In the age of “pictures or it didn’t happen,” it’s become increasingly the norm to not be mentally present in the moment of a band’s performance as the focus is shifted towards documenting our presence at a respective show via social media — or maybe smartphones have become a permanent extension of our limb that having to look away from the screen for an entire 90 minutes is considered onerous. We’re not shaming anybody for this, we do it too (but then again, it is part of our job) but being distracted by the need to prove that you were there also means the possibility of not being completely immersed in an artiste’s performance; everything from their stage setup, choreography, and musicianship becomes slightly neglected. Take Purity Ring for example, the electronic duo created an intricate light installation for their live shows solely for the exact purpose of holding down the audience’s attention for the entirety of their set. With their being scheduled to perform at Good Vibes Festival ‘16 in August, JUICE seized the opportunity to speak to Purity Ring once again – this time with the other half of the duo, Corin Roddick – about how it feels to have their fans watch them perform through their screens even though they are physically present, working with contradicting elements, and just because he is Canadian, we had to ask which side of the fence he stood on in regards to Nickelback’s music.
How long did it take for you to complete the interactive light cocoons?
A long time. The cocoons were something we had for our first album and that took about a month to put together, but now for our second album, we have a very different stage show that is kind of hard to explain. It consists of something around 6000 tiny little floating lights that light up in almost a hologram 3D-kind of effect.
Yeah, we saw that at Laneway!
Yeah, that’s the one! We started working on that the beginning of last year and honestly, we’re still working on it every tour. Every time we go out, we take some time to improve and perfect it. It’s a pretty complex setup, so it’s taking a long time to get it right. If you count all the time we’ve spent on it, it’s probably been three to four months.
We know both of you wanted to establish an emotional connection between yourselves and the audience during a live show, which is why you created the light installation, why did you opt for that instead of the graphic visuals route?
We wanted to do something that had a physical presence on stage instead of just doing like a projection screen-based thing. We wanted to have some depth on the stage and give it movement, and also, it’s just more unique. We wanted to do something that people hadn’t really seen before or most likely unfamiliar with, also something that we were really excited by. When we figured out the current installation we have now, it kind of checks all those boxes.
We know that Megan handles the lyrical aspect of writing whereas you’re in charge of making the beats. How do you make the two elements work together cohesively? Like, how do you avoid your music from sounding “too happy” from the stuff Megan’s written? Is there an internal place that you need to tap into to sort of channel those vibes?
Honestly, it’s just something works or doesn’t. We tried to put a lot of songs together and not everything works — sometimes the music won’t work with the lyrics or vice versa. Sometimes it’s just a matter of changing a few things, sometimes it’s kind of a lost cause and you move on to try to make something else good. But generally, we don’t try to match each other too much — if she has some really dark sounding lyrics, I don’t necessarily try to write a dark track — I think it’s more of a juxtaposition between dark and light that I think sounds best for us. Often, we’ll try to have contradictory elements between the two, otherwise it’ll end up sounding like it’s the same thing and it’s not as interesting, you know?
So, are you an emotional artist?
(Laughs) I would say kind of… I don’t really think directly about emotions when I’m making music, but I’m sure that emotions come into play at some point and have an influence in what I do. Though I don’t really work on things with an experience in mind. I’m not like, “Oh, I went through this thing the other day, and now I’m going to try and make a song that makes me feel the way that event was.” For me, it’s kind of like I just sit down and whatever comes out, comes out, but I’m sure it has to do more subconsciously with emotions.
“… we kind of always thought we were a pop
band and it’s never really changed for us.”
There were a few comments about the band’s “transition” into pop after Another Eternity was released, and some sounded a little negative like, “Oh no, how dare Purity Ring sound catchier and more appealing to a wider audience” — where do you think this resentment towards pop music comes from?
It’s really interesting, I think generally some people when they find an artiste they like, they want that artiste to be unknown or underground because they want to have a sense that it’s theirs — like they found this artiste and listening to them makes them unique and maybe because other people don’t know this artiste, they feel like the music defines them more, so when an artiste makes something that is more accessible or generally when more people just start liking the band, it’s interesting to me that a handful of fans have a negative reaction to that. Because they’re like, “Now everyone likes this band, I don’t like them anymore.” I don’t worry about it too much but it’s definitely something we see from time to time. We didn’t consciously attempt to make a more pop record or anything, we just went into the studio and made what came out. We didn’t want to make the same album twice, so that was just the natural evolution of it. But it doesn’t worry us too much when people say things like that because the people that vocalise that the most are a very select few (laughs). In general, we’re happy to have people liking our music and we hope that any real fans that we have will be happy for us to gain more attention and a bigger audience.
