Jul 26, 2012 2:42PM

Interview: Purity Ring

Singer Megan on debut album 'Shrines', self-made music machines, and how much she loves Usher.

A year-and-a-half ago, Canadian dream pop/electronic duo Purity Ring became famous on the internet with 'Ungirthed', a smoldering mix of undulating synths and transcendental vocals. Since then the duo, made-up of Corin Roddick and Megan James, have released three other enigmatic tracks online, generating a buzz that made their debut Shrines (which came out on July 20) one of the most anticipated albums of the year. We caught up with singer Megan.

Dijana Kumurdian: You guys are on tour now. How's that going?
Megan James: It's a small tour. We just played our first show last night which was the album launch show, which was kind of a big deal. That was pretty exciting.

Who did you play the show with?
A friend who lives in New York who we know from back home, Headaches. He opened for us and we're doing a North American tour in the fall and he's going to open for that as well. We really like him.

You recently released the video for 'Fineshrine'. Did you guys come up with the concept?
We had been speaking with the director for quite a long time, and about other videos too, and we know a lot of his work so we basically just sent him the song and waited to see what he came up with. The concept was basically his idea, which I think is good for videos so that they're not the band's interpretation of the song. I like it better when it's a little bit more vague.

I was looking at some videos of you guys playing live where Corin has this light-up-MIDI-machine thing. What is that exactly?
He built it, so it's pretty difficult to explain what it is, but how it works is there are these eight lanterns and they have a sensor in them so that when he hits them it triggers the melody of the song, and also at the same time it'll trigger a light, so it's sort of a light show. It's sort of like playing a keyboard... His musical instrument of choice is the drums, so he built this thing so he could play something that he would be more accustomed to. He's really comfortable playing it. He hits it with sticks — it's percussive.

You guys obviously want to put on a really good live show. If you could do any kind of stage stunt, what would it be? I'm talking about Flaming Lips-level stuff.
Oh gosh. I think you'd have to be a certain type of person to do Flaming Lips-style things — only Wayne Coyne could do those things! We're pretty content with staying within our means... I don't know if we'd ever do anything ridiculous, but I'll be excited if it does happen.

This is your first album, but you've already played Pitchfork festival with Dirty Projectors and Japandroids. How did it feel, is it crazy?
If you step back and think about it, it definitely is. When we released our first song we didn't expect to be doing this at all. We expected to have a normal sort of progression, but everything since the first release has happened crazily fast. It's really exciting and we're so happy to be where we are, but it's also unbelievable.

You cite hip hop as one of your influences. What are you into right now?
I don't listen to nearly much hip hop as Corin does, or any at all really, but I think you can hear the influence in the tracks. Is Usher hip hop or R&B? I'm going to change your question to R&B and answer with Usher's 'Climax'.

Your lyricism has been a talking point among people who have listened to the album. I find it interesting because it's ethereal but at the same time violent and sometimes grotesque. Are you a fantasy nerd?
I'm not really sure where it comes from, I just feel like it's like an envelope of myself or something. I do like fantastical sort of stories. I find wonderful little stories fascinating — things you hear and are enthralled by. You know when a relative tells you something really interesting about your grandma who's dead, and it's something that sort of moves you and gets you thinking about yourself and these things around you that don't exist anymore? I'm more into things like that.

What would be your dream support gig?
Radiohead, Björk or my boyfriend's band.

Would you rather be blind or deaf?
I've been told lately that I might become deaf because I've been going to shows so much of the time and everything's so loud, but I think I'd rather go deaf. You can't really beat colours. There are a lot of really beautiful sounds too, though.

That's surprising coming from a musician.
I guess I sing, but I would rather be deaf. I'd still be able to write if I were deaf. There's that DJ or producer who has gone deaf but he still writes incredible music and bases it off all the vibrations he feels... Beethoven did that too!

If you could hear only one song again for the rest of your life, what would it be?
'Climax'. Man, that song is good. So good. I'm going to say that one again.

Dijana Kumurdian

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