Taking an extended break to work on their sophomore another eternity has not hampered Canadian future pop duo Purity Ring’s standing in the minds of fans. It doesn’t take much of a discerning ear to note that their second record is a much lighter fare compared to their magnificent debut Shrines. But as JUICE found out from Megan James – the vocalist and songwriter of the pair – the lyrical content has essentially remained unchanged. We spoke more over the phone about her obsession with the body in relation to nature, her bewilderment of fans’ connection with her lyrics, and more.
For the second record, when you guys were making music in the same room together, do you think you and Corin were finally able to truly work together and collaborate?
We changed the writing process and therefore we made an effort to write together. Like before, we couldn’t go to the same [space]… we weren’t able to and it was cool to be able to explore that. That was when we actually started the band.
How has your relationship with Corin evolved between the first and second record?
We learnt a lot about each other’s processes and what else? Also, when the band first started, we were just acquaintances – we weren’t like best friends growing up or something. We tried something else and it turned into Purity Ring really quickly. The band came first and with another eternity, we became a lot closer. We learnt so much about each other and we had to talk about what we wanted. I guess there’s a lot more involved.
What prompted you to shift your songwriting that was previously centred around the body to focus on more earthly elements?
Lyrically, it’s usually just where I’m at. Also, I used fewer lyrics on the second record, whereas Shrines was jam-packed with words. I think we spaced it a little bit better on another eternity. I’m still obsessed with the body, it metaphorically relates to nature, elements, and how it fits into that. Also, mythology or lessons or ways to define humans, between the body and nature. Basically, that’s the kind of topic that I find emotive and actually moves me to write the things I do. I feel like there isn’t much difference between the topics on the first record and the second. I feel like I’ll always write about those things, but I guess in different forms.
When you were first writing songs for the first record, were you wary about how people would perceive the vivid, almost grotesque imagery in your songwriting?
I never think about that. That’s something I have to be like, “I don’t care about [what people think.]” Because I’m not really thinking about how people are gonna say about what I have to say about our body. It’s like I’m trying to explain something that’s important to me in that moment, and that’s more important than people going “Ew!” or not accepting it (laughs), or think it’s inappropriate, because that’s on them. But yeah, the question about apprehension… when I was writing the second record and how the first one went, as soon as we started writing, all those things just sort of went away, like this is a state of mind that we’re comfortable in, like we’re better at writing than communicating (laughs) or being straightforward. I don’t know if that makes sense.
But how do feel when you have all these fans finding meaning and connecting with your words?
Honestly, it scares me a little. Just because a lot of times, I don’t even know what’s the meaning in those words are. Like one day, we will be playing one of the songs and I’ll be like “Whoa, that’s what this is about.” I just realised what I meant as a whole, instead of piece by piece. So when people are taking that and defining it for themselves, I think… It’s wonderful; it’s almost miraculous or something. It’s a connected and intricate feeling for someone to relate to a song. It really doesn’t make any sense, but it’s beautiful and I’m only grateful for it. I think it’s one of those things in life—it’s like a weird blessing. Very peculiar.
The band’s collaboration with Danny Brown was a success. Although there are hints of hip hop in your music, do you think that there were still some fans who were surprised by the collaboration?
Yeah, I think a lot of people were upset even (laughs). It came up over Twitter or something, he tweeted at us, and we were like, “That would be so amazing.” Yeah, it makes sense because there’s a lot of hip hop influence in the production, on Corin’s side of things and with me on the vocals, it’s just like a juxtaposition. I think it makes a lot of sense, but it was also an experiment. Collaborations are tough, because you don’t know what’s gonna happen. You’ll probably end up not liking it or [working] with others who you don’t know can make a sound together. And also, we’re precious about our sound too, but anyway, that worked really well. I’m so glad we did that, it was so wonderful.
Purity Ring will be performing at Laneway Festival Singapore ‘16 on Saturday 30 January ’16.