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The band Purity Ring has a non-negotiable rule when asked to play events like Life Is Beautiful.
“When we do outdoor festivals, we don’t play in the daytime,” says Corin Roddick, half of the Canadian electro-pop duo.
Otherwise, they lose the effect of a music-synced light show that helps translate their atmospheric studio sound to a live setting.
However, a lesser-known band insisting on a night slot means possibly playing against a headliner with a monster stack of amplifiers, as Purity Ring learned while performing earlier this month at the Austin City Limits Festival.
“The stage we were on was under direct fire from the one that Depeche Mode were on,” Roddick says. “We’re pretty loud most of the time, but in our quieter moments, we were steamrolled.”
Purity Ring’s 50-minute set it scheduled to begin Saturday at 7:20 p.m. on the Ambassador Stage, about half way through a nearby set by hometown favorites Imagine Dragons.
Should they find themselves at risk of another drownout when playing this weekend, don’t worry: they’ve tweaked their set since, cropping out some of the hushed passages.
Roddick spoke to CityLife from a Texas ranch that boasts both a recording studio and roving gangs of elk. There, he and Purity Ring’s other half, vocalist Megan James, were working out material for the followup album to their excellent 2012 debut, Shrines.
Electronic albums featuring girlish vocals were commonplace last year, but Shrines stood out due to both members’ unique contributions. Roddick crafts especially intricate soundscapes and James supplies unusually vivid (and sometimes creepy) lyrics. Music created primarily on computers and synthesizers can sometimes have a tossed-off feel. But Shrines was anything but; the tiny sonic details woven throughout its 11 songs indicate its creation was slow-going, something Roddick confirms.
“I feel like if you’re going to make a piece of art, you need to put the time in, no matter what [the instruments are],” Roddick says. “We’d work on one song for one or two months. I’d spend a few hundred hours on each song. If we weren’t an electronic band, it would work the same.”
More recently, Purity Ring’s studio prowess has been tapped by more prominent artists, including Lady Gaga and rapper Danny Brown, who also plays Life is Beautiful this weekend and features the group on his new album.
The Purity Ring remix of Gaga’s hit “Applause” jettisoned most of the music, stripping the song to its core.
“When I heard the original song, I liked the vocals a lot, but the music was too busy and distracting from her voice,” Roddick says. “There were all these other sounds battling her for attention.” Roddick’s remodeling turned up pristine wood floors hiding under the production’s loud shag carpet, an improvement to some ears.
While it’s an honor to be asked to rework a song by someone of Gaga’s popularity, Roddick doesn’t see himself doing much more of it.
“I took as much time to do it as I would one of our own songs,” he says, “and at the end of the day, it just gets tossed around on the internet and doesn’t have the lasting power of an original song.” CL