The Top 50 Albums Of 2012: #15 Purity Ring
Purity Ring ‘Shrines’ was listed at #15 in The Fly’s Top 50 Albums of 2012. Read the list here.
“Actually, I never think of our music in terms of a sound or genre,” says Megan James, Purity Ring’s singer. “I think of it in terms of the special way that me and Corin Roddick work together, because that’s really what makes the album sound the way it does.”
And if we pushed Megan’s bandmate, how would Corin describe their music? “If you pushed me, I would say… no.”
Thankfully, when buzz words from hapless music reviewers are chucked at them, Megan and Corin get less reticent. “I really don’t think our music is ‘otherworldly’,” says Corin, who creates the electro tracks that Megan sings over. “But it’s even weirder when we hear the word ‘ethereal’. Because ‘ethereal’ makes me think of Enya.”
Megan and Corin met several years ago, when they were both faces on the scene in Edmonton, Canada. At first though, the earth failed to move. “Megan and I knew each other for quite a while before deciding to make music together,” Corin recalls. “We just knocked about together for a couple of years, until we really found that we had something to work on.”
However, by the time this creative spark ignited, they were no longer living in the same same city. Corin had moved to Montreal, while Megan had set up home in Halifax, around 1300km away. So they decided to work on tracks via email, an approach that’s becoming more common now that everyone has Skype and Wi-Fi.
Still, the Purity Ring creative process sounds pretty unique. Megan and Corin’s individual contributions are quite self contained and the whole process is hassle-free. Corin will send a track to Megan, she’ll return it with a demo vocal, and then… that’s it until next time they meet in person. Once together, they’ll add to the track “pretty quickly”, before Megan disappears again and leaves Corin to tweak everything until it’s complete.
“People think it must be really difficult to write like this, but the first time we tried it, it just felt so easy,” says Megan. “So every song we’ve written since, we’ve done it the same way.” Almost unbelievably, the duo say they never disagree on anything to do with their music. “I think Megan’s natural spontaneity combined with my attention to detail is what makes it work so well. It balances out perfectly,” says Corin.
It’s safe to presume, though, that Corin has a pretty strong stomach. He hears Megan’s lyrics over and over while he perfects a track – and these lyrics often deal with things like skinning and dismembering. “Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you,” she sings on a song called ‘Fineshrine’. Where does this stuff come from?
“I have no idea!” laughs Megan, sounding pleasant, well-adjusted, and not remotely like a masochist. “It’s somewhere inside of me, but I think a lot of people have this stuff inside of them. For me though, it feels really important to make something out of it.” Megan admits she’s sometimes surprised by the words she writes, but says other lines are easier to explain.
“It’s totally irrational, but a great fear of mine is being skinned. I feel like that’s the worst thing that could happen to somebody. So yeah, sometimes I think the things that I write are just my way of dealing with these fears. And maybe they help me become more comfortable with them.”
On the album, Megan’s lyrics unravel slowly, with repeat listens. By the time they catch your ear, the music already has you unsettled. Some people are calling it Nightmare Pop, but Purity Ring aren’t that gothic. Their songs don’t sound like nightmares; they sound like that precarious moment when a good dream feels like it could turn bad. “I do like that description,” says Corin. “But how are you going to turn it into a snappy genre title?” Well, quite.
Because of where they come from, and their music’s basic ingredients, Purity Ring can never dodge comparisons to one particular artist. “People always ask us if there’s some kind of Grimes connection,” sighs Corin. “And I can see why they might think that: we’re both Canadian, we both have electronic production, and we both have quite unusual female vocals. But other than that, I don’t think there are many comparisons to be made.”
It’s left to Megan to settle the issue. “I would say that you could compare Grimes to Enya, but us? Never.”