Meeting Purity Ring

Megan James and Corin Roddick, the duo who make up Edmonton’s Purity Ring, unassumingly stroll into the Bristol’s Balloon Bar: a wood-panelled student bar, filled with undergraduates either excitedly talking or sternly studying ahead of their finals which fall in the coming months. Despite the tour fatigue, the band is unguarded and warm as they sip tea amongst the students. 

Another Eternity, Purity Ring’s second full-length, dropped in February this year and is a streamlined, sonically bright follow-up to their acclaimed 2012 debut Shrines. There is a sense of cohesion and unity to Another Eternity, a result of the two being able to write together. “We actually wrote this album together,” explains Megan when asked about the process behind Another Eternity, “with Shrines we were in different cities; we wanted to write it in the same place… we work better with variables.” The band clearly didn’t want to take the easy route and re-hash Shrines, as Corin expands on this. “Anytime we started to do something and it felt too familiar we switched it up to avoid falling into patterns. There were times when we were like ‘why is this so easy?’ and it was because we’d already written a better version of the song.” But Purity Ring only had one aim for their sophomore release: the only thing they knew is that they didn’t want to make the same album twice. 

It’s clear that staking their own territory is vital for Purity Ring – from the shape of their sound to their striking stage show – and the duo have no interest in retreading old ground. This includes not wanting to bring the ideas of other artists or influencers into their output. “We didn’t really bring musical influences in. We have very different influences and we wouldn’t agree,” Megan explains. “I’m more into being subconsciously influenced,” Corin tells me, “the second you’re thinking of something else you end up creating it too directly or trying to make it different. It alters the natural process. If I write a song that reminds me of someone else I ditch it right away… that seems to work pretty well.” Megan and Corin are both committed to a clandestine vision for the band, with everything conducted on their own terms.  

“Our goals are more centred on satisfaction than numbers.”

The band’s desire to control the whole process extends to every facet of their presentation, including creating their own on-stage set-up and costumes. It’s a love of “old movies and Neoprene” that informs their set design, Megan tells me, as well as the tactile side of it. “I get most of my influences from fabric alone; the way it will work, the texture… I love touching fabric so much. That’s a big part of it. The utilitarian aspect of it too: it needs to be functional.” Purity Ring is also inspired by a void that they both felt. “A lot of the inspiration came from feeling that we could fill the void of what we wanted in a stage show,” according to Corin, “you go to a show and think ‘that was cool, but I wish it could be like this…’ and that’s how we develop ideas.” As the band’s standing has grown, the live show has evolved too. “Resources have changed but we’ve always made our own set with whatever materials we had available. It was all DIY, homebuilt stuff that would now look very small but looked really good when we were playing for 50 people.” Purity Ring’s dedication to creating their own aesthetic and audio space is vital to how the band operate, Megan clarifies. “You can’t rely on other people to create your live show. The only thing way we could do it and be really happy with the result was to do it ourselves. In fact, that’s every facet of this project: you can’t let someone else do it or else it stops being yours. It won’t look like your vision; it’ll look like someone else’s.” In fact, this on-stage design stems from another of Megan’s interests that has blossomed as a result of the band’s success: fashion. “I’ve always wanted to make clothes. I thought I’d sell 5 pieces a year in a boutique but now there are lot of things I’m excited to take advantage of, fashion-wise.” It’s obvious that every component of the band’s performance stems directly from something either Megan or Corin feel passionately about, which is why it works so well.

Purity Ring’s musical and aesthetic ambitions work in alchemy during their live sets that have been rapturously received across the country. The band’s luminous DIY stage set illuminating the venue as they tease pulsing bass, bright textures and thundering drums out of their songs in elemental fashion. Songs from Another Eternity have been going over incredibly well with live crowds – and I can vouch for that – with ‘Flood on the Floor’, ‘Stillness and Woe’ (the band’s version of a ‘live jam’ according to Megan) and gargantuan single ‘Begin Again’ being live standouts for the band. The home stretch of their UK tour is in sight, following last night’s jaunt at Manchester’s Cathedral, a show that Megan excitably describes as “congregational and cultish”, which is easy to picture. This tour hit an apex with their show at London’s Sheperd’s Bush Empire – their biggest show to date. “I was just so relieved after… relieved that it went well and was a good show,’ laughs Megan as Corin continues, “The whole tour was leading up to that show. There was a lot of excitement and a lot of dread, but it was a really great show.” The nervous energy that results from this excitement and dread makes for an insanely gripping, kinetic live show that should see the cultish adoration the band enjoys spread even further.

Has touring greatly changed since for the duo since their last UK trip? “Each tour has been different from the one before it. For me, I know better what to expect and how to approach those expectations,” states Megan, “there’re always other people involved and you’re not at home.” But it’s not only onstage experience that’s important, but what happens behind the scenes too. “With each tour you learn the tricks of tour and how to surround yourself with the right people, “ Corin muses.

With a strong second record, another successful tour under their belts and a capable road crew behind them, what’s the next step for Purity Ring? “It’s best not to expect too much because you’ll get disappointed. We just wanted the album to connect with the people but we’re not dead set on an amount of people hearing it.” And Megan concurs: “Our goals are more centred on satisfaction than numbers. I do really want to go to Russia and China. That’s what I really want out of this record. If we don’t get that, the Shepherd’s Bush show was more than enough.” With the band’s goals on the way to being fulfilled, is there anything else they’re aiming for? “I want to go to space, like, a lot,” ruminates Corin. “Yeah, maybe we’ll get to go on the next album cycle.” The band’s vibrant live show at Bristol’s Anson Rooms that evening is spellbinding, with a lot of love in the air as Another Eternity lurches into life, bringing a lot of love into the room. As Purity Ring bow out after the one-two punch of ‘Bodyache’ followed by ‘Begin Again’, the stratosphere doesn’t seem so far away from them.

Words by Joseph Fuller