“Shrines” blends genres and gives electronic music a new face.
“Yeah, what the fuck is indietronica?” says Corin Roddick of electro-synth Canadian duo Purity Ring, laughing. He recently discovered an entry on Purity Ring’s Wikipedia page that listed them as such. “That sounds like a fake genre. Whatever it is, I hope that we’re not it.”
In Wikipedia’s defense, it is difficult to place Purity Ring in any genre. Roddick and vocalist Megan James pull from what artists in the dubstep, hip-hop, electronic, and R&B scenes do and turn strong rhythms into a pulsing fantasy– half-daydream and half-nightmare. James layers light, ethereal vocals over Roddick’s dark, trance-like rhythms, and the result is their futuristic, synth-soaked 2012 debut record Shrines. Purity Ring plays The Maison on Monday night.
For Roddick, much of the creativity found on Shrines began while on the road, and it’s a work habit he still maintains. “I actually just had my headphones on, working on some of my stuff,” he says. “That’s a lot of what I do in the van. I’m trying to work on some new production. I can’t do it all that way, but I start on ideas when I’m in the van. When I get home, I have a bunch of little things that could potentially turn into songs.”
Before Purity Ring, Roddick was entirely unfamiliar with the production of electronic music. Instead, he drummed in several bands. He played other people’s songs and never wrote music for himself, something he says he was ready to break free of. “I wanted to do something more my own thing,” he says. “ I’d listened to a lot of electronic music before, but I’d never really had a chance to make it. I didn’t know what I was doing at all. There wasn’t a particular influence, and I didn’t really have a plan. One of the questions that I dislike the most is when people are just like, ‘Oh, list for me your influences.’ I don’t know. I just sat down and was experimenting. It didn’t work immediately, either. I messed around for a few months.”
As the tracks on Shrines came together, Roddick and James realized they had no idea how to pull off their layered sounds in a live setting. “We were just trying to make the recordings be the best they could without really thinking at all how to transition to performance,” Roddick says. “We always knew from the beginning that if we performed live we wanted it to be a very visual show that used lighting to create a mood. That was the basis.”
Purity Ring’s set for this current tour includes suspended, overhead cocoons that trigger and light up in time with their glitchy, electro-pop music. The band enlisted Vancouver-based sensory installation producers Tangible Interaction for the project. “If you’re an electronic artist, you have to go above and beyond a little bit and find new ways to connect with your audience,” Roddick says of the live set-up. “You don’t want to see someone with a laptop, nodding their head. That’s okay sometimes, but there comes a point where you don’t want to look at that anymore. It’s inspiring to go to electronic shows and see someone with a really cool visual set-up. Rock shows are the ones that bore me the most. I can’t say that all rock bands are boring, but I think I have a shorter attention span if I don’t have something cool to look at.”