Two years ago I wrote about my SXSW trip right here on this site. Amongst some of the bands I saw and covered were Cloud Nothings, then an unsigned act playing an unofficial showcase in a car park. Shortly after the piece went live, The Line of Best Fit’s editor forwarded me an email from a chap named Cecil, sharing his love for the Ohio outfit. An email correspondence followed and I realised Cecil was Gobble Gobble, of whom I was a fan. Time passed and a year later I watched him and his band play their own unofficial show at SXSW. Then the band name switched to Born Gold, there was a line up change, and previous members Corin and Megan became Purity Ring, releasing pop wonder Ungirthed on Transparent.
Now sat with the aforementioned unassuming Canadians in a restaurant in London hours ahead of their White Heat headline set, telling this exact story, I can’t help but feel things have come a little full circle.
I ask if they initially met through Gobble Gobble? “No, we met before that, but through the same circle of friends,” replies Megan, with a giggle. Corin continues, “We became closer through Gobble Gobble. Megan was only playing in the band for about a month.”
So how long did Corin play in the band? “Two or three years. Pretty much up until they changed the name to Born Gold. Gobble Gobble was Cecil’s thing. Calvin or I or Graham never wrote any music, it was always Cecil’s project, but we were fairly committed. I probably played two hundred or three hundred shows with those. We toured a lot so it felt like we were a unit for sure.”
Speaking of Gobble Gobble’s touring Corin enthuses, “The best shows were always crazy house shows, basement shows. Ones where there’s like, two hundred people in a space for thirty people.”
“They were really smart because they bought a PA and travelled with it so they could play anywhere,” interjects Megan. “So they had really good shows, no matter where they were. It always sounded good.”
And Corin, “Yeah, if someone wanted us to play at their house we would just show up with the PA, and that’s what most of the shows were.”
Prior to playing in Gobble Gobble, Corin had never made his own music, so touring with Cecil and co. he explains, was really where he picked up what would make the basis for the now 4AD signed duo. “I think I learnt a lot. I spent a lot of time on the road with them so I saw a lot of bands play. I heard a lot of music and really realised things that I like, things that I don’t like and it kind of made me realise what I want to do. And also, while I was in the bands with them, that’s where I started producing music. We had very, very long drives so I started messing around on my laptop. I’d never really written any music up until that point, I’d just been a drummer, so I was very new. I was probably very naïve, musically, before going on tour with that band. I learnt a lot, about everything. About myself, about life.”
Surely the advantage of being self-taught, of never being given a set way of doing things is that you come fresh to it, and perhaps that’s why Purity Ring have created a sound that feels very exciting and very individual? “You can’t try to do that,” agrees Megan before Corin closes, “I think things like that just happen.”
Over the course of our twenty-minute chat it becomes apparent just how well Corin and Megan compliment each other. They continue each other’s speech and occasionally disappear into conversations together. So how do you write your songs as Purity Ring? Corin begins, “I’ll always mess around and come up with some instrumental piece and I’ll leave like, room for Megan to sing. I’ll have ideas of where the vocals should go, but I never have any idea what they will be or what they’ll sound like.”
Megan: You also never tell me where those places are.
Corin: Well it’s too hard to explain it. I don’t want to be like, section 31 for 54 seconds.
Megan: No! But I’m saying it works because it’s like, often I don’t know what he’s thinking when he’s writing the track but he’ll send it to me and I just do whatever I want and it ends up working.
Corin: Yeah, usually I’ll have spaces for where I think vocals should go and spaces that I think will be instrumental and then when Megan sends it back to me as an instrumental there will be vocals over the whole thing. Often there will be vocals start to finish so then I’m like, OK.
Megan: And then I make you work with it because I’m like, no. I can’t cut anything.
Corin: We still cut things some times.
Megan: Not very often.
Debut album Shrines gets a release this month and showcases their idiosyncratic talent at mixing off-kilter lyricism within a world of oddly skewed pop hooks and skittering beats. I ask Megan if the songs have meanings and narratives or if she writes as more of a collage? “There are definitely stories in it,” she affirms. “I think that it’s really cryptic and symbolic and I don’t do that in regards to an audience, it’s just how I write, how I think. I’m writing really personal material and taking what I can find in my books and I’m like, oh, I’ll put this over it. It’s all like, journal entries. Each song has a basic form of inspiration, whether it’s an event or an emotion or a place or whatever you write about. But it’s never intended to make you think that it’s one thing or another, it’s my fairyland, Grimm world of writing. But yeah, it’s definitely themes and subjects that are separate in each song.”
When you tie the music in with all the surrounding imagery, videos and art it feels a lot like a fantasy world and the songs seem to encompass it all. “Yeah, that’s a really nice way of putting it,” she agrees. “We try not to be too direct as far as imagery goes. We have a pretty strong aesthetic I think, or we try to, and it doesn’t have a lot to do with our faces – that’s on purpose – but erm…”
Corin: We don’t try to be mysterious or anything. We’re not trying to cover our faces. We do photo shoots.
Megan: All the images and songs we put out we feel suit each other. They’re coming from the same place.
Corin: As they should be.
I offer that they appear enigmatic from the way they released one single, seemed to virtually disappear, and then suddenly re-emerge with a record deal and a debut album ready to go. Megan beings, “It was a year, which is kind of not that much time…”
Corin: We could have been signed a lot quicker if we had put out music faster, I guess, but everything about last year happened very slowly. Well, it happened very quickly in the fact we’re a brand new band and it’s only been a year and we got signed…
Megan: But we only released three songs.
Corin: …but the way the year was paced was very slow. When things were happening we couldn’t really see an end to them. Starting new songs, I couldn’t really envision those songs being finished, or talking to a label, I couldn’t really envision actually signing. It just seemed so far away.
And now that everything is in position, how are they feeling about finally releasing a full length, nervous or excited?
Corin: I’m not nervous because I’m not worried. I’m not expecting anything or un-expecting anything. I just feel that what we made was everything we wanted it to be and it being released at all is all we want.
Shrines is released on 23 July through 4AD.