There seems to be a lot of pop music coming from the independent scene lately, and the pop world itself is seeking help from them (i.e. Carly Jae Repsen getting Dev Hynes to produce for her). Do you feel like in this era, the line between pop and non-pop is officially blurred and that the label ‘pop’ isn’t used in a derogatory way anymore?
I would really hope so. I think it’s in… like even our first album Shrines, when we were making it, we thought we were making pop music. Like, we kind of always thought we were a pop band and it’s never really changed for us, but compared to how I thought about pop music [being] separate from other styles as a kid, it’s definitely come a long way and I think it has to do with people being open-minded with what they listen to these days. A lot of kids will listen to a wide variety of genres and that’s cool because it’s opening up a wider realm both for popular music to become more interesting and for underground music to become more catchy and accessible. I think it’s generally a good thing and it’s pushing the boundaries for everyone as opposed to everyone becoming more monotonous. I think it’s an exciting time, for sure.
We know you’re a fan of hip hop and are often inspired by it. What do you make of the claim that the ‘90s were the golden age of the genre? Also, did you manage to catch NWA’s performance at Coachella this year since you guys were on the bill too?
I don’t really believe the ‘90s were the golden age of hip hop because I was quite young at the time, and that wasn’t what I was listening to a whole lot — like in the ‘90s, I was listening to like Hanson… (laughs)
… and NSYNC and Backstreet Boys!
Yeah, that stuff too! Like, I was born in the ‘90s, so I was the kid listening to the stuff on the radio — I listened to hip hop too but I do think that [while] there were a lot of amazing hip hop in the ‘90s, the hip hop I identify with more is kind of the stuff that I listened to as a teenager. So, mid-2002. I did catch NWA at Coachella and it was awesome!
“I don’t think [Nickelback] paints
a great image of Canada (laughs).”
Speaking of extremely popular music festivals, how does it make you feel to see the audience watching your performance through their smartphone screens?
I mean, I feel bad for them but more than that, I feel bad for the people behind them that are forced to watch it through someone else’s phone (laughs). I’ve been in audiences before where the person in front of me would hold their phone up the entire time and that blocks the stage view and you have to watch a tiny, miniature version of it. It’s kind of weird but it’s also just the time we live in. You can tell people to put their phone away, maybe they will but people do what they want to do and experience it how they want to. I wish more people would put their phones away, but it is what it is.
We hope that doesn’t happen during your show in Malaysia! You produce for other acts on your own as well, right? Can you tell us of any projects you’re involved in at the moment? We read something about Nick Jonas a while back…
Yeah, I did some work with him last summer. I’m still not sure if anyone will hear it or not — that’s the thing when you do stuff with other people, you don’t know for sure if the song will be released or not. So, I don’t usually like to talk about it for that reason. Like, there were a couple of artistes that I’m working with now, but I don’t really want to mention any names because there’s always a good chance that nothing will come out of it (laughs). It’s just more of a safe way to do [it] – it’s being respectful to the artiste. Well, [and] I don’t want to make it sound like all these artistes are working with me when who knows what they’re going to end up doing.
We have to ask, as a Canadian, what do you make of Nickelback?
(Laughs) That’s a really funny question. Nickelback comes from a town very close to where I grew up — like only about an hour away — so, Nickelback as a figure is very hard to avoid. In my childhood and growing up, their music was everywhere, just blaring out of big trucks driving by (laughs). I would say that Nickelback is not really the type of music I’d listen to… yeah. I don’t think it paints a great image of Canada (laughs). They are one of the most successful rock bands in the world [though], so that means a lot of people must like them and that’s kind of mind-blowing to me, but technically it means it’s good art… I guess? Good for them, but I could do with having to hear them a little less.
Purity Ring is one of the headlining international acts slated to perform at Good Vibes Festival ‘16, happening on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 August ‘16 at The Ranch, Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands. Tickets are available via www.boxtix.asia.