If you’ve seen videos of the live performances by Canadian electronic band Purity Ring, then you know that its upcoming show in Malaysia in August will be something special.
It’s not just the ethereal, sometimes dreamy soundscapes that the vocalist Megan James and instrumentalist Corin Roddick create together, but also the magical, almost fairy tale-like nature of the lights and visuals during its live shows.
Its shows usually consist of James single-handedly carrying the performance by herself, surrounded by fairy lights, while Roddick plays a strange instrument that looks like a soundboard with floating light gems around it.
Previously part of another band called Born Gold, James and Roddick formed Purity Ring in 2010 when the latter began experimenting with beats, and roped in James to sing on one of the tracks he had written. Don’t ask them what the band’s name means or why they chose it though – James herself doesn’t remember.
“Honestly, it was so long ago that I don’t even remember thinking about naming our band that! For us at this point, those words just mean the band rather than whatever the words mean on their own,” said James during a phone interview from the US.
The band released its debut album, Shrines, in 2012, which was nominated for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize in 2013, which recognises the best full-length Canadian albums based on artistic merit. Last year, Purity Ring released its second LP, Another Eternity.
1. Corin uses a strange-looking instrument during your live performances. What is it exactly?
We call it “the gems”. It basically works the same way as like a controller or keyboard, and is used to play a melody.
The only difference is there is a light attached to the sounds. When he hits the gems, he is playing the melodies, and the music interacts with the visuals.
2. What can we expect from your performance at Good Vibes Festival?
We are bringing a slightly different production than we are used to, so it may look a bit different from the online videos you may have seen.
We’re not even sure what it’ll look like yet! Outdoor shows, especially festivals, tend to feel a bit more distant than indoor shows, so I try to bring people in a little more.
We are the creative directors of our shows, meaning we design everything on the stage together.
The visuals are not just stage lights – they are things we invented or set up in a unique way.
The lights and images are all very interactive, so the audience can also feel what we are doing.
3. In your live show, it’s usually just you on stage while Corin is at the back playing the gems. How does it feel to have to carry the show all by yourself?
Well, a large percentage of it I do carry the show on my own, but we have an organic kind of performance. Corin is fun to watch too!
We need to split things up evenly and music we make ... well, we took a long time to figure out how to perform it live, as compared to what we do when writing. It’s still a learning process, but also, performing is very liberating for me.
4. Speaking of songwriting, how do you come up with your songs?
We come at it anyway we can think of. Sometimes Corin comes up with the beat first, sometimes I come up with the chords on the piano, and then he will come in with the beat.
Sometimes I do the vocal first, then form the beat around that. There’s a lot of communication involved.
5. There’s a certain experimental quality to Purity Ring, from the formation of the band to the music itself, and the live performances. Was this the intention all along, to push boundaries of what conventional music is?
Huh. The band we formed was kind of experimental, but I already knew what Corin could do, and he knew what I could do because we knew each other as teenagers, playing music in the same city.
When Corin asked me to be involved, the first song we wrote was really experimental, but it worked. We wanted to push our own boundaries, play with whatever we can, and didn’t want to tread ground that has been done.
That is really hard to do, so it’s a constant inspiration to try and make something that is new to us even. But that’s what it was.
Purity Ring plays the Good Vibes Festival in August; the festival will be held at The Ranch in Genting Highlands, Pahang on Aug 12 and 13. Tickets are on sale now at www.boxtix.asia. For more information, visit www.goodvibesfestival.com