Purity Ring - 2014

Combining future-pop dreamscapes with equally abstract lyrics into something that captivates and consumes both mind and soul is not an easy task. However Megan Jones and Corin Roddick of PURITY RING managed to make it their trademark – enveloping listeners with chiffony beats and serenading them into another dimension. Emerging from their three year hiatus from lauded debut album Shrines to their latest offering Another Eternity (out via 4AD on 03 March 2015), NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION caught the musical dreamweavers in London for a short conversation on feelings, collaborating and what it means to stay true to your own aesthetic.

What’s the starting point for PURITY RING and how did it progress?
Megan: I think the main point is that we didn’t. We’re constantly trying, when we write, anyway, is finding what works and finding things that we haven’t. Trying to search and explore the landscape that doesn’t exist for us yet. In writing, it’s a matter of exploring these grounds that we haven’t before.

Have you seen yourself having this sound, or have you explored things sonically before that?
Corin: When we first started the band, we didn’t really have an objective of ‘this is how we’re gonna sound like’ or ‘these are the elements that we’re gonna combine’. It’s just like kind of winging it and experimenting and arrived. When we finished our first song, we’re like, ‘OK, I guess this is what we sound like…’

So it’s like a click within your heart?
Corin: Yeah. We didn’t overthink it or anything. I think it’s just a combination of all the things that we’ve enjoyed and experienced that somehow travelled to our subconscious.
Megan: It’s like we’re travelling and finding that pocket and it’s like, ‘let’s take that!’ and moving on and ‘let’s take that!’ and so on. But we never really start out with a plan for sure. Like, ‘oh, we really like this artist, so let’s sound like that, and let’s look like that’. It’s always searching for what works best or what we feel that needs to exist for us.

Because of this supposed aura of mystery that many critics and fans have put you in, could you bring us about how that came about?
Megan: That’s the most natural part about it. None of it is contrived. I can’t really explain how or why. This is a result of us working together. We come from very different places in terms of influences and experiences. We came from the same music community, but we do very different things and have very different interests. So I feel like the combination of that is where this other world is created.
Corin: What do you mean about the mystery?

I’ve been reading a couple of interviews that you guys have given, and many critics have been writing about your atmospheric aesthetic…
Corin: It really is just natural. I think a lot of that sort of ‘otherworldly’ feeling is due to a lot of sensibility and that’s just a style that we’ve developed over time. I can’t really pinpoint when, and what set that in motion. It is an amalgamation of everything really.
Megan: It’s like the rocks fell down and there’s a castle.

Not wanting to place the band in any genre, but how would you place your music?
Megan: The same thing. We don’t know. If we plan it, it doesn’t happen like that.
Corin: As we were completing Another Eternity, it felt that we were starting to hit a stride in writing together really comfortably. I think we’re just going to keep writing, and at some point when things have progressed naturally enough to be what feels like the next step, then that’s when we are going to focus on what the third album is.

Purity Ring - Another Eternity - Artwork

‘Another Eternity’, the new album by PURITY RING

Have you discovered anything new about yourselves personally while being in the band, and during the process of working together?
Megan: You learn a lot about another person when you do anything closely with them.
Corin: What did you learn about yourself?
Megan: I don’t know, specifically. I know how I work better, because of working with Corin.
Corin: I’ve learned so much about myself over the course of being in the band. I guess it’s now it’s our jobs to be creative full time, and it’s a different lifestyle. It’s your outlet and it’s also your full time job. Just finding ways to balance that and not make it feel like a job is really important. I have to make an effort to ensure that things don’t become really tedious and I’m still enjoying myself and still happy to express myself. That’s just keeping the balance of making sure that I really want to make something.

You guys have both toured extensively at festivals and intimate shows, so how have those experiences crafted you both as people and musicians?
Megan: The difference of the polar sides of the spectrum in shows is vast. I don’t know how they would affect me necessarily…

‘A stream of unconsciousness’

It’s like how some bands play intimate shows at first, and when they start playing festivals, it’s like an epiphany of ‘oh, we’ve made it.’
Megan: Successwise?

