Puro Instinct

by Chantelle Johnson

We caught up with the sisters to discuss the music that constitutes the soundtrack of their lives, the psychic synergy of siblings, and the beauty of L.A.
L.A is a place that doesn’t appear to need any more of its stories to be told. From The Big Lebowksi to Mulholland Drive, Maps to the Stars and Knight of Cups, the city has had its seedier underbelly carved up and dissected in film and music to the point where everyone believes they know what it is as a place, a symbol for both paradise found and lost.

Enter Puro Instinct, the flaxen-haired, L.A native sibling duo that laid bare the strange sense of otherness that can be felt in Los Angeles in their sun-drenched, dream pop inflected debut album, Headbangers in Ecstasy. It was indebted to the shimmering sound of 80s indie pop, all jangly guitars and pulsating drum beats that belied a melancholic undertone, not least in lyrics that spoke of lost days and youthful hedonism while being soaked in the cynicism that could only spring from growing up in a place so seemingly full of beautiful illusions and empty promises.

Their soulfully, melodic synth-pop sound sits easily within the canon of post 00s, nostalgic bands like Summer Camp, Chair Lift and Tennis. Now the Kaplan sisters return with their sophomore LP, Autodrama and their first single ‘Tell Me," a sultry plea from a woman asking her lover to disappear into the deepest twilight with her. We caught up with them to discuss the music that constitutes the soundtrack of their lives, the psychic synergy of siblings, and the beauty of L.A.

Everyone usually has an album that characterises a certain period, good or bad in their lives. Do you have one and if so why that album? What was going on at that time?

Piper: I have a lot.... Giorgio Moroder's "Einzelganger" is one.. I was listening to that a ton in 2013-2014 when we were recording the album. It'd go to the beach to watch the sunset all the time and get lost in the waves and it was a great soundtrack for that.

Sky: I hold the albums Deluxe by Harmonia and Evening Star by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno very close to my heart. I spent a lot of time meditating while listening to those records a few years back, and ever since then, they've sort of been staples for me. I remember, on our last tour, driving through bright red mountains, heading toward the heart of Sedona, AZ and listening to "Wind On Water." The feminine, alien textures of the guitars and synths couldn't have fit the vibe any better.

If you had to create a soundtrack to your own biopic, what would be on it?

Piper: I feel like it would just be a patchwork of mermaid love jams. Iasos' "Angel Play" for the first half hour, then Prince's "Desire." Virna Lindt's "Underwater boy," Iron Curtain's "Love Can Never Die," Suicide "Keep Your Dreams," A.R. Kane "Crack Up," I Level "In the Sand."

Sky: These songs all seem kind of appropriate. I also really like the Skies in the Mirror tape by Cabaret Du Ciel. Maybe throw a lil Drake in there, some Kate Bush. Boom. "Stay Lit" by The Cleaners from Venus, "True to Life" by Roxy Music, "Heaven Ain't Hard 2 Find" by 2pac, "Silver Fountain of Paradise Square" by Maurice Deebank, "All The People I Like Are Those That Are Dead" by Felt.

When did you first decide to make music together and what was the first song you created?

Piper: We first started working together in 2008, and the first song we ever created was this weepy broken carousel jam that only a few people know about. The first song we ever made that ended up being released was a track called "High Road" that came out on our first EP Something About the Chaparrals... it was a cacophony of oceanic synths and guitars with a beat from an old Yamaha keyboard.

Your music is often described as dreamy - is that an accurate description? If you were going to describe your music in a neat soundbite, how would you describe it, what words would you use to describe it?

Sky: Haha I don't know. Prismatic Love Pop, maybe.

Piper: Yeah, I feel that.

What are some of the challenges and positives of working alongside a sibling?

Piper: We're pretty dialled in psychically, which makes it easy for us to create pretty effortlessly. I think we both have a slightly neurotic tendency to chase perfection, and working together has taught us to write a from a more loose and loving place versus fixating on minutiae. I think Puro has taught us to be more loving and curious in general, which is always nice.

Sky: Yeah, jamming and creating art in general with Piper is pretty magical and rad. Sibling telepathy is real, and it creates for a very intuitive, effortless music-making environment. We also just interpret music in similar ways, so I feel as though, even if we weren't siblings, we still wouldn't feel the need to explain things to one another.

Tell us about the process of creating Autodrama. Do you start with the music or the lyrics or do you each weave your part and then begin to piece it together in the middle?

Piper: With Autodrama every song was different. It took more time to write certain songs because the underlying "truth" wasn't something we could identify and communicate right away, lyrically or production-wise. We're really interested in the healing propensity of sound, so this record was an effort to connect with people in that way, and an attempt to bring a sense of comfort or support to people who are going through similar trials in their lives. A lot of our production and melodic decisions are influenced by sound and color therapy, so we'd build sound palettes according to the auric field we saw around each song. For example, "Peccavi" is a bright amethyst shade and "Tell Me" is more of a hot pink, and "Six of Swords" is a teal green, etc. It wasn't something that we picked up on right away, but we started realizing that the colors we were seeing for each song also represented the underlying intent of the song, and also were good for correcting the energetic imbalances we felt each track was hinting at. I'm not sure if I'm explaining that very well, but at any rate, we spent 2 years in each other's bedrooms writing and recording, deleting and repeating, rarely going out for any reason unless it was to grab caffeine so we could go back to work. After we got everything to a place we were happy with, we asked Sam Mehran to work with us as a co-producer. Ariel Pink, Franco Falsini, Richard Ross, and Courtney Garvin all play various instruments on various tracks, and all of it was mixed by Eric Gorman at the Magic Shop in New York.

If you could have one other artist join you on-stage for a one-night only live show, who would it be?

Piper: It would be rad to experience our live show through the Arca lens, ya know? Actress would be unreal too.

What are some of your favourite L.A.-set movies and novels?

Sky: One of my favorite books about Los Angeles has got to be Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger. I love all of the romantic metaphors he uses to frame the excess and scandal that took place in LA throughout the early 20th century.

Piper: Yeah, that's a total classic. Hmm... L.A. movies.. I like Point Break and Heat. There's a book on the East L.A. dada-punk contingent ASCO called ASCO: Elite of the Obscure. They're a huge inspiration for our music and style for sure.

Everyone has an idea or an impression of what LA is, mainly from watching an endless list of Los Angeles set films - It seems like a city of multiple personalities - How would you describe L.A?

Piper: It's beautiful, ramshackle, equal parts glam and degenerate...It doesn't really take itself too seriously, but there are twizzlers shuttling in and out of here all the time that do. It's really just whatever you want it to be.

Do you believe that the American dream still exists in L.A? The idea that you can become someone out of nowhere if you work hard enough?

Piper: Everyone is someone on the stairway to stardom.. It's one of the best and worst conditions of our time..

You’ve been appointed heads of the L.A tourist board, what landmarks and places of interest do you highlight?

Sky: Definitely would go with Solstice Canyon near Topanga, the Houdini Estate on Laurel Canyon, Franklin Canyon Lake, and Solar Drive on Mulholland.

Piper: I'll generally go anywhere where there's grass or a beach, but I would say hit up ZenBunni, Cinefamily, and get a tarot reading from Ava at (310) 808-8776.