ve been finding it as well. I don’t really think about it that much – I have to step back to see it because there’s so much going on. I’m talking to you in Australia. Just that alone is pretty impressive and surreal.
Did you go into this project with those ambitions? To, for example, speak to someone down the phone in another country about your universally acclaimed album?
We didn’t have any intentions of where it would go. We were just like: ‘Here’s a song. Let’s show our friends!” and from there on in it was crazy. We had to write more songs to see how they went. I think we released two more songs before we got down to doing a record and a live show. It was a slow process. That first one made us realise how much work we had to do and what we could achieve if we did it.
A lot of people within the industry and on the radio and the internet have been tipping you as, like, ‘the sound of 2012’. Have you heard about this?
I’ve read it a few times. It’s a new sensation.
I can’t work out whether hearing that about yourself would be the most flattering or the most intimidating thing ever.
I find it flattering. I don’t think it’s intimidating at all – I’m not afraid of what we’re doing. Or nervous for that matter. I feel really passionate about it so it’s not something I’m afraid of people hearing or attaching themselves to. I think it’s the best thing: it’s really wonderful.
It must feel like the eye of the storm at the moment.
I feel like maybe I’m in the eye of the storm and I don’t know it. There’s probably a lot of work coming, and then it’s going to hit and I’ll be like: ‘ohh-kay.’
At least you’ll have some material for your second album.
That’ll come. I can’t even begin to think about that right now!
Can you tell me, then, about the lyrical material on your debut? I’ve read that some of the songs are inspired by old books and journals and diaries.
It’s more that they’re inspired by current journals and diaries. I think people attach themselves to that mysticism of ‘old’ diaries and that has somehow become a fact somewhere along the way. I’ve been keeping a journal for years, and when Corin sent me the first track, I fell back on using that as the source of the lyrics because that’s what I would do if I was going to be doing any writing in any circumstance, anyway. That’s how it worked best for me. It’s definitely recent journals.
I think your lyrics are quite narrative driven in that sense.
Yeah. I like stories a lot. I use a lot of words and imagery.
And it’s supported so well by what Corin does. His production sort of becomes a part of the story.
There’s kind of a trick to that. He’ll send me a track and I’ll sing over it, and then he’ll rewrite the track. It’s still the same melody, but it will have been reproduced: Corin will change or add some parts, layer the vocals so that they fit in better. I think it fits anyway, but that little editing process that he goes through is the ultimate reason that what we have works so well.
Can you tell me about your live show? You’ve got a North American tour coming up in the fall that I think we’re all hoping will find its way down under.
Well. We’re aiming for sometime next year for Australia. Nothing’s locked in yet but we’re working on it.
For the live show, we found this company who we thought would be able to create a piece of technology that would be able to produce our lights so that they like, react to the music in different ways. There are lights and sounds that are driven by vocals or by song queues that Corin has arranged – it’s basically this cocoon thing that the company invented for us specifically for our tour. There are like 20 of these cocoons and they’re spread out all over the stage and they react to just about everything we do. I can’t help but watching them a little on stage.
Purity Ring – Shrines is out now via 4AD / Remote Control