Sylvester Sessions #96

Sylvester Sessions #96

Purple Pilgrims wear Dimity dress

Sylvester Sessions #96

Purple Pilgrims

New Zealand   
Purple Pilgrims wear Dimity dress

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

We’re really looking forward to the release of our second album. We feel like we’ve grown in so many ways since our last body of work and we’re proud of the development, personally and creatively. We recorded and produced the majority of the album ourselves at home - there’s always a certain amount of trial and error that goes along with that - and it’s that experimentation that we love most about making music. We’ve always been very DIY, and quite insular in our process, but this time around we were lucky enough to collaborate with some amazing musicians and an actual sound wizard. This new approach was a great lesson for us in being slightly more malleable and open with our work. 

We’re very excited for her to be out in the world soon, it feels as though it’s been a long labour!

Listening to Purple Pilgrims is like stepping into another world, tell us about your sound and the experience you want to evoke.

The juxtaposition of reality vs. the unreal, and blurring the lines between, is a theme that we’ve always been fascinated with. We want to invite the listener into a dream space, and hopefully evoke something akin to magic in a general sense. The meeting point between ancient imagery and futurism is an idea we’re endlessly enamoured by, and is a recurring theme our work too. In terms of interpretation we wouldn’t really like to suggest/impose any particular feeling on the listener by over explaining the music (we’d rather the listener decide on that themselves) - but the goal would be for whomever listens to have some emotional reaction to the music - whatever that might be. 

You live in the Coromandel, but keep one foot in the city. What does the contrast of living between two places offer you creatively?

From a young age we grew up between Hong Kong and Christchurch, so the contrast between Coromandel and Auckland feels quite natural to us. In Coromandel we live in a very isolated bush setting - out of cell tower range and 40 minutes from the closest town. In the city we live in the middle of town, in a converted office building, surrounded by the constant hum of people and traffic. Extremes seem to suit us. I think this contrast manifests itself in our work in the sense that our music is often either quite meditative, or rather chaotic. There’s also no time to feel uninspired by our surrounding as we’re moving back and forth all the time! Once we get sick of the quiet, we’re ready for the noise - and vice versa. 

You have a new album releasing this year, is there anything you can tell us about the inspiration behind the album?

We wrote and recorded (most of) the album in the deep Coromandel bush, the isolation of this environment has no doubt found it’s way into the themes of the songs. We moved out here from Hong Kong a couple years ago now and it was quite a shock to begin with - not being able to pop out to the shops at 3am (Hong Kong truly never sleeps) etc. took some adjusting. But we both discovered, that after a certain amount of time, that internal white noise (that we never really realised was there) seemed to subside and we found ourselves to be more at ease with our own thoughts. These songs feel more at ease than anything we’ve made in the past, and so think our environment - or rather the embracing of our environment - is the reason behind this.

How do you approach getting dressed for a performance? And what are your goals in terms of feel and function?

Clothes can be so conducive to confidence, if we’re feeling uncomfortable with an outfit it’s possible that that might reflect on our performance - so we try not to rush getting dressed if at all possible - although there are always a million things to think about before a show! Often clothes don’t translate the way we think they’re going to on stage - we’ve found that thinking in terms of ‘costume’ is more helpful than anything - along with dramatic silhouettes and block colours. What we like to wear on stage is constantly evolving, but we are always drawn to things with length - appearing to be less connected to the earth seems to make sense with our music. 

Do you have any rituals before a show?

We try to stay as calm as possible, sometimes this requires homeopathic tinctures - though if nerves are really present whisky is the preference! Yogi throat comfort tea is good, and making tea does somehow always feel a bit ritualistic. I think like every performer, we try to inhabit the worlds we’re attempting to create with our music - and for us, that’s a pretty calm space, so we don’t really get hyped up for a gig. Letting too much into your head before a show can be dangerous, so we try to avoid being social until after the show! 

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to? 

We’ve always had a mutual fascination with mythology and folk storytelling, and have a pretty extensive shared library of this genre. Currently reading a $2 treasure picked up outside a dairy/book stall on Manukau Road (right next door to a spot with the best seafood Laksa in Auckland!) - ‘Celtic Mythology: The Nature and Influence of Celtic Myth from Druidism to Arthurian Legend’. The guy who owns the dairy is really sweet and super enthusiastic about the varied titles he’s acquired.

Interview & photography by Greta van der Star.        
Check out Purple Pilgrims here.

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