Bright Star: Purity Ring

Purity Ring’s Megan James talks the importance of live visuals and the dreaded sophomore slump

The year 2012 saw the dark and glittering debut for indie electro pop duo Purity Ring. Comprised of singer Megan James and producer Corin Roddick, the band's debut hooked in listeners in, with some referring to the sound as "lullabies for the club." Three years later, James and Roddick released a second album, and, while fans and critics are often quick to rib follow-up releases for being more produced, James says that's not really the case here. The differences you're hearing now—amounting to a faster-paced, brighter and cleaner sound—are an evolution. It is future pop, after all.

How's tour been?

Well, I'm at home right now actually. Tour has been good though.

What do you like to do between shows in new cities?

I always hope that there's going to be downtime but then there never is. I usually spend a lot of time looking for good food and coffee or getting something that I forgot. There's always something to do... Also a lot of interviews happen while on tour. I still bring a sewing machine and I sew.

Do you have anything planned for when you're in Tucson? We have a lot of good vintage shopping down here.

Actually I was planning exactly for that because last time I was in Tucson that is what I did and there were some really good places. I think I bought a couple crinolines and I still have them.

With touring being so demanding and you singing in such a beautiful high register. How do you avoid vocal burn out during an intense touring schedule?

It's about learning your own limitations, like, for instance, how much cheese I can eat. It does make a difference, and smoking, of course, makes a huge difference, so no single pleasure cigarettes. Also...if I spend half an hour warming up at least, there's a 100 percent chance that I'll have a good show.

You guys used to perform with those cool illuminated alien-esque pods—what do you have in store visually for this tour?

We have the same setup as we did with the last U.S. tour we did but we amplified it with some minor additions... It's the same sort of effect in that it's a visually interactive show and it's hopefully diverse enough in itself that it will keep people around.

Why do you think is important to bring a strong visual element to your show?

Mostly because Corin and I are so particular about the shows we go to and I usually only last like 20 minutes. So one aim is to maintain people's attention... There's this sea of tiny lights and each one is a pixel, but it's like a block of them—it's very three dimensional...It's really hard to explain and make it sound like what it is.

You just have to see it to believe it.

Yeah, exactly.

You recorded Shrines apart from your bandmate, but for Another Eternity, you recorded together. How did that change the final product for you?

It's hard to say specifically, but I think just the dynamic in the writing process changed the way we worked together. I don't think we would go back to the way we wrote on Shrines, it was just something we had to do since we physically couldn't put ourselves in the same place. We weren't really taking it as seriously then. It was more like "let's try making music together and see what happens."

With the advent of modern music recording technology being more accessible, a lot of bands will self-record their first album in a more lo-fi setting and then for the second album they'll have more money and more production. People are quick to criticize that. Have you felt any of those sophomore album drawbacks?

That's an interesting way of putting it, actually, because most people are like "how do you feel that people think you made a pop record?" which I have resistance to because that's what we've always done. But this record was produced or recorded with not that much more gear or technology than Shrines was, but the way it sounds and is produced is sort of a natural progression of us wanting to do something different and challenge ourselves.

People have said Another Eternity is poppier or more R&B. How do you think your sound has developed?

I think the writing is different. The songs are more structured in a songwriter way... I'm aware that it sounds cleaner than Shrines did, but part of that is just because we didn't want to make the same record twice... We traveled further within our own bounds.

It seems like the lyrics on the first record were a little darker. "Crawlersout" is kinda creepy and "Fineshrine" gets a little gory. It doesn't seem like those elements made it to the second record. Do you think there was a mental shift?

Definitely, I mean I was just going through different shit...Also, the lyrics are just more audible on this record, so that was just my own way of being figurative and vague. It's now about writing songs where every element of the song is beneficial to another part rather than just being a total stream of consciousness.

You've had some pretty famous people give this record acclaim. They were excited for it. Do you think your band is changing the scope of pop music?

Whoa, that's a really hard question. It's fascinating to think of it that way... but I also can't think of our music that way. I feel like it would affect the forms that I'm creative in or why I am creative.

How so?

I'm careful with my creative process and I'm constantly trying to keep myself inspired with beautiful books and places and thoughts. Thinking about the music industry and what differences I make or don't make ... are sort of detrimental to my creative process...It's just a historical speculative thing ... I don't know...I can't let it get through when I'm writing cause it just gets too dark.

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