There's a sense of weightlessness that comes through in the music of Purity Ring. As we heard on Shrines, the breakthrough 2012 record from the Canadian duo, and in particular their standout track "Fineshrine," their songs feel as if they're being transmitted in from an adjacent dimension located just beneath a shimmering veil.
In their "push pull" video, from their follow-up record Another Eternity, out March 3, Megan James and Corin Roddick translate that sound into its logical visual accompaniment.
Throughout the video, James spins and floats, the tendrils of her clothes and hair spilling out around her in what could either be interpreted as underwater tidal choreography or a space-walk ballet. The sounds of both elements surface in the track as well, with Roddick's bubbling synths and sub-sonar textures brushing up against the celestial cloud noise.
For all the appealing sounds and visuals here, as ever, the imagery conjured up by James' lyrics tell a slightly more menacing story. "There was no light and I swear/ I could see your raring fear/ I heard the plains moaning back/ I saw the thunder roll o'er black," she sings.
I called James, who was on the road in Paris for a string of publicity dates, to talk about Purity Ring's new video.
MTV: This is your eleventh interview in a row today? What's the one question you keep getting asked that you're sick of?
Megan James: What's different about the new album, I guess...
MTV: Uh, that was, going to be... Hold on here. OK, tell me about the video. Where did the idea for the treatment come from?
Megan James: Well, the treatment was mostly just a lot of visuals where we worked with Renata Raksha. A lot of her artistic references are the same, she's very on par with how we think about the things we want to do with our project visually. She's also amazing at making treatments with beautiful ideas and references to other artists.
I don't know where it came from but, like, there was haste to do it, so it had to be a simple concept. Sort of like those videos where the artist is, like, there's often one shot focused on them singing and minimal. We knew it had to be that because we were trying to do it in a short period of time, but we also tried to bring in really simple elements that would create a more intriguing or interesting appeal.
MTV: There's a sense of movement to it still.
James: And yeah, the movement, we wanted something that would move and also bring an underwater element. Everything we do has kind of an otherworldly tinge, we're trying to create another, a different place to exist. It was an attempt to make it appear like I wasn't actually on the ground.
MTV: I was thinking either underwater or in zero gravity.
James: I mean, either or. It's not actually underwater. Don't tell everybody that! I was hanging upside down actually for a long time, the blood rushed to my face.
MTV: Is it tied into the lyrics at all, or is this one just stream of consciousness like a lot of your lyrics seem to be?
James: This one is sort of stream of consciousness in terms of lyrical content.
It was a time when I was moving from one side of Canada, the east side, and driving in four days all the way to Edmonton. It was kind of a big deal for me to move then, so I think it's a lot about linear emotions and driving through landscapes and relating that to an experience where I felt like I was... I was trying to put myself... be where I was, that turned into existing in that traverse.
The song travels a lot I think. But at the same I still don't really know what it's about.
MTV: You took a different approach to writing and recording this record than before, right?
James: We wrote this record all in the same place both together. Our first record we were long distance, we didn't live in the same city. With this one, for a lot of it, we didn't as well, but we went to great lengths to try to write it together so it could be a more cohesive piece of work and we cold communicate what we wanted to make and how.
We ended up having the time and freedom and ability to communicate about each song and each part within the song and it turned into like, each song is more like a singular... more about songwriting than like stream of consciousness, even though a lot of the lyrics are like that anyway, that's how I function.
I think it was we were able to sort of digest everything we were doing and have input on each other's input. That provided a lot more space to make what we wanted to make.
And then it ended up sounding like that as well. I think each sound is sort of carved, and there is more space in it, with higher highs and lower lowers, it's much more dynamic. It also shows the progression of our abilities in general.
MTV: Is “push pull” the song that best represents the album?
James: We thought, a song that better represents the record as a whole is maybe “Begin Again.” It's still kind of dark and has a more defined part, and is a little bit more defined sounding than Shrines was. We really liked “push pull,” it was one of the first we wrote, and it is very representative of us. I thought it was more in the territory of our old stuff, but I realize now it kind of isn't at all.
It was like something we felt safe putting out first. But I'm not sure if that's still the case with how I think of the record now. It changes a lot how you think about a record from when you're writing it to when you finish it.