Sinister Southend five-piece summon the ’70s prog/folk spirits for a new age.


Fact Sheet

  • For fans of Jefferson Airplane, Pentangle, Pentagram.
  • Rosalie Cunningham’s father played in folk rock band The Marshmen. The son of his arch-rival in the band is Purson’s current drummer Jack Hobbs.
  • Specialising in doom, horror-folk and metal, Rise Above is run by Lee Dorrian, former member of Napalm Death and current singer for Cathedral. Recent signings Ghost B.C. and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats are two of esoteric rock’s most popular new bands.
  • “We’re progressive in a theatrical sense, not a wanky way,” says Rosalie Cunningham. “Prog blew my mind and sent me off down a path to discover ever-more obscure bands. Hundreds of them.”

“The catalyst for me saying, I can’t do this any more, was another interview where I wasn’t asked one question about music, only what eyeliner I wear. I wasn’t happy anyway so I thought, Fuck this, no one’s taking me seriously, and split the band.”

The leap from 22-year-old singer/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham’s previous band, the Mod-styled freakbeat of all-girl Ipso Facto, to the prog-flecked, much heavier Purson is a formidable one. Named after the demonological Great King of Hell, Purson conjure a heady, magikal concoction that recalls Deep Purple, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane and the anxious, mythological folk reckonings of Comus.

“The idea was to be in a band with no girls, only boys – all virtuoso musicians,” explains Cunningham. “I wanted to go in a much heavier, more progressive direction. But to get to this point took two years, countless members, names and hundreds of discarded songs.”

Flamboyant non-musical best friend Sam Shove was given a keyboard and two weeks in which to learn it, while George Hudson (guitar) completed the core of the band. It was the mental health problems and subsequent sectioning of Shove’s then-boyfriend Kelsey that inspired the title of Purson’s debut The Circle & The Blue Door, a record that sounds like it’s been beamed straight from 1971.

“That’s the perfect year isn’t it?” she laughs. “List the albums that came out then and it’s insane. A never-ending wealth of fantastic music. Electronic music might be innovative today, I don’t listen to it. Britpop or the whole The Libertines thing, I just couldn’t relate to any of that. So I went for the best: 1971. Hearing King Crimson for the first time, that really opened my mind to the possibilities of prog.”

"1971... It's the perfect year, isn't it?"

Having decided that they wanted to sign to Rise Above, the home to all things occultist and doom-influenced, it took Purson precisely a week to do just that.

“It was strangely easy actually,” says Cunningham. “All the bands have common thread running through them and we happen to think that the best bands in the country are on that label.”

In deciding to move away from the uniform bobs and monochrome styling of Ipso Facto, Cunningham has spawned a new musical monster whose pungent songs, decorative beads and bindis occupy a very different world.

“We started out playing very complex prog – anti-image music almost – and have picked up lots of middle-aged male rock fans as a result,” says Cunningham. “Proper Tommy Saxondale-types. But as we’ve become more refined I’ve realised that the image of Purson is important after all. The music is very theatrical and outwardly we stress that now. I expect people to pay attention to our image. I actually want them to now.”