Purity Ring Still Feels Out of Place at an EDM Festival

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With the success of its recent record, Another Eternity, Canadian masters of “future pop” Purity Ring finds itself the master of its destiny.

With its first record, Shrines, everything — from production to recording — was handled by the duo of Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (instrumentals), mostly via the interwebs. This somewhat spontaneous side project caught fire, and soon they were a full-blown band touring the world. With Another Eternity, Purity Ring has stepped up its stage-production game, Roddick curating gorgeous light shows and James sewing and stitching original outfits that fit the band's futuristic electronic sound. All this has been done with little outside interference.

In the past year or so, the two have appeared on Conan and received shoutouts from Paramore’s Hayley Williams and pop-star Katy Perry, and this weekend, they have an opportunity to expand their roster of fans. Sunday night, Purity Ring will headline Ultra Music Festival’s Live Stage. Before Megan James takes Bayfront Park by storm, we spoke with her about her Miami memories, belonging at Ultra, and even a little politics.

New Times: It’s been a while, but what was your experience like the last time you were here at the Fillmore Miami Beach?
Megan James: I remember really well because, I don’t know if it’s the guy that owns the theater or whatever, but he — we parked the bus and walked in the back door the morning of and backstage was just full of 30 vintage bikes. He keeps them there to keep them safe. They were mostly in working condition, so we took these really old, beautiful bikes to the beach, and he was like, "Don’t take your eyes off of that one." That was so nice of him to let us take them out. Went to the beach, and it was a beautiful, memorable beach day. It was sweet.

You almost got pulled into the crowd that night when you were reaching out to fans. Have you had anything like that happen before?
Did I crowd-surf at that show?

No, but it certainly looked like they were going to yank you offstage.
I think there wasn’t a barricade at that show, so it was really close. I remember that. People haven’t pulled me in, but I have gone in before and fallen. Instead of holding me, they just grab. [alaughs] So that’s kind of a risk. Although, if there are younger people in the crowd, I’ve learned through experience that you shouldn’t go in when there’s kids in front because they just can’t do it. We try and play all-ages shows so more people can see us, but also the energy in the show when people are younger is so much stronger. It’s like when I was a kid, I would get so excited, and I always wanted to be up front. I can understand that even though now in my life, I’m always in the back of shows. Not the best place for crowd-surfing but makes for the best kind of show.

You don’t ever worry about crowd-surfing or getting superclose to the crowd?
No, I think our fans are pretty sweet and tame. They’re genuinely thoughtful to what they’re doing. It’s not just recklessness. I think I can be very reckless, so I can definitely appreciate that. I think that’s why I’m not really worried for myself. I’ve always been sort of, like, reckless with my body, I guess.

What do you mean? As a performer or in general?
Not necessarily active things and not necessarily active dangerous things, but more like jumping off things into water. I’m not afraid of consequences. I understand risk, but I’m not really worried about it. I don’t like drive really fast or anything, but it’s definitely part of the way I exist.

You’re playing Ultra this weekend. What are your expectations for one of the world’s largest EDM fests?
I never really expected that we would play it. I think it’s a funny position to be in. It’s like a serious festival, and it’s so far away from how I see myself and how I perceive our music. And it’s interesting; we always think we don’t go well on an EDM bill, like Lightning in a Bottle was a great show or like Electric Forest. It’s always a really good show, and it always surprises me. The first EDM-type festival we did, we were like, "We’re really different from all of these bands. What are we doing here?" But now, I guess I’m not really worried about it because it actually makes sense. We still don’t belong here, but it’ll be good because it fits.

For the first album, Shrines, you and Corin Roddick worked completely through email. For Another Eternity, you came together at least once a month. Now that you’re on tour, you’ve gone from a long-distance relationship to basically living together. What’s been the impact on the dynamic of the band?
I guess our writing process is a little bit more in-depth. We communicate a lot more about what we’re making or we’re trying to make. In terms of song to song, we talk a lot more about what goes in before when before we each did our own thing and it just sort of worked.

Did you leave the division of labor the same as before, with Corin taking care of production and you writing the lyrics, or was there more collaborating this time around?
It was a lot more collaborative, but Corin is a lot more proficient with production than I am. We talk more about what each other is doing and not with lyrics, but with any melody of a song, be it vocals or production. It’s weird to talk about that because it’s normal [for other bands.]

Considering the personal nature of your lyrics, you ever have anyone try and psychoanalyze you?
I think people end up psychoanalyzing themselves. Maybe people try to, but they’re cryptic and vague, so really you end up making your ideas and definitions of what the lyrics are. Therefore, it’s really what you think it is. I used to go through and sometimes read what people thought the song meanings are, and it was always like — whoa — very different from what I was thinking. Also I don’t think about it anymore. When you give away a song... I have no reason to be upset because of misinterpretation.

Do you have plans on sticking around Ultra and partying at any particular performer’s set?
I’m going to at least see Tiësto… I’d like to see AlunaGeorge. I guess I can’t not. It’s such a huge festival that I’m not sure if I’ll be excited to walk around. I’m not really into crowds.

And finally, considering you’re from Canada, any thoughts on or advice for Americans planning their escape if Trump wins the presidency?
[Llaughs] I’ll have to move back to Canada if that happens. I have zero political advice. I don’t know. You never really know how much power a president will have. He might end up having more power than most presidents have, because of how scary all the things he’s been saying, but it’s like the hope I had when Obama was going to be president the first time. I have antihope, like fuck, what if Trump wins? He would be one of the most terrifying leaders in history.

Purity Ring. 10:10 p.m. Sunday, March 20, at Ultra Music Festival, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $324.95 to $1,249.95 plus fees via ultramusicfestival.com.

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