With breathy vocals oft-compared to Tracy Chapman, and a songwriting prowess that goes toe to toe with the likes of Gillian Welch, Neil Young and Mary Gauthier, Pureka released her most recent full-length album, How I Learned to See in the Dark, last spring on her label, Sad Rabbit Music. Early in her career, Pureka became known for her stark, straightforward and emotive songs. More textured and layered, the emotion runs deeper and more intensely personal than ever on How I Learned to See, each listen unveiling a new facet of Purekas introspective sense of longing, loss and hope.
She admits that fans had gotten used to her simpler, early forms of expression on 2006s Dryland and 2004s Driving North, her debut full-length. The other material was definitely emotive, she said, but it was more sad and sweet. This newer record is a little darker and more raw. Her older work was less ambiguous, she added, so people can take things away from it easier
The new songs are more intense to play; theyre more cryptic, so it takes a while to figure them out.
And Pureka acknowledges that her musical and emotional evolution was intentional. I definitely took my time writing the newer songs, she said. [They] were a little bit louder and the arrangements called for more of a band arrangement. I wanted to have a bigger sound, a darker sound, more layered.
Prior to writing and recording How I Learned to See, Pureka began to delve more into the world of indie rock and singer songwriters that tend to hop genres and blur lines of musical classification, such as Elvis Perkins, Neko Case, Josh Ritter and The National. While recording, she brought in longtime friend Merrill Garbus, who goes by the moniker of Tune-Yards and performs more in the realm of indie rock/electronic music, as producer. All of this played a role in shaping the direction of the album.
For the first time in her life, she decided to record with a full band, which added to the albums rich, full, more complicated sound. Adding more people to the tracks definitely brought up more permutations and different options, she said. And having so many more options was like opening a can of worms. It was hard to weed through it all. After the albums release, Pureka hit the road with the full band, though her upcoming Florida gigs will feature just her and her guitar.
Growing up in Connecticut and attending college at Wesleyan, and later moving to the gay mecca of Northampton, Massachusetts, Purekas roots are firmly in New England, an area saturated with singer-songwriters and long-known for its thriving folk music scene. But Pureka has recently found herself in limbo, deciding to move out of the region shes called home for so long. Having toured for the better part of the past year, she has yet to settle on a locale, but says a move is inevitable. My music is evolving in different ways, so it makes sense to leave the area.
Shes also mulling over her next move musically. Between her last two full-lengths, she released the EP Chimera, a hodgepodge of live material, covers and a new song. A similar endeavor is likely before she releases another LP, she says. Its definitely more fun, she said. Recording [How I Learned to See] was a long process and took a lot out of me.
You can catch Chris Pureka this Friday, February 4 at The Hideaway Café in St. Petersburg at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Go here for more information.