Purson Vocalist Rosalie Cunningham Talks About Desire To Tour U.S., Band’s Songwriting, Visuals and More
Purson is a psychedelic, time and space jumping, U.K. powerhouse of a band which, in 2013, is beginning to make waves outside of Europe. Their debut album “Circle and The Blue Door” was released earlier this year here in the states by Metal Blade and they have released two killer videos from the record as well. The band, led by the charismatic and charming Rosalie Cunningham, serves as both a breath of fresh air and a subtle reminder of all the things that drew you into rock and roll to begin with, mutating Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Sabbath and Bowie into a unique little creature all its own. I had the pleasure of sharing a long distance phone line with Rosalie, read on….
To support Purson’s quest to visit the U.S., see the bands Pledgemusic page here
Legendary Rock Interviews: Thanks for talking with us Rosalie, your band Purson is signed to Rise Above in the U.K. and Metal Blade Records here in the United States which is really cool and shows a lot of diversity on behalf of Brian Slagel and the Metal Blade label. How are things going thus far?
Rosalie Cunningham: It’s going well, I personally haven’t had a lot of dealings with them or contact much but I quite like being signed to the label, it’s really exciting being on a label with that kind of history. I didn’t realize how big it was either, it’s fucking huge isn’t it?
LRI: It’s been one of the biggest independent labels for a long time now, definitely. Your band isn’t necessarily a “metal” band but you did record vocals on a track “Tower Of Silence” for the last Cathedral album, which is pretty goddamn metal. What was that like?
Rosalie: Yeah, I did. It was quite fun, it was completely a spur of the moment type thing but it was a lot of fun. It was being done at a friend of mine’s studio and I was just asked if I’d like to contribute or sing on a couple tracks so I listened to the tracks and went right in. It was fun though.
LRI: Also pretty heavy is the fact that the band name is derived from the demonology of Purson, the great king of hell who has the face of a lion, carries a viper and rides a bear. It’s an interesting name to look at first of all….
Rosalie: Yeah, it has caused a bit of misunderstanding at some times (laughs) but the truth is it was a name we were thinking about, we had a few in mind, but we kept thinking of the actual image of Purson, of him having the body of a man but the face of the lion on the bear and with the trumpets and all that. It is kind of a different looking name as well, yeah. We have had a few lineup changes since the name but it definitely stuck, I think we just really liked the imagery associated with it.
LRI: You were previously in a band called Ipso Facto which had other female members and I know you’ve mentioned that there were times where it was seen as a bit of a novelty or there were constant issues, press wise over it being a “female band”. Are you seeing some major differences now as the frontwoman of a band with male players as opposed to that situation?
Rosalie: We are definitely far more respected, it’s a very different kind of band. Ipso Facto were a hipster, hype band basically and I was very young and not at all ready for it. It’s a very unique thing being in a band with a bunch of teenage girls, a very different thing and the music was also very, very different from what Purson is about musically. It did show me that there was sexism in the music industry and in the music journalism industry and we are more respected now but still I think sexism exists for sure. Like, the fact that Purson is considered an “occult” or “doom” band sometimes is just lazy journalism, I think sometimes that tag is placed literally just because I’m a woman, singing in a rock band you know? Because there’s this new wave of females singing in rock bands, the people who write about us can just assign us as an “occult” band even though we’ve never said we were (laughs). I sometimes think it’s because I’m a woman and that’s a bit sexist. I think that there are a few moments where the music is dark or intense but really I don’t like being pigeonholed into that doom thing.
LRI: I can understand not wanting to be labeled. I mean, I don’t want this page to become all one style of rock coverage. The thing that strikes me is how Purson has a bit of a classic, timeless sound, I hear shades of Pink Floyd, The Beatles and definitely The Doors. Are there other bands that shaped your music that might surprise people, influences that may not be as obvious at first glance?
Rosalie: Umm, I’m a huge David Bowie fan and glam in general and I think that’s where a lot of the theatrical or image side of it comes from. There’s a very kind of, British, tongue in cheek charm to the whole thing that I can relate to. Also, Alice Cooper, Arthur Brown and that whole sort of theatrical kind of thing. I’m really into 60s pop, like really silly Toytown pop (laughs). That might surprise some people.
LRI: You’ve mentioned that you have already started writing the follow up to “Circle and The Blue Door”. Have any of those same artists been creeping in as influences on the material you are writing for this next record?
Rosalie: Yeah, I mean David Bowie, “The Man Who Sold The World” album for sure, the first album had a bit of that but if anything the second album is sounding more like that. It’s hard to say though because the second album is still so much in the writing process and I’m not sure if it’s going to take a radical turn in the other direction or be quite similar to the sound of the first album. The general direction and sound is still being established so it’s very hard to say right now.
