Sep. 05, 2012 - Issue #881: Sex 2012
To those that wait
Unexpected success built Purity Ring's Shrines
'I waited to listen to it," Megan James says. "Corin [Roddick] sent it to me and then a month later I listened to it. I think I listened to it once, and then I was like, 'I can't do this right now, this isn't something that felt right focusing on, at the time.' So I decided to wait."
When James finally listened to the instrumental she'd been sent—which, with her added vocals, is now called "Ungirthed" and unexpectedly went nova to launch James and Roddick's Purity Ring experiment/band into the stratosphere upon its release—she was driving alone at night.
"It was a really beautiful atmosphere to be in, and it sort of clicked for me. I had, in my head, a piece I was working on for the piano, and I tried it overtop of 'Ungirthed' instead, and felt like it worked really well," she explains. "And when I got home for Christmas, we recorded it. And then the whole Internet thing happened, and then we really were."
That "Internet thing" was a blast of overnight limelight, with "Ungirthed" pulling accolades on tastemaker website Pitchfork and earning the band—with then just a pair of recorded songs to its name—a profile in GQ. In that, Purity Ring seems like a Higgs Boson particle of a band: countless similar experiments by collaborators have collided well enough, yet it's out of this one that something special finally emerged. Purity Ring's music lets big swells of synth and what feels like hip-hop beats layer underneath James' ethereal vocals. It's electronic music that, without sacfiricing any digital precision or emphasis on rhythm, reveals a very human heartbeat as it goes.
Though they met while in the Edmonton music scene, Roddick and James didn't start making music together until there was significant distance between them: James now lives in Halifax while Roddick resides in Montréal. Neither has plans to move to the other's city, either: given that Purity Ring began as a distance project, James notes that the back and forth process of writing is a method that suits both of them.
"We both appreciate working independently, much more than I think we would if we were trying to write songs together," James says. "Because neither of us really know a lot about what the other is doing or feel comfortable with what the other is doing. So it's good that we do it separate from each other, I think.
"I don't want to leave Halifax, and he doesn't want to leave Montréal. So it's not really something we talk about making it easier. It's working pretty well [like] this."
Shrines, the band's full-length, stretches that early DNA out, defining its parameters and fully showing that one-off sound has some endurance from its experimental beginnings. And after so much buzz about just a couple of songs, that the full-length's been well received is certainly a relieving prospect, especially given the tentative nature of its origins.
"It was really like an experiment: let's try this out, let's see what we make," she says. "We didn't even talk about like, 'If something happened we would do this.' The results from the first song just led us to react in a way, say 'OK, we're a band in a way, let's write more music, keep this going because it's possible and it's something we both want.'"
Mon, Sep 10 (7 pm)
with Evian Christ and Headaches
Starlite Room, $14
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