Interview: Purity Ring Unearth Poetry And Comfort In New Album ‘WOMB’
Pure magic.
Music 2m

Words by Andy Kovacic //

Sent from the stars above – after a five-year-long disappearing act – Canadian duo Purity Ring has returned with new album WOMB. And it’s wickedly eargasmic.

Canadian duo Purity Ring has returned with more mystical madness than ever before. Ever since they had us sweating in fever dreams with their dark and stormy 2012 debut album Shrines, we’ve been praying for more and more of their heavenly sound. You’re clearly following the wrong religion if you don’t listen to Purity Ring on repeat. Don’t get it twisted – there’s still time to convert. Salvation ain’t out of reach for you, yet.

Start your new daily ritual right here by reading the Word of Megan James. We had a heart-to-heart on the new music she and bandmate/music producer Corin Roddick have conjured together. And if you’re already a groupie, then you’d better dust that fan journal you keep under your bed. Meg has some stories to tell.

Honestly, the Purity Ring of 2020 is all fire, lightning and cryptic lullabies. Listening to this new album is like getting drunk on a thousand love potions. Monstrous beats. Swirling synth. Floaty vocals drippin’ in burnt honey. Purity Ring’s songs have always been bittersweet pills to swallow; they go down silky smooth but leave an aftertaste of wistful sadness, and we adore them for it.

There’s really no better time to dive back into the cosmic universe of Purity Ring. Get lost. Find comfort. Return anew. And like I told Meg: don’t quit the magic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1JxAUWz1bc

It’s been five years. Purity Ring is back. It’s come as surprise to many. It feels like a miracle for many. Where have you been and what have you seen?

We have mostly been at home to be honest. After we toured with the last record…we toured for a very long time it felt like. We toured for two and a half years and there was a lot of time off in-between tours. Because of that it just seemed prolonged.

You both needed a refresh.

Yeah! We both needed a year to sort of regroup and feel like ourselves again. And then after that it was like, ‘Okay, let’s stay home as much as we can to make this record’. A lot of times before we would travel together somewhere and be totally alone and just see what happened. This time, I wanted my creative space to be around me at all times. So yeah, we’ve mostly been at home and just watching and waiting. It felt at first like a great time to put out a record because, you know, everyone is like “2020 will be my year” and everything felt sort of new.

In with the new decade…

Yeah, and…oddly it still feels like an okay time for this record, specifically. I’m not too apprehensive about putting it out. I know a lot of people have delayed and I understand that, there’s a lot of good reasons to do that and we have a few ourselves. But yeah, I felt like this is a record that I want people to have right now.

Let’s talk about ‘now’. Do you think ‘WOMB’ fights against the isolated world we are living in, does it reject solitude and loneliness OR?

No, I think it’s the opposite. I think it encompasses it, distinctly. And I think it encompasses it in a way that represents contentment with it. So, I hope it’s something that ends up being more comforting than isolating. And I think that comes from a place of writing how I usually feel about the world. I often feel isolated and misunderstood and alone. I think a lot of people feel these things all the times.

It’s universal.

Totally. I will say that about a year ago when I listened to all the songs together, that we had at the time, I felt really comforted. And I felt…this is why I write and why I make songs with Corin and why this works because it was gratifying in this way. I had forgotten what Purity Ring is and what art for me is. And my immediate second thought was, ‘Oh, I hope other people feel this too’. People need that right now and I hope they get that from this the way I have.

Can you shine a little light on Meg the poet?

So, I keep a journal and it has changed a lot over the years, but most of the content is directly from there or adjusted from there to make more sense in a musical way. Sometimes I look back to where the lyric came from and I’m like…I don’t know how it got from A to B or I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but it works so great. And then other times it will be a direct pull from something I wrote when I woke-up in the middle of the night or whatever – which is a huge help for creativity – always. When you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea always write it down because you think you’ll remember it in the morning and you never do.

Do you consider songwriters to be storytellers?

Absolutely. I mean someone like Bruce Springsteen has a different style of writing. And a lot of country music does, obviously. The same with Joni Mitchell. I’ve been listening to a lot of older music [laughs]. But when any form of music or literature is in the form of a story, I’m there for it – that’s like how I feel. That’s how I relate to things. I’m not always able to tell a story like a country song does but I feel like I’m still able to create a world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBM0VH9iGjc

You still create meaning.

Yeah. Yeah! Like parables. It’s how people have understood life and humanity from as far back as literature goes.

I’m going to name some tracks from your new album, feel free to share anything you’d like about the songs!

 ‘stardew’

‘stardew’ was one of the first songs we wrote for the record. We wrote the chorus first. Annnd then it was about two and half years later that we finished it with the verses [laughs]. So, it was a song we were very patient with and I’m glad we were. I guess the main thing…well that song is…I’ve never been really sure. It’s kind of like a sex jam, it’s also weirdly about being born – in being what you are, obviously. So yeah, there’s like a few tangential ideas coming together in the triangle there, I guess. That song is kind of an outlier on the record which is why we put it last at number 10. But it’s one of my favourites, for sure, obviously – we put it out first!