LRI: You mentioned lineup changes, do you think that may change influence future music that Purson releases?
Rosalie: Possibly. The new bass player is definitely heavier live so I think that may create a heavier sound.
LRI: The story in your record company bio about you discovering your dad’s 1970’s rock magazines in the attic is just a great story.
Rosalie: Yeah! (laughs)
LRI: Do you think that feeling of discovery and magic still drives you when writing music? How young were you when you started writing?
Rosalie: It sounds insane but I’ve been writing since I was a small child. I remember trying to put bands together in junior school which is kind of a strange thing for a 6 or 7 year old kid, not that I’m saying I was very good at that time but I have always been doing it. I didn’t get really serious about it or do anything of note until I was about 12 or 13. That’s still pretty young though isn’t it (laughs).
LRI: Yeah, that’s still pretty young Rosalie. That experience of finding your dad’s old rock magazines made it into the very grooves of the album.
Rosalie: Yeah, that was probably around 13 years old, around the time I really started becoming aware of the history of rock music and realizing how much there was to it.
LRI: You made this trippy, fantastic video for “Leaning On A Bear”. Do you think it’s just as important to burn an image visually as it is to seduce the audience’s ear?
Rosalie: Yeah, I think that having all sides of the package makes it infinitely stronger. You can say music’s music but…. most of the bands that I really really adore; when I’m listening to them, I am also seeing them and knowing them as personalities and I’m hearing them tell me the truth and I’m in their world. It’s difficult for me to really get into a band that I don’t love EVERYTHING about, not just the music.
LRI: The other thing I really love about Purson is how the keyboards aren’t relegated to the background in the music. I grew up a huge fan of The Doors and one of the many contributions of the late, great Ray Manzarek was that he really made the organ a cool instrument for eternity.
Rosalie: Oh, absolutely. Me and George (Hudson, Purson guitarist) have been best friends literally since we were like 13 and we were both just massively influenced by The Doors. We literally just used to sit in his room, day after day, wearing out the grooves on The Doors records. It really, really affected us. When Ray died we were just so upset. The next day we had a gig in London and we did a cover of “Five To One” which was great fun for us. The keyboards are a big part of what we do and are a lead instrument for us but at the same time the guitar and bass are lead instruments as well in our music but they all work in harmony with each other in the sense that it’s not about anyone soloing in particular.
LRI: Do you start writing your songs with a lot of lyrical or title ideas or do they begin as riffs or musical ideas?
Rosalie: The music always comes first for me. I usually write the song and pretty much completely finish it before I even start working on the lyrics. Obviously, what I’m talking about and writing about is extremely important to me but the lyrics having the right phonetic and syllable power to convey the catchiness and hooks of the music is actually more important than what I’m actually saying in a way (laughs). So I kind of get the melody down and the syllables down and the sounds that I want to be there in certain bits or moments and then the concept comes in and I sort of piece together poetry around the concept. It’s all done in a kind of storytelling way where I just sort of ramble on but it kind of fits in a way, I don’t know how (laughs).
LRI: The album art on your record really conveys that 60s or 70s vibe of vinyl album art so it’s cool that your record is out on vinyl, which I know is big in Europe and slowly making a comeback here in the states. Was the cover concept something that was on your mind early on?
Rosalie: It was. The concept changed slightly but that was always the rough idea. We wanted it to look like a striking, classic, memorable album cover like a “Sgt. Pepper’s” or something. I think we pulled it off.
LRI: The record has a lot of diversity, there’s the Sabbathy heavy stuff like “Spiderwood Farms” and then there’s a song like “The Contract” which is certainly dreamy. Does the live show convey a totally different atmosphere in your opinion?
Rosalie: We don’t have the luxuries and effects of the studio live. Basically, we have to create the atmosphere in other ways rather than having all the phasing and delays and things like that. It’s a heavier experience live, certainly more raw and heavier live but I think it’s just as psychedelic. It’s hard for me to say or put into words, being so close to it, it’s difficult when you hear it every day.
LRI: There’s quite a bit of buzz overseas and in Europe about you guys but also here in the U.S. especially given the success of other retro-minded Euro bands like Uncle Acid or Ghost. Would you guys be open to the idea of touring here in the U.S., is that a possibility?
Rosalie: We would absolutely love to and have been wanting to since day one. We just need to get the money together to make it happen basically. It is really difficult without proper tour support but we have started a pledgemusic page to do just that so that is now a possibility provided we meet our goal. We would definitely love to come play the United States.
To contribute to Purson’s Pledgemusic & get some great rewards click http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/purson
Purson’s Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/pursontheband