Reinvention is the mother of necessity for Puro Instinct.
Centered around sisters Piper and Skylar Kaplan, Puro Instinct was once one of the buzz bands of the moment — 2011 saw the release of their heralded Headbangers In Ecstasy, a woozy, of-the-times record that brought the likes of Pitchfork knocking. There’s moments on that record that feel like Stevie Nicks through a lens of chiffon and horse tranquilizers, layered with angular guitar hooks and flowing melodies that were more than befitting of Mexican Summer, their record label. Ariel Pink’s cosign and contributions to the record were more than enough to put it into the Williamsburg water cooler talk.
Then, the band broke up. The Kaplans went relatively quiet, the touring band dispersed, and one couldn’t help but wonder what would, or had, become of the band.
Two years ago, at a Red Bull Sound Select showcase in Echo Park, Los Angeles, we watched as Puro Instinct reappeared. Now a duo, there was a reformed strength to the Kaplans, debuting a sound that was decidedly more '80s, a barbed version of the pop they had rode to popularity. Autodrama, Puro Instinct’s latest release, is the embodiment of that Los Angeles. Muscular, dark, and dreamy, it takes the strength of the synth-driven tracks in their previous iteration and layers them against Skylar’s glassy guitar lines, becoming a vehicle for even more personal tomes tempered by age, experience, and rebirth. Puro Instinct didn’t really ever go away, it turns out — they just came back swinging, their left-of-field thread running through their sound as strong as ever.
“That was part of the Autodrama trajectory. We were going through a lot of heavy things and it kind of amplified this feeling of powerlessness that personal struggles make you feel in the moment,” Piper says. “It was our way of saying we’re going to keep living and see the beauty in the world and try to make things beautiful.”
One of those struggles defined Puro Instinct’s future above all else. While speculation swirled around the band’s disappearance, Piper was dealing with the onset of Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune form of hypothyroidism, and the realization that that hedonism she sung about on Headbangers was contributing to her “not ever getting better again.” Once her health was in order, work on what would become Autodrama began.
“You never know how beautiful something is until you go through something really ugly and horrendous, and I think that’s a big part of Autodrama too,” she explains. “We’re all kind of sharing this world right now that’s really fucked up and scary, and the best thing that we can do is maintain as much positivity and put forth as much love and kindness to ourselves and the people we love."
Love is at the center of the Puro Instinct ethos, even if the songs themselves aren’t always about it. Remember, the core of the act in either incarnation lies with Skylar and Piper. For those in the know, there’s nothing quite like sibling creativity, whether it’s inspiration or in action. For all the tumult and instability in Puro Instinct’s past, having a sibling as a writing, touring, and performing partner reinforces the tenets of the band.
“There’s just something really fun about being able to play music with someone that you love, that you’ve seen the world with and been dragged through the shit with, and you can still hang out and crack jokes and then turn on some instruments,” Piper says. “Even if you haven’t done it for a few months, you’re still on the same page and that’s really rare. It’s not something you can just really find anywhere. You’re communicating love in the highest form.”
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