It's been two and a half years since Purity Ring released Shrines, their buzzy, breakout collection of futuristic synth-pop. On March 3, they'll release their sophomore full-length, another eternity; in an interview yesterday, both band members acknowledged the expectations that come with following up a breakout debut. "We were in denial about it," vocalist Megan James says about facing the pressure. "But we did a good job of not thinking about that and just made what we wanted. We didn't want to work under that kind of pressure." Producer Corin Roddick agreed. "The best stuff happens when it feels effortless," he says, admitting that it was "kind of hard" to start work on the album.
The pair were speaking to FADER from Los Angeles' hilly Highland Park neighborhood, but another eternity was made almost entirely in Edmonton, the Alberta city that James calls their "home base." She attributes the staggered start to the fact that they wrote, recorded, and produced the album in the same room, as opposed to the email correspondence that birthed Shrines. "When you're so used to working alone, it's pretty strange," Roddick said. "It took us a while to find our groove."
In between Shrines and another eternity, the duo worked on songs with Danny Brown, Roddick produced a track for Ab-Soul, and James contributed vocals to a dancehall song by Dre Skull that also featured Popcaan. Through these crossover collaborations, as well as their dubby aesthetic, Purity Ring developed a reputation as the kind of "indie" band that hip-hop heads love, too—but for now, they're focusing on honing their own material: "We haven't thought about collaborations recently," James claims.
Another eternity suggests that their focus paid off, as the record sees them inhabiting a bigger, brighter sonic realm while staying true to their aesthetic of pairing otherworldly electronica with brutal, evocative imagery. Roddick's arrangements overflow with an eerily dreamlike quality, and James' effected vocals are across-the-board easier to decipher. I lied all night awake/ I cried 'til my body ached, she sings on the chorus of "bodyache," the kind of hook-heavy, vaguely emo pop song you could imagine Lorde listening to—and feeling really inspired by. James says that the record's lyrical themes are hyper-personal and ripped straight from her journals. "I wrote things that I was emotional about," she said, explaining that a recent breakup influenced some of the lyrical content before adding, "There's also some love songs."
Purity Ring are also known for creating an immersive experience in a live setting; at their concerts, Roddick uses a customized instrument that triggers both light and sound, with soft-glowing lanterns blinking in time with the songs that make the audience feel like they're inside a creepy forest. James and Roddick are working on designing a new live experience that will continue the vibe they've established, while also offering something fresh—and as with everything the pair does, they're not rushing this. "We're spending a lot of time on it," Roddick said. "We're being really careful. We wanna make sure it gives you the right feeling."
Photo credit: Renata Raksha