After a five-year wait, Purity Ring are back with their latest album, Womb. The Canadian duo – comprising Megan James and Corin Roddick – first formed in 2010, releasing their debut full-length Shrines in 2012 to exceptional critical review. The second single from the album, ‘Fineshrine’ currently has more than 58 million streams on Spotify, was named one of the best songs of the decade so far by Pitchfork, and made it onto triple j’s Hottest 100 for 2012.
The group’s second album Another Eternity was released in 2015. Another Eternity featured single ‘Begin Again’, which came in at number 87 on the triple j Hottest 100 for 2015, and currently has over 25 million Spotify streams.
Vocalist Megan James tells Music Feeds she hopes the forthcoming album “feels like a place where people can rest and sit in and feel some kind of comforting escape for the brief time that it runs for.”
In this interview, we have a chat with James about the band’s creative process for the album, her personal favourite tracks, and how she’s holding up during quarantine.
Music Feeds: You guys have mentioned that Womb “chronicles a quest for comfort and the search for a resting place in a world where so much is beyond our control”, which seems pretty relevant to what we’re experiencing right now. What were you thinking about, specifically, when creating this album?
Megan James: Yeah, as it happens, it is applicable. I feel like, it’s odd how applicable it is right now. Mostly I think that’s just because we made the record from home and like, made a conscious decision to stay home a lot, whereas a lot of times throughout the previous records, we would travel somewhere together and like, go on some kind of writing trip. But yeah, I felt like, after touring Another Eternity – which was extensive, like, we toured for a really long time – we both needed a lot of space after that, to sort of like, come back to ourselves, and I think staying home to write this record sort of was born of that feeling. It’s like, we want to be home as much as we can ’cause as soon as we’re done we have to go tour again.
So, yeah, I feel like that really played into it. Like, I am the kind of person who absorbs a lot from my environment, and therefore my home becomes a place where… how it feels and like, what’s in it and yeah, what it feels like it encompasses is really important to my creative process. A lot of that was like, a major part of just how this ended up being. It wasn’t like, that conscious what the record ended up being about, that’s like, more I guess how the personal poetry of the past five years of my life, it just so happens. But I think overall it was just staying home, and needing to for our creative process.
MF: This album was entirely recorded, produced, and mixed by yourselves. How was that process different from previous albums where maybe you had other people mixing or helping out in different ways.
MJ: Well, it’s not actually that different. Like, we usually… we have always done everything ourselves. I guess for our third record it was something we did more decisively, ’cause it’s a lot easier to get things done faster, especially living in LA, it’s like… if you have a problem it’s really easy to call someone up and get it solved. I dunno, that’s never our go-to because we have, like through our creative process over the years we’ve realised that if it’s not coming from, exclusively from the two of us, it doesn’t feel like Purity Ring anymore. Also, it’s just sort of like a DIY mentality that we’ve always had. It’s like when we started making music, we did what we had to, like, it was all in Corin’s basement where we recorded, and then it was like in the living room in the Montreal apartment, and now it’s in the spare bedroom [laughs] at our house.
And it’s not because we could do anything differently now, necessarily. Like, we’re not at the stage where we can like, have the big studio and have like, all the gear and make a bigger deal out of it or whatever. It’s just like, what we’ve always done. But this time Corin did mix it himself. He mixed the Shrines record, and then we had someone else mix Another Eternity, and then he wanted to do it again this time, which was a big deal, it’s a lot of work. But yeah, it comes at the end. So, the writing process is all pretty much the same with how it has been.
MF: Do you have a personal favourite track from the album?
MJ: It actually changes. For a long time, it was ‘Rubyinsides’, I really like ‘Rubyinsides’. Corin’s favourite is ‘Sinew’, definitely. When we finished the record, I really liked ‘Vehemence’. Like, I wasn’t sure about it before and then I really liked it. It’s funny how it comes together. You don’t always know what it’ll look like at the end and it’s often unexpected. I mean, obviously we like all the songs, they made it to the record but, yeah, how my initial reaction to them traverses quite a lot over the process of making it.
MF: What’s your favourite lyric that you’ve ever written, across any of the albums?
MJ: Hm, that’s a really hard question. I don’t remember a lot of them, honestly. Like, I don’t really look back or listen.
MF: Or maybe from this album, if it’s easier?
MJ: Yeah, maybe from this album it would be… I think, there’s a bit at the… I think the end of ‘Femia’ is my favourite thing. That gets stuck in my head a lot and I feel like it has the elements of poetry that I am usually aiming for, in a very compact way. It just feels really satisfying.
MF: How are you planning on spending your time during this quarantine/isolation period of our lives?
