More about: Purity Ring
It's arguably easier to describe what Purity Ring don't sound like, rather than what you can expect to hear on the band's second album Another Eternity.
Vocalist Megan James and producer Corin Roddick certainly have strong feelings on the matter. Sitting in the laptop-laden lobby of Shoreditch's Ace Hotel in London, the charismatic Canadian pair feel that writers and reviewers don't do justice to the music that they create. "I hate being called anything, any genre. It's really annoying" says Corin with feeling. Megan chips in with some of her own terminology frustrations. "Anything 'house'! 'Haunted house'! 'Witch house'! Absolutely not. I hate 'synth pop' - I hate that term! Or 'electronica'. There are so many bad ones."
Eventually the pair settle on a description they will grudgingly accept. "'Future pop' is ok because it's just bullshit and doesn't mean anything" says Corin. "It just means 'forward thinking pop music' which can really be anything depending on the current landscape I guess. It's always relevant and the future is the future - so you never get there."
Listen to 'Push Pull' by Purity Ring below
Thankfully listening to the album itself is far less of a minefield than attempting to work out how to describe it. Another Eternity is a striking work of real beauty, that takes the template Corin and Megan established with their 2012 debut LP Shrines and pushes it so many steps further. Put it this way: their UK shows in April should be absolutely captivating. To mark the release of Another Eternity, the pair discuss terrifying tour stories, admiring Taylor Swift and what happened when the star of Drive happened to turn up at a random US festival.
Gigwise: Describe your worst experience on tour as Purity Ring?
Megan: It wasn't a bad show but we played in Buffalo in a club and there's maybe 20-30 people there as we only had two songs out. We had nowhere to stay after. So we asked the promoter's friend and he was really hesitant, before saying "Yeah, I have a place for you to stay." He took us to his house and we slept in the attic. It was old shitty carpet and there was an old bar up there - it was really weird. But outside the window were a thousand spiders. Right over our heads when we were asleep, I'd never seen so many spiders. It was like the city was infested with them: they were all over the street lamps and everywhere. That was terrifying.
Corin: It was so hard to sleep. Once you see all the spiders and spider webs you think: there's no way there isn't one on me right now.
Megan: I wonder how many we ate that night. That was terrifying.
Corin: We probably got out protein.
Did you have other tough shows in bands you were in before?
Corin: Oh God, there have been a lot. It's never happened with Purity Ring but other bands I've played with in the past. We'd go on little self-booked tours playing house shows or tiny clubs. On that level, all the promoters are very sketchy. So I can definitely remember a few instances when you show up and the promoter says "Oh...I totally forgot about the show. Sorry man! I guess you can just play anyway - it's just me and the bartender."
There have been tours pre Purity Ring where I'd be expecting to play to no-one every night. If anyone there it was like 'Oh wow this is great! Five people: this is crazy!" Expectation is just the bare minimum... so anything above that is just incredible.
Corin as a teenager you apparently used to go to punk shows where you'd see five punk bands a night....
Corin: Definitely. This would have been 2006 when I was 16. Those shows were just about getting as involved as you possibly could. I think a big part of the appeal is just how quick everything is: song/song/song and then a new band really quick. Everyone's moshing and there's a constant stream of engaging activity. And just having that immediacy is something that' I've always carried with me.
Megan: You were at The Locust show at Edmonton right? I was outside the mosh pit, about three people back. And someone who was moshing reached through the people and kicked me in the stomach, winding me. It seemed deliberate. It was odd. At that time in Edmonton, hardcore shows were not vicious by any means - there have been phases where people were really rough - but it wasn't at that time. But someone went for it.
Corin: You're supposed to take care of each other in a mosh pit.
Can you tell me about a time you were starstruck?
