When Canadian keyboardist-percussionist Corin Roddick discovered Megan James, it wasn’t her soft, marshmallowy vocals that caught his attention. It was the underground designer label the fashion-school grad had quietly launched in their native Edmonton, Alberta.
“Long before I really knew Megan that well, I knew of the clothing she made, and I was very drawn to it,” says Roddick, who in 2010 recruited her to front his electronic duo Purity Ring, which plays The City Monday to promote its dazzling debut recording, “Shrines,” on 4AD.
“I actually bought a sweater off of her when I didn’t know much about her, because I loved her stuff — everything she makes just feels really warm, very homemade but in a high-quality way,” Roddick adds.
Building her grass-roots line occupies most of James’ nontouring down-time.
“I mean, you can’t just be one thing — you’ve got to have a few projects or passions, right?” she asks, rhetorically. “And I do have a name for myself among friends and acquaintances, at least, and lately I’ve been making a lot of jeans. That’s what I’m most excited about right now.”
James crafts all of Purity Ring’s functional stage wear, and also sews the subtle concert backdrops. But Roddick is a designer himself; to enliven their shows, he concocted an elaborate, Christmas-tree-lit synthesizer he dubbed The Instrument.
Or, as he describes it, “a series of lanterns that are all touch-sensitive, and I play them percussively. Each one connects to a synthesizer, so I can perform all of the melodies to the songs by hitting them, which causes the lantern to glow in a certain way.”
Yes, it’s odd. But he would rather play drums than keyboards — not that the music needs any added effects.
Pulsating “Shrines,” nocturnes such as “Ungirthed,” and “Bellspeak,” and symphonic single “Fineshrine” jitter past like a sun-warped old slab of OMD vinyl.
For the stream-of-consciousness lyrics, James dug into her private diaries. She says, “I’m not thinking about Purity Ring when I’m writing, or what it’s going to turn into. I’m literally just writing in my journal.” To avoid oversharing, she keeps her words comfortably vague.
The team settled on the unusual moniker Purity Ring simply because it sounded cool and controversial, which made looking them up online difficult at first.
“But not anymore!” says Roddick of their new popularity. “We’re actually overtaking the Google ‘Purity Ring’ search. We’re winning the battle against the Jonas Brothers!”
Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.
When: 5:30 and 9 p.m. Monday
Tickets: $12, sold out
Contact: (415) 626-4455; www.bottomofthehill.com