MJ: Well, like I said, I spend a lot of time at home to begin with. Work from home is like… it’s funny though, ’cause like, all of my creative process is already here and then, since the quarantine started, I’m having a harder time than ever actually being creative. I didn’t realise how much I’d have to wrap my head around what’s happening, even though it’s like, it feels like I’m alone but I know I’m not, but also… I dunno, it’s like, it’s developing into a thing that… it’s so big and so real that it is really hard to know what to do with it but I feel like we have to do something with it, otherwise, we won’t get anything done [laughs].
I don’t know, I have a lot of… I’ve been sort of going through phases, and initially, I was like, this is great, I’m gonna like, start a sourdough starter – which has been two weeks, it’s going great – I can make bread. I’m growing sprouts. I’m like, doing all these sort of, self-sustaining things so that I don’t have to go to the grocery store I like planted potatoes [laughs]. Working at all these things that will just like, maintain being able to stay inside longer.
But then it’s like… I’m fortunate enough to be okay, with where we’re at right now, but it feels like survival mode. I guess one thing I could say though is, I do really appreciate how everyone’s first instinct was sort of to like, help each other. In the first week of quarantine I got more phone calls from like, distant friends to like, have a Skype hang or whatever than I ever have before and it’s like oh, everyone’s really thinking about each other. It gave me a lot of hope for whatever the new normal is.
MF: Yeah. I think that’s very accurate though, about the reduced motivation to do things. I’ve definitely been feeling that as well, in a weird way.
MF: Yeah, like even with writing and stuff, I’m like, I’ve got to do it but… it’s hard. When the world feels like it’s almost falling apart, it’s hard to get motivated. I dunno, it’s weird.
MJ: Yeah, it’s like… It’s so heavy that you can’t hole up and pretend it’s not there. Because like, it’s affecting everyone anyway. It’s hard to define at this point.
MF: It is. I’m sure in the future there’ll be lots of stuff about it written.
MJ: Oh yeah. But also, I just hit this point where… it got heavier recently. Like, I started feeling more emotional than I was the first couple of weeks, so, I don’t know about you, but I’m like… it’s starting to hit harder.
MF: No, for sure. I think that’s definitely a thing.
MJ: Like, it’s beyond cabin fever, it’s like… whoa, what is happening? I feel like, crazy in a way I’ve never felt before, so I don’t know.
MF: Yeah, ’cause the first week or two it’s new and it’s different, and then you get a bit further in and it’s like oh, this isn’t ending, this keeps going…
MJ: And it’s like, shifting still, because it doesn’t end… We’ll see though, I hope we’re all okay.
MF: So do I. Are you marathoning any Netflix shows or reading any books during this time that are particularly good?
MJ: The usual. I watched Tiger King, which was great. Also, Crip Camp was a beautiful movie, also on Netflix. That one was very moving for me. And then, I had like, a funny sort of coincidence, I guess. I watched this movie Safe the other night, which is from… I think it was made in ’87, which is right after the AIDS crisis in America, so it’s like, kind of pertaining to that, and it has Julianne Moore. Anyway, the next day, The New Yorker wrote an article about how that movie applies to what we’re going through right now, and it was like… the movie really affected me, and then the next day was this article, and I was like, oh, this is easier to think about, ’cause it is the kind of movie where it’s like… I was affected but I wasn’t sure why, like, ‘whoa, what just happened to me? I have so many feelings!’. But yeah, that was a really good movie, and on point, weirdly. Kind of like a timeless message, I guess.
MF: Yeah, I find that’s kind of strange as well with like, a lot of media out there, whether it’s albums or movies or books, some of it just weirdly relates to what we’re going through right now, without even… you know, being created years before. Whether I’m just reading too far into it, I dunno.
MJ: No, but like, the first movie I watched when this all started was Contagion, obviously. But that was like, eerie how on the nose it was. So, yeah, there is a lot of entertainment that predicted this. It’s so weird. But also it’s time. Pandemics are… I think the main thing that affects society, and it’s every century or so it happens. We’re kind of like, due for one. Or that’s like… I have read that, I’m not saying that of my own accord.
Actually, the last book I read it was last year at some point. Reading books has been a thing that’s on the list that I procrastinate about. I read The Lost City of the Monkey God, which is like, it’s kind of like, about treasure hunters, I guess [laughs]. Anyway, that was interesting ’cause it’s also about how they’re… like, they all go deep in the jungle, where people haven’t been for hundreds of years, and they come out with leish[manaiasis], and they all… the virus has been around since the beginning of time, but there’s still no cure and it still exists. I’m not making any sense, but the book’s related to what we’re going through now.
MF: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think it has been shown that every hundred years or so there seems to be something. Who knows why that is…
MJ: Yeah, it’s nerve-racking and we’re in it and there are no answers because there are not many people around who have been through this before.
Purity Ring’s new album ‘WOMB’ is out now.