Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Purity Ring: Out from the shadows

Purity Ring's gloomy grind now comes with dance moves. They tell Chris Schulz why.
Canadian synth-pop duo Purity Ring are set to perform at Laneway 2016.
Canadian synth-pop duo Purity Ring are set to perform at Laneway 2016.

Something strange happened after Purity Ring's second album dropped: fans started dancing.

It's a fact Megan James is very happy about. "It's a lot easier to perform if I can see that people are physically into it," says the singer, who joins producer Corin Roddick in the Canadian synth-grind group.

"That didn't used to happen. people are going a little harder."

They'll need to deliver when they perform at Laneway: Purity Ring are tasked with closing the Cactus Cat stage with their 9.35pm performance, but they'll be up against Australian party boy Flume, who play last on the main stage.

Those looking to venture down a darker path to end their Laneway experience should definitely choose Purity Ring, thanks to James' ultra-personal lyrics ("I cried until my body ached," she sings on recent single Bodyache).

Best described as the gothic cousins of fellow Laneway act Chvrches, Purity Ring examine the darker corners of synth-pop, and James is promising an intense experience.

"We have an ocean of lights in a grid and each of the songs are programmed to different colours and patterns," she says. "It's pretty intense, a virtual expression of what we feel our songs look like."

They arrived with the online debut of their first single Ungirthed in 2011, but James admits there was no grand scheme behind Purity Ring's trajectory. "It was a first try. Corin was producing and asked if I wanted to try singing and it was like, 'Okay'. The first song we wrote was Ungirthed, we put it online and it was like, 'Okay, that worked, let's keep going'. I still am surprised at how quickly it took off. It doesn't really happen [like that] anymore."

Though their debut, 2012's Shrines, was recorded with the duo living in separate cities, they got together in the studio for last year's Another Eternity (TimeOut's 11th-best album of 2015). So was that an easier recording experience?

"No," sighs James. "It was a learning curve on how we work together in the same room.

"[Previously] Corin would write a song, and I'd write one. He'd send me his, and I'd apply mine. It was like putting two songs together. With the second record it was like, 'How can we make this part more focused, or like a chorus rather than a weird bridge thing'."

James believes her differences with Roddick are what makes Purity Ring "some kind of magic".

"Our collaboration is strange because we're so different as people. There are some unidentified things that make it work, and they need to stay unidentified. It's also why we want to keep doing it. There's a lot more to explore."

Who: Purity Ring
Where and when: Laneway, Cactus Cat Stage, 9.35pm
Also: Second album Another Eternity, is out

- TimeOut

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