I guess a little bit of both, varies from person to person.
Megan: Playing festivals for me was, and still is, really scary. It’s like, ‘what are all these people doing here? Are they here for me, or just here hating on the music or…?’ I feel like the most important thing to do is just try and keep in mind that it doesn’t have to feel as different as it appears. Playing the smaller shows is really important at first because a festival show is so much better if you can find ways to make it intimate. That’s valuable to the audience.

Megan, songwriting is at the core of Purity Ring, but in both ‘Shrines’ and ‘Another Eternity,’ it has little to do with classic pop structure…
Megan: I’m not thinking about anything in terms of genres and structures when I write. It’s totally a stream of unconsciousness, whatever I feel. I feel like that…
Corin: I feel like I bring the structure. You bring the wonder.
Megan: I can lay myself out over a structure. But I can’t start with one.
Corin: When I’m working on a piece, I kind of work with structure. I think of like what’s the focal point of the song, the first chorus, and how it moves from part to part. A lot of the time is just laying the framework for Megan to fill it in. It’s not always one or the other. It can work one-way or the other.
Megan: So many songs start with… it’s like the track underneath is what makes it concrete and stable. But there a few that starts with the vocals as the structure.
Corin: Starting with vocals too, it’s like you don’t really know what’s going to be what…
Megan: It’s not really structure.
Corin: It’s a bunch of great ideas. You don’t know what’s the chorus, intro… as you start adding beats on top, the different dynamics starts to become clear.

You’ve mentioned that they also deal with ‘adult’ issues, so being an adult in the eyes of society, how do you expect your lyrics to translate?
Megan: I hope they don’t. My dream is to be relevant to every age and walk of life, and it doesn’t mean my audience should be adult. I do talk about death and bodies and scary things, I also feel like I have an affinity for fairytales and nursery rhymes. Things with a tinge of sadness at the end. I would love to write children’s books.

Like creativity is a thing, and you tap into it and using your own thoughts and you’re a medium of sorts to other people…
Megan: It’s like a medium to have a dialogue with humans without necessarily using words. It’s also a way to be childlike, having that wonder, innocence and being ageless. That’s an important part of creativity for me.

Corin, how do you feel about PURITY RING’s influence on electronic music as a whole and how does your production embrace function?
Corin: To be honest I’m not completely sure on our impact on the things that surround us or included in. I don’t actually really listen to a lot of electronic music. I’m more involved in songs, things with good hooks. I’m interested in the sonics of general electronic production but I could equally get into something that there’s nothing electronic about it. I don’t know how we’ve really changed the field but hopefully somehow. Regarding function, I try to be as functional as I possibly can with the least amount of things.

Just working with minimal amount of perimeters, samples, synthesizers.

Megan: It’s important to be simple in production. Simplicity gives the most effect. And space.
Corin: Trying to get the most of something just by layering stuff over itself.

Purity Ring - 2015

Have you broken a few rules that you’ve set before, like pop structure with your use of minimalism?
Corin: Sometimes I do set rules for myself. But I’ve eventually almost broken all of them. For example, I’ve never thought I’d make something 4/4, with a solid kick drum. We’ve did it a couple of places, like when it came to a section of a certain song, that just felt right and I didn’t want to do something just because I set my own boundaries. Like the synth line and the chorus of Begin Again, I didn’t really think that I would create, for the lack of a better term, a ‘ravey drop’. It doesn’t really appeal to me, but when I was messing around and that actually sounds really good.
Megan: There’s like nothing better there.
Corin: It came to a point where even if something feels uncomfortable to me but it also feels undeniable, I’ll just roll with it because it’s the most natural thing if it feels right.

