You might not have thought to look to snow-dusted Canada for the future of pop, but in 2012 it emerged in Purity Ring's crystalline debut. Blending gauzy vocals and haunting lyrics with brawny beats and sinking synths, Shrines nestled into the cozy nook between hip hop and electronic pop. And in seamlessly merging these disparate styles, they ushered in a new definitive sound.
It's no surprise, then, that Megan James and Corin Roddick approached their second album with trepidation. After their unexpected success – which saw them touring the world and topping critics' lists – they saw no way forward but to drastically alter their creative process. The duo, who became friends after each had played in the band Gobble Gobble (at different times), had made Shrines in isolation. Montreal-based Corin emailed beats to Megan in Halifax, who would sing over them and send them back. For Another Eternity, they recorded in the same room in Edmonton, their home town.
When news of their second album broke, reactions that rippled across the internet revealed the broad reach of the band's music. Alice Glass (ex-Crystal Castles), Hayley Williams of Paramore and Vanessa Hudgens all tweeted their excitement about hearing more "lullabies for the club".
When we called Megan, she'd just spent the morning wandering around the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. But that didn't seem to be the only reason she sounded so happy and relaxed. Purity Ring continues to redefine alternative pop music, and is taking pleasure in the process.
Was the change from recording remotely to recording in the same room driven by concept or convenience?
It's hard to write a cohesive piece of work when you're not in the same city! And we didn't have to live in different cities. It was easier to do what we needed to do together and be more like a real band, this time around.
How did that affect the songwriting process?
We had to learn how to work together in a way we never had before – before we had just toured together. Everything [on this new album] had so much more thought put into it than anything I'd ever done. I learned a lot about myself and how we are a band, instead of just these separate entities that hang out together. It's definitely vastly different than it was before.
It certainly sounds that way. My first impressions of the new album are that it's poppier and it has more overt R&B influences. Would you agree?
Well, we consider ourselves to have always been a pop band, to the extent of our capabilities. We always thought Shrines is our attempt at a pop album, but I guess this is our second attempt. We've learned a lot in the past two years. We've figured out how we want to portray that or what we can use to actually make what we want to make. Along with that, Shrines was Corin's very first attempt at producing, and that's all he's been doing in the time off; producing for us and other artists.
Did you feel nervous making this album?
I think I did, but we just did it. We will always make music, and it doesn't matter that much what it sounds like in the end to us. It's about the satisfaction in the process, and the gratification of making something that you feel expresses you and that you love.
Your lyrics have always been very personal, but I noticed you sound a lot more confident on the new album. Do you feel you're more comfortable sharing your lyrics now that you're two albums in?
I don't usually write lyrics for everyone else to hear, but I have no problem with using them. It's what I want to do, with writing. I wouldn't use anything else. So I can't not like using them! (laughs)
You once said that you don't listen to much music. Has that changed as Purity Ring has become a bigger part of your life?
I feel like 2014 wasn't a great year for music; nothing really exciting happened. But yeah, we didn't listen to that much, let alone come to the table with a sound that we wanted to achieve. It was just experimenting with ourselves and exploring what we could make, rather than exploring how we could make something else.
You and Corin have both dabbled in hip hop – you sang on 25 Bucks with Danny Brown, Corin produced for artists like Elijah Blake, and together you made Belispeak II with Danny Brown. Is Purity Ring heading into a hip hop sound?
I don't know if our sound will change too much. Corin listens to a lot of pop and R&B and it definitely filters into his sound, but it's not a place we're headed. I think if anything it makes sense for where we are right now.
What about your interests outside of the band?
In all of my spare time I'm making clothes or something else. I just really like homemaking kind of crafts, I guess? (laughs) I made a costume for the video for Push Pull, and I'm designing and going to make stage costumes. I just love making clothes. I have this mentality of creating things because usually the things I want aren't available. It's a hobby out of necessity.
Do you want to pursue it further and maybe make a line of clothes to sell to the public?
Yeah, I think there'll be a few things like that this year, where I sell off small runs of five or six in one-size-fits-all clothes. I'm pretty into that. It's another part of my art project that I can control; it's definitely what I want it to be, and that way I don't have to be concerned. 'cause yeah, clothing's important.
It adds a lot to the visual element of the show, along with the custom lighting rig you use.
Yeah it's a huge aesthetic element, so it's not overlooked.
Another Eternity is released on February 27 via 4AD
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