"It was just one of those things that was bound to happen, eventually." Drummer Austin Youngblood is reflecting on the origins of Pure X - then called Pure Ecstasy - back in 2009. "We've all been hanging and jamming with each other for longer than I care to recall. Basically, Nate (Grace, vocals) had written some songs, and wanted a band to back him. Jesse (Jenkins, guitarist) and I were in a different band together at the time, so it was a pretty natural step for the three of us."

Hailing from Austin, Texas, the band brought out their debut LP, Pleasure, two years ago; a scratchy, shoegazey slow burner that paired desolate vocals with blissed-out guitar work. Austin's reputation as one of America's great creative havens is as strong as ever in 2013; how, exactly, has that kind of artistic environment influenced the Pure X sound? "It's hard to say specifically because we've all been here for so long," says Youngblood. "It's a part of who we are. Texas has always been a pretty musically-rich state, so I think that influence has been with the three of us from birth. There's a lot going on in Austin, so one thing you figure out quickly is what you don't want to do. But it's a great place to be if you want to explore the depths of creativity and meet folks who are doing the same. As far as our own sound goes, though. I think the three of us would have developed the same ideas regardless of what city we lived in."

The band are speaking to us in the thick of a west coast tour of the U.S. - "knocking a bit of the rust off," says Youngblood - as they gear up for the release of their sophomore full-length, Crawling Up the Stairs, or C.U.T.S. "It was a phrase that we tossed around a lot during the recording process. I'm not that interested in trying to apply a literal meaning to the title, but I think everyone has had to crawl up the stairs at one point or another. The record itself will expand on the idea, definitely."

Prior to their legally-enforced name change - a San Francisco cover band had beaten them to Pure Ecstasy - they'd left two years between their first single and Pleasure; it's a gap, I suggest, that might have proven perilously lengthy in an ever-more-fickle musical climate. "In the beginning, a full-length wasn't really our main concern. Our goal was to keep our music sounding as real as possible, so getting songs written, recorded and released quickly was a way to achieve that. Cassettes, singles and seven-inches were the best vehicle for our initial music. It essentially eliminated any opportunity to look back or second guess what we were doing. Eventually, we did want to put out something that would create a larger experience though. Pleasure had a few setbacks, and it might have taken a little longer to release than it could have, but I think we believe that all things happen at the right time for the right reasons."

As debuts go, Pleasure served as a pretty raw summation of the band's modus operandi; decidedly lo-fi, it was recorded completely live - no overdubs, no studio tricks. "We wanted to make a record that reflected our own reality. Recording live was the simplest, most straightforward way to achieve the authenticity that we wanted. "It's not an approach, though, that they saw fit to repeat on C.U.T.S. "We basically took the opposite approach for this record. There was still quite a bit of live tracking done between Jesse and myself, but we never intended to make another live album. We didn't force any constraints on the creative process. We knew we wanted a lot of new elements on this record, so we had to stay flexible throughout. Each song would inform its own appropriate approach. Some were fully written and worked out in advance, while others were created in the studio, just by elaborating on improvised jams. Basically, whatever felt right for each track."

There is some consistency on the new record, though; the band's longtime producer remained onboard. "We worked with Stephen Orsak again, who is the same engineer we've used since the beginning. You could say he's been a co-producer on everything we've ever done, though it's difficult to sum up his role with any title. He's an absolute wizard and is fully involved with everything we do in the studio." In the post-production department, the band plumped for somebody slightly less obvious: "We mixed and mastered the record with Larry Seyer, who was Stephen's mentor of sorts and worked with most of the country music legends of the eighties and nineties (Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel included). Bringing someone of that stature in represents a real step up for the band, I think."

Last month, 'Someone Else' gave the world its first taste of the new record; Grace's vocals are sharper than ever before, with the distortion dial also turned down a little on the guitars, as compared to Pleasure. Have the band made a concerted effort to move in a slightly more polished direction? "Every aspect of this record was done intentionally. We got very methodical with every single sound we put down. As a whole the album is sharper, clearer and considerably more deliberate. I think 'Someone Else' ended up encapsulating a lot of the thematic aspects of the record, so we may have pushed those elements even harder on that particular track. I mean, there's still plenty of scuzz on the record, but maybe just a different flavour."

The meticulous nature of Pure X's approach has spilled over into pretty much everything they do; their vinyl releases to date have been consistently beautiful affairs; Pleasure, for instance, arrived on pink vinyl with a gorgeous, embossed gold sleeve. "I don't know if we see it as any extra effort. It's just a part of creating a quality record. I think anyone who releases vinyl strives to make a physical product worth buying, and worth adding to a collection. What's important to us is to accurately reflect the sound and attitude of the music through the overall presentation of the package. That's our primary concern with each release, in physical terms."

The sonic step forward that C.U.T.S. represents for the band left me wondering what inspired the decision to change things up; perhaps the band feel that they're leaning a little more heavily on influences that weren't present on Pleasure. "We're not a particularly nostalgic band - I don't think we're constantly looking back at what bands have done in the past. I've heard comparisons with The Jesus and Mary Chain, but we're no more indebted to them than to any other band we've ever heard. In no way are we interested in reaching back toward anything. Our minds are perpetually moving forwards, into bleak and beautiful futures."


Crawling Up The Stairs is released May 14 on Merok/Acephale