You’ve also mentioned that everything that you do is all about interpretation. Could you expound on that?
Megan: That part’s not our job. When it comes to lyrics, what I write is purely for me. I’m not thinking about an audience. When I do, I mess it up. On our parts, it’s about making something that’s gratifying to us. When you put it out, it’s up for interpretation and it’s the part where we’re like ‘Here we are, we can talk about that.’ We can talk about other people’s interpretations of it and how we relate to that and what everything means. It’s fascinating what people get out of it. It’s only taken into consideration if people want to take their time with it. If that’s happening, that’s the best thing, but it’s also not why we’re doing it.
Corin: Whatever a listener might get from our music or how they think they understand it is completely valid. We create art to feel, or make sense of a certain way about ourselves. If someone wants to enjoy it, it’s completely his or her connection and ultimately that’s what art is for.
Megan: I don’t think that’s necessarily how it is but when people listen to a song, it’s theirs. They’re trying to find themselves in it or be a part of it. That’s what we want, trying to make a world where people can exist inside of it. Probably the same way we feel while we make that music or an impulse to keep listening. That’s a beautiful thing, but it’s not up to us. People feel like they own it so they can say whatever they want about it.

‘Collaborations work or they don’t’

It’s like there’s this clutter, and it’s getting hard for someone could feel intimacy with a certain type of music but you guys don’t seem to have a problem with that…
Megan: If it doesn’t work it doesn’t work. I can’t make for somebody else to have him or her talk about it.
Corin: If we’re happy with whatever we’re releasing, no matter the reception or what people get from it is totally fine. If we were to create something for somebody else and if it didn’t connect properly, then that would be a confusing situation. That’s when you really go wrong when you try to cater to people. I think people can see through that.

I’d like to delve further with a very interesting topic that you’ve brought up in your interviews, you’ve mentioned before that it would be weird PURITY RING to collaborate. However you’ve recently teamed up with JON HOPKINS and Danny Brown…
Megan: Collaborations work or they don’t. The cool thing about attempting… with Danny Brown, my vocals and his are in such a just position. The production makes a lot of sense because we have similar influences.
Corin: From the beginning, Shrines was always hiphop.
Megan: This middle ground where it fits… it ended up working really well because we’re opposites.
Corin: If it was in an album context, we would have to seriously consider collaboration. In between albums it’s interesting to explore. I could see us doing more things like that. I would be surprised if we were to have a featured artist on a record.
Megan: We were both big fans of JON HOPKINS years before we started PURITY RING. His interest in doing something with us is an honour.

So much respect for that guy.

Corin: That was a big moment for me. Him actually wanting to work with us was really crazy. I never thought that I would be working with an artist that I admire this much.

Do you have anybody else in mind?
Corin: People always ask us that question a lot…
Megan: If it comes up it’s amazing, but we’ll take it as it comes.

Despite what critics say, how would you describe your musical endeavors from ‘Shrines’ to ‘Another Eternity?
Corin: The biggest difference is the result of how we ended up making the album. Megan and I worked closely in the same room for majority of Another Eternity, while Shrines was very separate, like e-mailing things and sticking to our separate roles. The new album gave us a chance to focus on our songwriting and build each piece of the song together with a very specific goal and intent with each part. That is the biggest difference. There is more space for certain elements to breathe and they feel more like songs. Shrines felt like moods, with each song being a feeling, and on Another Eternity, each track is a contained unit.
Megan: Like a planet.

Has the three-year gap between the two albums hindered or allowed you to discover anything new?
Megan: There have been a lot of new artists. I can’t name any influences with regards to PURITY RING but my resources and inspiration are pretty much on the same level.

What does hope and passion mean to you?
Megan: Hope means a sort of passion. Passion means being fully enveloped in something where you would make certain sacrifices for it. Both of us feel very passionate about what we do. It’s our main focus…
Corin: It’s our baby.
Megan: …and it would be for the next X amount years to come.

NBHAP presents: Purity Ring on tour

– get tickets

12.04.2015 – DE – Cologne – Gebäude 9
13.04.2015 – DE – Berlin – Postbahnhof
21.04.2015 – DE – Hamburg – Gruenspan
22.04.2015 – DE – Munich – Strom