Purity Ring takes nothing for granted

| Tuesday, April 2, 2013, 8:18 a.m.

It's been a meteoric rise for Edmonton's Purity Ring, from a duo touring the country, to a group with one of 2012's most celebrated album, to a headline act selling out halls across the country.

This week, Purity Ring return to Pittsburgh for a show at Mr. Smalls, one date on a month-long journey that'll take them to clubs and theaters and, for the first time, Coachella, one of America's largest and most talked-about music festivals in Indio, Calif. It's quite a variety of audiences the electro-pop duo of Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (music, effects) will face, and all have their advantages.

“I think playing Coachella will be really exciting, and it's a huge chance for us to play before more people, but I'm not really thinking about that right now,” James says during a phone conversation about the tour. “I really like the smaller shows, though. That way, people are at your arm's length, literally. It's nice to have the people so close so you can make that personal connection.”

Purity Ring's excellent debut record “Shrines,” released last July, was an instant critical smash (it was an album-of-the-year favorite of this writer for The Daily News' 2012 roundup), and unique, catchy, mysterious songs such as “Crawlersout,” “Fineshrine,” and “Cartographist” could leave a listener both emotionally overwhelmed and confused as to where James chose her words. Turns out, the words you hear her sing on “Shrines” have existed longer than the music for the album itself.

“I didn't really sit down and write lyrics to the music,” she says. “Everything I sing, all the words, are lines I pulled from my journals, whether they were poems or whatever.”

It's surprising how well the words match up with the music Roddick created, and they set a sort of weird ambiance and mysterious glory that's hard to shake. Along with what they created musically comes an intoxicating, triggered lights show live that makes their performances some of the more interesting and talked-about in all of music. That stage set-up, by the way, isn't entirely for the audience.

“Obviously, the music is the most important thing to us,” James is quick to point out. “Without that, we're not here. But the lights show is something we worked very hard on as well. And really, the visuals are as much for Corin and I as they are for the audience. We want to make the shows as entertaining as possible for the audience, but we also need something now and again to keep us going when we're playing the same songs every night. That lights are part of the fun for us.”

As for the band's success, James is just as surprised as anyone else. She admits it feels like it came on very fast, and she's constantly shocked when she sees their tour dates with the words “sold out” next to so many of them. That said, James insists she and Corin have taken nothing for granted.

“I was shocked at all of the top 10 lists we made,” she says. “And honestly, I don't make a point at looking at them, but any time I did, I was so surprised all the times we saw our name on one. I never expected to have what happened happen, and I don't even think I've caught up yet.”

While James doesn't anticipate too much more touring behind “Shrines,” she and Corin don't have a new record in store yet. The newest music Purity Ring have served up is a cover of Soulja Boy and Esther Dean's “Grammy,” though James says she's certain inspiration will strike the duo.

“I think it'll come as it should,” James says of a new album. “We'll know we're ready to make new music when the time is right. That time has not come yet.”

Brian Krasman is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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