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23 Aug 2013

At Tour's End: Purity Ring Begins to Wrap Up a Wildly Successful Year With a Stop in Pioneertown

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Purity Ring is about to wrap up a remarkable year of touring behind their debut album, Shrines—and they’re making a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown on Friday, Aug. 30.

The Canadian electronic music duo, consisting of Corin Roddick (samples and instrumentals) and Megan James (vocals), has accumulated a lot of success in a short span of time. The duo’s sound echoes that of Goldfrapp, The xx, and Phantogram.

Roddick and James came together in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, thanks to mutual friends within the city’s music scene. When Roddick saw James perform, he was impressed by her creativity; the two of them eventually became friends.

Roddick was touring with the band Gobble Gobble (now known as Born Gold) as a drummer when he began studying electronic music production, not too long before Purity Ring came together in 2010.

“I would say I’m still very much learning,” said Roddick during a recent phone interview. “Making electronic music is still an ongoing journey, and I feel like I’m still scratching the surface. It took me maybe a year to really focus on it (and) to feel comfortable to the point of actually releasing something.”

James had several books of songs that she’d written, but she never had any intention of performing them or putting them to music; meanwhile, Roddick was determined to develop himself in electronic music. The two wound up collaborating, and released their first song, “Ungirthed,” in January 2011. From there, things moved quickly, and in July 2012, 4AD records released their debut album, Shrines.

“We worked on that record for a year and a half. It was very different,” Roddick remembered. “The first couple of tracks I made when I was on tour with Gobble Gobble. I was just working on headphones in a minivan. … The last two tracks we made in Montreal. We didn’t have a consistent environment. We were just kind of all over the place. We were trying to make things sound the best we could with what we had.”

Shrines was well-received by the critics, earning praises and high ratings from Pitchfork.com, NME and ConsequenceofSound.net. The album was No. 24 on Pitchfork’s “50 Albums of 2012” list and was nominated for a Canadian Polaris Music Prize.

Roddick said the critical praise and success of the album were pleasant surprises.

“We just wanted to make an album we wanted to make for ourselves—and then some other people began to take notice of it,” he said. “That was unexpected and a pleasant surprise for us. When it got picked up by other places on the Internet and the media, it was great. We’re definitely happy with how things have turned out.”

Since the release of Shrines, Roddick has been exploring his love of Southern based hip-hop as well. Purity Ring released a free download of a cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy” back in February that was well-received; in fact, excited fans crashed the website’s servers. They also collaborated with Danny Brown on “Belispeak II.”

Working with Danny Brown was a great experience for Purity Ring, Roddick said.

“He works really fast, which is amazing,” Roddick said about Brown. “We worked with him a couple of times, and we have a track coming out on his new record. I think his style, his flow and the sound of his voice works really well with Megan’s voice and my production.”

Purity Ring’s live performances have been noted for a large contraption, resembling a tree, which both Roddick and James utilize.

“There are about eight lanterns that are touch-sensitive,” Roddick explained. “They sort of fan out like a tree around me, and I play them with mallets, kind of like you would a percussive melodic instrument or something like that. All of the synth lines and melodies from the songs I perform by hitting these different lanterns. They also light up in a pattern or color or pulse when they’re struck.” 

While Purity Ring has been classified as electronic dance music, Roddick said he doesn’t really see any relation between Purity Ring and the term.

“I think EDM is one of the most vague labels, because it just implies electronic dance music, which really should be a large bubble,” Roddick said. “I guess the term has kind of come to focus on certain types of music made over the last two years. I never really felt we fit into that bubble. We kind of have some crossover here and there. When we make music, we take a very wide influence from a lot of different places. I wouldn’t say we’re an EDM group.”

As for what’s next for Purity Ring, Roddick said they are getting ready to begin gathering ideas for their next album.

“We’re wrapping up shows for the summer and the fall,” Roddick said. “We’ve played a lot of shows, and we only have about eight left. Once that’s done, we’re just going to be focusing on creating the next album.

“We’ll probably go into hiding, and you probably won’t hear anything from us for a while,” he added, laughing. “Hopefully, we’ll re-emerge next year with a new creation.”

Purity Ring performs at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $16. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

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