Megan: The only time I actually remember being starstruck was at Fun Fun Fun fest in Austin. Terrence Malick was filming this movie which I don't think came out. It was about the music scene and the main character was a promoter so they were filming at the festival. Ryan Gosling was in this movie and he was in the artist's tent eating. There were maybe 40 people in this tent and as soon as he walked in everyone's heads turned.
I couldn't stop staring at him. I was like, "Oh my god I'm starstruck right now! I can't move." The thing is I don't really care that much about The Notebook.... but I like Ryan Gosling. So I was surprised at myself. I just stared - he was having hot dogs and tater tots. He had a white t-shirt - so his muscles showed. And he knew it, y'know? He was just sitting there, smiling, running his hands through his hair.
Corin: I guess one of the first times I went to LA I randomly passed Wayne Gretsky, just walking by. It was really weird as being from Edmonton there's a statute of him in the city and there's a highway named after him. It's kinda a big deal. But I definitely didn't approach him, didn't even consider it.
Megan you design your own clothes. Who is inspiring you fashion-wise at the moment?
Megan: I really like Issey Miyake and Commes Des Garcons. Vivenne Westwood's rad - I definitely admire her aesthetic and presence in the world for sure. Valentino had a really good spring/summer 2015. I was in the ACNE store recently and there was some really nice jackets. But mostly I try and make things that I want but they they are either too expensive or they don't exist. More the latter.
What was the biggest thing you learned from touring with ASAP Ferg?
Corin: We shared a bus for two dates. He was contantly giving words of wisdom. Non-stop.
Megan: He talks a lot about he was a fashion designer before he was a rapper. He said 'I'm going to make you a shirt that's just a silhouette of your hair. You should really go with the hair thing. I really like the hair thing!" I still have that hairdo going on maybe partly because of him. He and I had a lot in common in jewellery taste. He has this really nice ring that's gold and is like a pile of bees.
Corin: I found we had a lot in common with him about how we eat on tour. He's really into being really healthy on tour. People are putting out shitty snacks all the time and it's easy to eat them all and not feel good about yourself. We talked decently about the importance of eating salad on tour and bringing blenders and making smoothies.
Gigwise: What are the best and worst things you've eaten on this tour?
Megan: We went to Le Floreal in Paris that was a really good. I had salmon and quinoa salad. Desert was amazing - roasted figs covered in warm chocolate.
Corin: I had a vegggie burger which sounds boring but it was one of the best ones I've ever had. Most veggie burgers are just a smushy patty of tasteless tofu bits and corn usually: there's not a lot of thought put into it. But a great veggie burger is actually well seasoned vegetables to create the patty. A lot of flavour, in a great bun - and sauce is important. It's really easy to make a terrible one or one that's just run of the mill. A standout one is pretty special.
Who do you think is a dance act who really impresses live?
Corin: Regardless of genre I can get bored very quickly at any kind of show.
Megan: It's a tough question. There aren't very many and I don't even know if we're there. We're just attempting to make an environment that's enticing enough to stay in for up to an hour. And that's really hard. And I think that's what we're attempting to do in the writing of the music itself. We want to keep someone in it for more than a minute. But I heard great things about The Knife show - I hestitate to say because I don't mean to be relative to the comparisons we've had to the Knife in the early days.
Corin: No one seems to compare us any more but it was weird.
So what shows did impress you?
Megan: Cirque Du Soleil. I've only seen them in Vegas. I've seen the Michael Jackson one - I cried. He had already died and I realised while watching this Michael Jackson impersonator on the stage that I would never see [Michael Jackson] because I never knew how important that would have been. That was emotional for me. People cry about Michael Jackson all the time: it's nothing new but I never thought I would.
Corin: From the Kanye show I learned that pyrotechnics are amazing. Maybe people think they are cheesy but at the point of the show where there were crazy fireballs everywhere I was like 'Holy...shit. This has all of my attention." It was maybe during 'Blood On The Leaves' so it really was a high point in the show. Mostly I just learned about his attention to detail in creating like a full story, a full arc across a show instead of just like a singular vibe. It's like going to the opera.
