Worshipping at the shrine of the dream-pop duo.
By Fred Miketa
Photographed by Raphael Ouellet
Purity Ring is less than two years in the making, a few singles deep and has already carved out a considerable following with its foggy future-pop hymns. Twenty-one-year-old producer Corin Roddick and 24-year old vocalist Megan James emerged from Edmonton's DIY basement scene (Roddick was a member of spastic electro-pop outfit Gobble Gobble, James a solo pianist) with the intent of maintaining the punk tradition of keeping things "very personal, intimate and intense," Roddick explains. "I'm used to basement hardcore shows where five bands play for 15 minutes each," he says. "Even though we're making very different sounding music now, it still feels like we're conveying these same ideas in a very similar way." Roddick does the producing and arranging independently and James creates deeply personal lyrics taken straight from her journal. "Sometimes I don't even know what the songs mean until after I look at them way later," James says. "Then it's like I learn a little about myself."
On Purity Ring's first proper full-length, Shrines, out July 24 via 4AD, James' ghostly, childlike vocal melodies invoke the essence of dream-pop icons (and former 4AD recording artists) Cocteau Twins, while Roddick's production seemingly takes cues from contemporary hip-hop and electronic producers like Clams Casino, Alan Braxe and Salem. Self-described "untrained" artists (Roddick started producing only a few months before creating the single "Ungirthed"), the duo creates sophisticated, atmospheric arrangements that could easily fare well on the radio, in a dingy basement or in an introverted teenager's headphones.
Then there's Purity Ring's impressive live show -- which took more than six months to perfect. The duo uses its own homemade gadgets on stage. "Since we've started the band, we've been obsessed with turning electronic music into something that can be performed in a very visual and captivating way," says Roddick. "Our current creation consists of a series of touch-sensitive lantern-like apparatuses that allow us to manipulate the music and perform melodies by striking them as they glow and pulse in different colors." James designs their outfits. "I've been making my own clothes since I was like 12," she says. "I'm not inspired by designers or things looking a certain way, but by colors. Purity Ring colors are mustard-brown, pink and teal."
Like many cathartic projects, Shrines reflects the members' experiences, emotions and interpretation of what James refers to as "life's obscurities." She puts it best: "These songs are a little collection of shrines, some odd little sacred representations of us."