Purple Pilgrims are the duo of sisters Valentine and Clementine Nixon, the pair have recently released their second record, Perfumed Earth, a collection of tracks they refer to as, “something of a rebirth”. As with their debut album, the record was put together in the wooded sanctuary of a studio in the wilds of Tapu, in their home country, New Zealand.
Perfumed Earth feels both a natural progression for Purple Pilgrims’ sound, and like a bold step forward, enlisting the help of what they describe as, “a very modern/mobile band”, they combined live records with over-dubs, transported in, often from entirely different locations. The resultant sound still has the sisters distinct entwined vocals, and modern re-imaginging of folk music, yet now they sound more defined; the moments of enchanted pop music sound brighter, the more textural, experimental tracks sound richer, more nuanced, braver than ever before. Throughout they create technicolor tapestries of sound, musical vistas to explore and get lost in.
Today following the album’s release, Valentine and Clementine answer our questions discussing their take on folk music, signing to Flying Nun and the pros and cons of living off the grid.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who are Purple Pilgrims?
Sisters, home producers, jack of all trades, masters of some.
FTR: Your new album, Perfumed Earth, is out next month, what can you tell us about recording it?
We recorded Perfumed Earth at our home in an isolated valley on the very edge of complete wilderness. We’re quite insular in our recoding process so the isolation suits us and our music.
FTR: It’s been a few years since your debut, what did you do differently compared to Eternal Delight?
The absence was spent enjoying living off the grid, gardening and the like. Life without cellphone coverage is much more fluid, so the gap wasn’t something we were overly aware of. We mixed the album with our friend Tom at his studio in Mt. Eden Auckland, where we had access to a host of beautiful vintage tape machines for processing – a first for us and quite a treat.
FTR: The album’s coming out via Flying Nun Records, how did that come about? Are you a fan of the labels output?
It came about really naturally. Some of our favourite music exists in the Flying Nun back catalogue.
FTR: We read your music described as, “folks songs played on synthesised instruments” why did you want to stray away from more traditional instrumentation?
The idea of folk music as an ancient means of story-telling is something we’ve always been really interested in, we relate to that style of writing. In terms of instrumentation our main aim is to tell a story in the most descriptive way possible, and at this time in history with technology so readily available, the palette of sound has potential to be vast, we love to make the most of that.
FTR: What are the pros and cons of being in a band with your sister?
We know what the other is thinking without having to verbalise anything, we can also fight viciously with an assurance that we’ll never break up! We haven’t discovered the cons as of yet.
FTR: What track on the record are you most proud of?
We really think of the album as a body of work, not favouring one part over another.
FTR: There’s a lot more collaborators on this record, were you conscious of trying to do something different with this record?
We’re always interested in trying out new ways of making music, but have always been really self-sufficient with recording. Letting a few friends in (mostly via the internet, from far and wide) to weave through additional layers, ended up feeling very natural to us.
FTR: How is the current music scene in New Zealand? Are there other bands coming through we should be looking out for?
Kraus is wonderful, we’d suggest looking out for Kraus.
FTR: What are your aspirations for this record?
We’d be grateful with knowing it made some people feel something. An emotional reaction of any kind is what we aim for.
FTR: Why do you make music?
Our family have been folk musicians going back generations (a huge part of their culture as Scottish Travellers/Romani), our granddad was a songwriter in London in the 1960s and was constantly singing/playing piano. We think being around so much music at a young age has made it quite second nature to us.
FTR: What can people expect from the Purple Pilgrims live show?
FTR: What’s next for Purple Pilgrims?
Perfumed Earth will be out in the world soon and we’ll begin touring again before the forest decides to keep us forever.
Perfumed Earth is out now via Flying Nun. Click HERE for more information on Purple Pilgrims.