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Purity Ring brings signature future-pop back to the prairies

By Emilie Medland-Marchen, June 11 2015 —

Edmonton synth-pop duo Purity Ring are returning to their home province after touring their sophomore album another eternity. The group combines Corin Roddick’s electronic atmospheres with Megan James’ dreamy vocalizations into music the band describes as “future-pop.”

Though Roddick and James originally met as teenagers in their hometown of Edmonton, it wasn’t until they moved to different parts of the country — Roddick to Montreal and James to Halifax — that Purity Ring came together. The group’s debut album, Shrines, was recorded as the duo sent snippets of music back and forth via email.

Roddick says this long-distance approach worked well at the time, but their new work needed more personal collaboration.

“We were still figuring out how to write songs, both ourselves and together, and the distance gave us the ability to really hone our skills and individual abilities,” Roddick says. “There wasn’t a lot of the immediate gratification of being in the same room as somebody. It was a slow process. So on another eternity, we knew we needed to be in the same room to release and take that step forward.”

The effect of in-person songwriting is apparent. While Shrines was dark and brooding, another eternity is an upbeat record that sees the group embrace a pop-heavy sound. Roddick says the shift happened naturally as they toured.

“We toured a lot and had been playing music in front of audiences, which gives you a different perspective on songwriting,” Roddick says. “We had a hard time writing on the road together and we had to really figure out what we wanted to do. It was a much more dynamic way of writing music because we were able to direct each other in real time.”

Even though the band’s touring experience influenced the sound of another eternity, Roddick says a handful of tracks on the record were written in 2011, when they first began creating music.

Purity Ring took a three-year break before beginning work on another eternity. Roddick says the time away from the pre-written songs changed the way the duo approached them.

“We wrote a lot of those songs four or five years ago. Our abilities have changed. I never had written or produced a song before [our first album],” Roddick says. “Shrines was the sound of me figuring out how to produce. In the intervening years between Shrines and another eternity, I became a lot more experienced and confident.”

That confidence shines through on another eternity. The album has more unity, resulting in a better flow between tracks. The melodies are catchier and James’ vocals are more striking, a change Roddick credits to confidence gained from touring.

The group’s music bounces between many styles, prompting critics to describe the band as future-pop. Though Roddick agrees with the label, he claims it’s an unimportant distinction.

“[Genre] is an arbitrary thing,” he says. “We’ve classified it in the past as future-pop, just because it’s such a vague term that it could be a catch-all and I think our music touches on a lot of things. But I hope it’s unique enough that it’s not really classifiable.”

Part of Purity Ring’s future-pop label also comes from the band’s live set, which combines vibrant light projections and moving sculptures to build atmosphere during live performances.

This artistry carries over in every detail of their performances, including the clothes Roddick and James wear. The majority of designs used by the bands are created by James in collaboration with illustrator Tallulah Fontaine, who also produced the album artwork for Shrines.

Roddick hopes to bring this energy back to their home province. The band still speaks fondly of their Alberta roots, crediting their initial success to their hometown of Edmonton.

“We both grew up in a really tight-knit community. I think more than anything else it was the ethics and the do-it-yourself nature that influenced us the most,” Roddick says.

Purity Ring will play at MacEwan Hall on Friday, June 12 at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are avaliable online at unionevents.com.

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