Generally speaking, I’m not too fond of retro rock and metal, but The Circle And The BlueDoor by Purson really blew my mind. They are best described as a refreshing blend of progressive rock and pop music with a distinct retro feel. Frontwoman and main composer Rosalie Cunningham was more than happy to share her thoughts on anything Purson, the sudden rise of vintage/occult rock and her fondness for theatrics.
Purson started out as one of your projects after the demise of Ipso Facto. Can you take us through that period?
It was really bad timing to split up with Ipso Facto because we were about to record a new album. There was also an in between band called Hung Ray, but we never played a gig. It was basically me figuring out Purson really. I wanted to have technically proficient musicians and play prog. In the end it didn’t work out and I needed that experience to figure out what I really wanted to do.
You describe Purson’s music as “Vaudeville Carny Psych”. Care to explain?
It’s just something we made up. People put lots of different labels on our music and we don’t particularly agree with any of them, so we made something up. Vaudeville is old-fashioned entertainment and it’s something typically British, of which I think we have an element in our music. Carny is cockney slang and psych refers to the psychedelic parts in our music. It’s something we made up.
Purson also has a strong visual presentation. Is that a leftover from your Ipso Facto days?
I’ve always been very conscious of the image of the band, because it’s entertainment. A show, if you will. It looks better than ugly men wearing band T-shirts. I really enjoy dressing things up. It’s something our audience deserves.
The album has a very enigmatic title. What’s the thought behind it?
The Circle And The Blue Door is something of a running theme through some of the songs on the album. A lot of the songs have to do with a certain ex-boyfriend who had a mental breakdown. At the time we didn’t know he was schizophrenic. He went through a lot of hardships before he got diagnosed. I had to look after him for a very long time. The Circle And The Blue Door was something he talked about before the time he broke down. It was really interesting and it really inspired my lyrics. It’s ironic, because he really didn’t know what he was talking about, but he was admitted to the Sapphire Ward, which was the blue door he was talking about. It’s a beautiful irony, really.
We understand the recording experience for The Circle And The Blue Door was rather hectic. What happened?
It was very difficult—horrible actually. We didn’t record the album as a band, because the rest of the band couldn’t be around my boyfriend at the time, including myself. It was my album and we had to get it done. He left the band halfway through the recordings. We only had four days to record and the rest was by me at home. Those four days in the studio were utter hell. Crying, fighting, drama, the basic stuff that happens when you hate your boyfriend. We had a very turbulent relationship. He was pretty nuts and any normal task was impossible for him to do, let alone a whole project with pending deadlines.
Despite the proggy edge to your music the songs on the album are very song-orientated, much like pop music. Is that a conscious thing?
Yes and no. I wrote the songs and recorded the demos before I showed them to the rest of the band. The line-up changed lots and lots of times, so there wasn’t much room to grow as an actual unit. At the moment it’s actually them playing my songs. That will change on the next album and there will be more room for improvisation. On the other hand, it was a conscious decision because I feel a well-written pop song has more impact than even the most amazing prog jam. Some jams are very enjoyable to listen to, but for some reason they aren’t very memorable. I love prog, but I’m not interested in noodling wankery. I like to have things structured.
Do you think that because of this poppy approach Purson will appeal to people who aren’t necesarily into progressive music?
I certainly hope so. It’s really a niche market, especially with people our age (Rosalie is in her early 20s). Most people don’t have the same taste in music as the members of the band. I hope that our songs, which are essentially pop songs, will appeal to a bigger audience.
Do you feel any kinship with a band like Ghost? They’re also into the theatrical side of things and they also add a lot pop influences to their music.
Yes,definitely. Our music is very different from Ghost’s, but we come from the same basis. It’s the same theatrical and the progressive take on the Beatles, really. The Beatles are a huge influence on our music. I’d love to play with Ghost, I’m sure it would work out quite well.
Finally, vintage/seventies flavoured rock is really popular at the moment. What’s your take on this phenomenon?
I have different thoughts on this. It’s great to see that bands that I love are finally getting popular again. My whole life I’ve been listening to music that wasn’t popular with my peers. None of their music appealed to me, ever. For the first time in my life, I feel there’s a hell of a lot of good bands out there now. That’s obviously very exciting for me.I’m not so pleased with the fact that I’m getting tied into this occult rock thing, because I’m a female singer in a rock band. I don’t think Purson sound like any of the occult rock bands out there. It may sound naive, but I think we’re coming from a very different place. I think people are lazy to compare us to those bands, just because we have a female singer.