Is there someone separately you'd love to see live?
Corin: I'd love to see Taylor Swift. She just has so many hits I think the show would just be continuous joy. And I would also just like to see what her fans are like too. I imagine her fanbase are probably more obssesive than anyone and I would love to just be a part of that and be in the middle of it saying "This is crazy." Off the new record I like 'Out Of The Woods' - the chorus sounds like Savage Garden which is really tight.
Megan: She's a genius. So on top of her game.
You both DJ. Have you ever played a song that cleared a dancefloor?
Corin: The first time I ever DJed which really made me almost not want to Dj ever again. Three years ago I think it was in Chicago at an afterparty thing. I was kinda nervous because it was maybe my first or second time DJing. I had some new track that I was making that I threw in the mix: it was something I was working on that I thought was kinda weird. I mixed it into some of the things I was playing and these girls that were in front of me just stopped dancing and looked at me. They were like "We're on molly. Can you play something good?" It shook me up a little bit.
What do you read about Purity Ring that really irritates you?
Corin: Things we can't stand? I've seen once or twice when people have written things like "They've decided to make a pop album. This is their big 'coming out of their shell moment." But I'm like: no! That's not it. We've always been making pop music.
Megan: I saw on Twitter this guy who works for CBCRadio 3 in Canada who was actually the first interview I ever did - when we put 'Ungirth' out. But I find him totally obnoxious: he tweeted this thing recently saying Canadian bands "selling out for a more mainstream pop sound" and then posted all these bands and we were one of them.
Corin: That's one of the most cringeworthy things I've ever seen. It makes me throw up in my mouth.
Megan: What's interesting is there was a bunch of replies that called them out on it and he totally backed down. I worry about that because we've always made pop music.
Corin: Most people see that we've always been making some form of pop music and that Another Eternity is just an evolution. Maybe people who haven't really listened to our old stuff and then they hear our new album and say "Woah: I didn't think this was going to be a pop album: what happened to this band?"
Megan: It's like "Do you know what pop is? It's the biggest thing you can find."
What's your advice on surviving South By Southwest?
Megan: Don't go. We've been once as a band. You just have to be prepared mentally and physically to be frustrated and annoyed all week. And you need a place to stay as you will not find one. It's literally the most gong show event you can get - and it gets worse every year.
Corin: I've been a few times. If you're going as someone who just wants to go to a festival or something, don't expect to see any music. If you're going there to see music, that is unlikely. You can't get into anything! That being say Southby was really good to us and it serves a purpose. When we played it helped us make things happen that were necessary at the time as a young man. If you have a label or a manager, it's unnecessary and you're taking the space of young bands who go there to actually display themselves.
What's been your strangest fan experience?
Megan: Before Purity Ring I had this solo project where I played the piano and sang. And it had a name. But I didn't ever release anything. But somehow this guy found these songs... He came to our show in Seattle and opened us his shirt and he had this image of the name that was a weird made up animal thing he'd painted on his shirt. He was like "Megan! Look!" I was dumbstruck. And I was embarassed. Then I was like flattered and said "Where did you get that? I want one!" He mailed me this shirt he painted with a feather. He's really sweet though. He always comes to our shows and always brings food. He makes pie. He communicates - he's not creepy. But he knew too much about me and I didn't know what to do!
Corin: He's a sweetheart.
Megan: And then there's the really weird stuff: like the hockey guy from Austin who sent an email with his picture and he was asking for a date. He was in his hockey uniform. He was like "I'm this old, my name is this and I'm interested in these things". Basically an ad for tinder. That was one that got through [management]. It was so unbelievable that they just said like "Megan you've got to see this!" It had the blue background like painted brush strokes. It was like a school photo - but he was like 36 or something.
Purity Ring Another Eternity is out now (4AD). For tickets for their UK tour see below.
More about: Purity Ring