‘peacefall’

‘peacefall’ is about an old friend of mine who said something to me once. The lyrics are quite literal in this one. He said something to me once, I didn’t hear it and then the next day another friend told me what it was. And I felt…I felt like a bad person because it was such a nice thing and I was like, ‘Oh my god, I missed that, how could I miss that? Do I not listen? What’s wrong with me?’. And this was sort of my way of trying to compensate for that because I felt like a bad friend.

Are you still in contact with them?

Yeah! Well, from a distance.

Do they know the song is about them?

Nooo they don’t.

Well, maybe they will now…

Maybe, yeah [laughs]. But also, another thing about that song that felt really fitting was just having Jonas Bjerre singing on it, I was really pumped about that. He was a part of my teenagehood.

‘pink lightning’

That song is about an actual storm from last Summer in Montana. It was a beautiful evening. It was hot and we were having a big party outside and it was the beginning of a big family reunion so there were a lot of people there and I was making the pizzas. And then all of a sudden, these huge raindrops started falling and within ten minutes it was one the most insane storms I have ever encountered in my life. It came out of nowhere. Trees were actually falling. It was just so sudden and terrifying, and no one knew what to do. And trees were falling on cabins and smashing them in and stuff and…anyway – it was brief.

At the end we were sitting inside and everyone was together and the power was out and the sun was setting and the lightning was passing and it was actually pink. Like a real pink.

Something beautiful came out of it.

Yeah, which felt very on-point for what a family reunion is. It’s such chaos, like there’s so many people who have known each other for so long so there is history. But there’s beautiful things about situations like that which are really fucking hard [soft chuckles]. The storm felt very representative about what followed that week.

‘i like the devil’

I think that song feels representative of a lot of themes on the record in terms of feminine roles and pain. And yeah, it’s kind of about being a nurturer but also how that is perceived and taken out of context a lot. It’s about a lot of things so it’s hard to pick one that covers it all – the third verse [Meg recites the verse and then comments she ‘feels weird about reciting it’]. It’s just my perspective on how counterintuitive the role I was raised to exist in is.

The cover art of ‘WOMB’ is by artist Tallulah Fontaine. The scene reminds me of tarot card paintings. Is this celestial vibe what you were going for?

The record was almost finished when we started working on that artwork. I just went to Tallulah and said these are the characters on the record and the people who are in it and how it works together. And she just came up with a concept of how it could be. We wanted it to feel like a tableau of the world that the record is. It’s like a mythological representation of all the songs together.

To promote ‘WOMB’, you guys got pretty creative. You created an online puzzle game on your website with a retro aesthetic kicking us back to the early 2000s. Once solved it gives a sneaky stream to one of your new tracks – ‘pink lightning’. What was the thinking behind this TBT to the old pc gamer world?

We just had been away for so long and Purity Ring has never been a totally straight-forward band in terms of our presence. And it felt like something we could do that was more directed at fans who were still talking about us, basically. Fans on Reddit and Discord – it was a thing that we knew they would see right away. And Discord is like a gaming community so it’s also the right place to put it too. But yeah! We weren’t sure what was gonna happen because the game is sooo hard-

Must admit, I completely failed at cracking it.

Well it’s work! When we finished, we were like oh my god…everyone is going to tendinitis from clicking everywhere, every square. It felt so ridiculous.

But many people did figure it out! Cheers to them.

They totally did! And it was a community effort, which I really appreciated. Everyone was helping each other out. That was something I hoped would happen but doubted. But then all those people did it – they were there for it. A part of me thought it would just fall by the wayside, but it ended up becoming one of the main things of this record campaign. I’m grateful because it took a really long time and a lot of effort to make that game, and I really enjoyed it so I’m glad other people did.

[P.S: You can still play the game online here or cheat and watch the puzzle being solved in the music video for ‘pink lightning’]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nFRpIFFWmA

In your lyric music video for ‘peacefall’, why did you choose to have your words completely destroyed by flames in the end?

Partly it’s just because the ending of that song sounds like – for me – something that self-destructs; it kind of falls to pieces. And when it says, ‘into the light’…when I think of light and destruction the first thing I think of is fire. And there wasn’t a moment when we were like, ‘What are gonna do with the end?’. It was more like we’ll write all the lyrics on the chainstitch machine and then burn them – obviously.

It felt like what should happen to them, I guess. It’s a hard question to answer. We also made that video in quarantine with the directors from a distance. It was a crazy few days, but it came together.

What should fans expect from the Purity Ring of 2020, what has the tide of the new decade washed onto the shore for us?

I hope we can tour in 2020, we have a new show that we are working on – I can’t say that much about it but hopefully soon I can. I feel like the only thing that has changed is that we have more songs, which is what people want all the time from any band that they like. I can’t promise anything, but I hope during this time, which is really hard to be creative, that we can settle down again and create more music and art. I am really excited to be back; I’ve been very far away for a long time. More to come!

 

April 3, 2020
Editors Pick