Purity Ring: Electro-Pop Duo Take Artisanal Art to Next Level

Purity Ring / Photo by Vinna Laudico
Purity Ring / Photo by Vinna Laudico
David Bevan WRITTEN BY
David Bevan

Who: Purity Ring are Megan James, 24, and Corin Roddick, 21, two natives of Canada's prairies who craft their forward-thinking electro-pop across a long distance — Roddick from his home in Montreal and James from Halifax, Nova Scotia. "I saw Megan for the first time playing piano and singing at a local show in Edmonton," recalls Roddick, formerly the drummer for Canadian post-rock goofs Gobble Gobble. "We didn't actually meet for another half year or something, but upon meeting, we talked about working together. We didn't really know how we were going to do it and didn't suspect we'd be making electronic music at all. It just sort of unraveled that way."

The Magic of the Sea: In late 2010, when Roddick first sent James early, skeletal Purity Ring tracks "Ungirthed" and "Lofticries," the first he'd ever written, she was about to embark on a sailing trip off the western coast of Mexico. By the time she got home to Edmonton for Christmas a few weeks later, she'd taken his dusky, trap-rap-inspired material and added her own lighter, captivating touch. "I remember the moment clearly," Roddick says of hearing his bandmate's vocal additions. "I had the music playing really low on the monitors because [she was] singing quietly. I think [she] was nervous to show me, but as soon as I heard the chorus to 'Ungirthed,' I was just like, 'Yeah, we're gonna be a band. Let's do this.'"

Weird Science: "Corin is a little bit of a whiz kid," says James of Purity Ring's innovative other half. "I think that's the only way to explain it." In addition to commandeering multiple iPhone apps to help the group soundcheck their live-show setup, Roddick also devised a wholly interactive extension to his keyboards and sampler: a phalanx of lights that reacts to every note he plays. "When I'm hitting them with the mallets," he explains, "they reproduce a sense node, or manipulate the music in some way, and then they light up to show visual feedback. I just kind of made it up as I went along, I guess."

Sew Necessary: Using vintage and recycled fabrics, James, a fledgling seamstress, handcrafted the backdrop for the band's performances, as well as designed a bag to carry their bass drum on tour. "I'm constantly surrounded by things that I make," she says, "or things that my friends have made or things that I love. Part of it is wanting to be in a world where everything is homemade. We're just trying to create something that we're comfortable in, something that makes others feel the same way."

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