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Purity Ring's musical fealty strong, despite distance

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Kate Garner
Purity Ring

You've heard of the dreaded “long-distance relationship.” Perhaps you've even been in one. Even with modern, Internet-enabled technology, it isn't an ideal situation.

Being in a band is somewhat similar. Though the analogy isn't perfect, making music together tends to work better when you're, well, together.

One of hottest bands at the moment, Purity Ring (performing April 4 at Mr. Small's), is one of the exceptions to this supposed rule. Megan James (vocals), 24, and Corin Roddick (production), 21, both grew up in the isolated, ice-encrusted petrochemical/hockey hub of Edmonton, Canada, but James moved to Halifax and Roddick to Montreal.

“We've always been a long-distance band, and have made it work,” James says. “We don't know the difference. I think it works very well. We write very well separately — that's how we work best. Though, we have to get together to record.”

Calling Purity Ring a “band” is only true in the sense that it consists of more than one person making music together. Though they both grew up in Edmonton's punk and hardcore scenes, there's very little of the traditional guitar/bass/drums setup usually associated with rock bands.

Instead, Purity Ring is a combination of two contrasting-yet-complementary elements: the bright, girlish vocals of James and the phantasmagoric, gloom-stricken heaviness of Roddick's production.

For their live show, Purity Ring sets up the stage with lanterns that are synchronized to the music, which can be triggered electronically with drumsticks. James also makes all the clothes that they wear onstage — a gig she plans on expanding in the future.

There's another element that puts their music in a class beyond the usual traded-in-their-guitars-for-laptops dabblers. James' strange, darkly weird, yet curiously catchy, lyrics are often lifted from dreams and the diaries she has kept for years. Having others sing along to her innermost thoughts takes some getting used to.

“It was odd to think of at first,” James says. “But it feels quite nice. I love writing. They're pretty vague and cryptic, but if they do pay attention to the lyrics at all, people can know me or understand me that way.”

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-320-7901.

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