Interview: Purity Ring

As the cloud of mystery fades, Rebekah Rennick chats to the elusive Purity Ring about tree-shaped instruments and where that name really came fromWhen introducing yourself to one half of the most exciting, new electronic music duos today, it’s never a good omen to be welcomed with a deafening silence on the other end of the phone. Luckily it was a telephone’s mute button and not the personal introduction that was the problem.

This time speaking to Purity Ring’s Corin Roddick is as easy going as the music he and his fellow band member, Megan James, create. Originally from Montreal, this Canadian duo are currently riding the tidal wave of innovative, animated and youthful artists crashing into today’s music scene.

Beginning his musical career in the band Gobble Gobble, Roddick began to experiment more and more with his own ideas whilst touring with the band: “I continued to play with the band for about three years, and then through that time I started to write some of my own music on the side. Eventually when some of that started to take form I got in touch with Megan and asked whether she’d be interested in singing over it.”

And thus Purity Ring was formed. Despite his reluctance to elaborate on the band’s interesting name (supposedly chastity doesn’t actually have relevance), from a young age, Roddick was always aware of his musical interest, and upon branching out from the band unit of Gobble Gobble was more than happy “to be involved in a new project where it felt I was really one of the main writing forces behind it.”

Along with such musicians as Grimes and Nicholas Jaar, Purity Ring are falling into a new category of music, under the guise of ‘witch house’ and ‘dream pop’. Without much explanation of those somewhat foreign ‘genres’, it only takes one listen to their debut album Shrines before you realise these are the perfect descriptions for their music.

Purity Ring struggle when it comes to defining their genre themselves. “We make some kind of pop music. It’s like when people hear something that’s unfamiliar to them, they automatically have to try and tear out what it is. I think that’s kind of unnecessary, just let it be what it is. I try to avoid that kind of thing and just make and listen to the music that I like.”From their sound to their live performance, Purity Ring exhibit an aura of mystery about them. They’re very much something new, and this veil is exactly what makes the pair so appealing. With both audio and visual features of the band working together, it’s no doubt that their live shows are not your usual drum and vocal coupling, most notably in the custom-built, tree-shaped device Roddick bangs at during their set.

He explains: “The idea was that we wanted a way to perform the main parts of the songs, like the main melodies and stuff like that. And I’m very much a drummer, and not a keyboard player, so I’m just more comfortable being on stage and hitting things. The idea was to create an instrument I could play percussively and also have it be a strong visual so the crowd could connect and watch and understand what is going on.”

The most refreshing thing about Purity Ring is not only their youthfulness, but the depth of emotion and general swag oozing from their debut. From the haunting lyrical flutters of James’s vocals on opener ‘Crawlersout’ to Roddick’s instrumental cushioning enveloping you all the way to closing track ‘Shuck’, one would wondered whether they anticipated the abundance of praise coming their way from NME to Pitchfork.

“You can’t really expect that sort of thing because I think if you are expecting it, that’s a bad place to be. I think you just have to be content with it yourself and then once you’re content with it, and believe it’s really something you wanted to do, it doesn’t really matter what critics think or anything. But obviously good reviews are very welcome!”

However, has anything changed since signing up with newly resurrected label 4AD? Has the pen-to-paper deal altered the autonomous musical license they had for this album? “We’re still very much in control. They’re an incredible label because they have a lot of people working for them, and know exactly what they’re doing but they very much let us be ourselves and anything we want to do or don’t want to do, they won’t stop us.”

Possessing a sound that resembles only a small minority of artists before them, it’s difficult to know what type of music influenced James and Roddick growing up. “I definitely went through numerous phases, of course I had a classic rock phase,” he admits with a hint of regret in his voice. “But once I got to the age of about 13/14, I got really into Radiohead and Bjork, Sigur Ros. They’re still my favourite artists, and love everything they’ve done but I’m kind of more interested in pop music now, that’s what influenced the record more, just how to make everything sound more immediate and ear catching.” And without any hesitance, Roddick assures me Jay-Z would be his dream collaborator, as if that was the obvious choice.

With six months of touring pencilled in and an album more like a collage of euphoric beats, Purity Ring are on track to becoming a steadfast competitor in the irrefutable race of musical integrity. With a bid farewell to Roddick, with no other telephone mishaps disturbing our chat, it’s very difficult not to believe that statement.Purity Rings album ‘Shrines’ is out now, they play The Button Factory on November 29th.