Band To Watch: Pure Bathing Culture
Portland indie-pop duo Pure Bathing Culture were not necessarily drawn together because of the stars, but the story of the band’s union and process of craft certainly feels that way. Members Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille were playing with Brooklyn band Vetiver when on tour in 2009, Hindman was just tooling with some tunes and Versprille was inspired to contribute. “The first song we wrote together was the song on our [2012 Father Daughter Records-released self-titled] EP called ‘Lucky One’,” Hindman says. “I came home one day and Sarah was like, ‘Hey, I wrote lyrics to that song you were working on,’ and she showed them to me and we both kind of just laughed at it because it’s so funny. Not that we were embarrassed by it, just all of a sudden there was this song that we wrote together.”
But despite the click they felt and cheerleading from singer/songwriter-turned-producer Richard Swift (the Shins, Damien Jurado), their touring schedule with Vetiver hindered their ability to go full-throttle with the project. “[The music] we were coming up with, it sort of [sat] for a while… we were really only able to come up with bits and pieces at a time,” says Versprille. Eventually there was a sea-change. The music clicked and the sound felt tangible. What we get with Pure Bathing Culture still feels folky (like Vetiver), in essence, but more bound to nature. A lot of this comes from the band’s migration to the west coast to work with Swift at his studio National Freedom in Cottage Grove, OR. It was there, while staying in Portland, that one of the biggest guides for PBC came to light.
“We both got really interested in astrology. When we moved to Portland, we ended up meeting a whole bunch of people who were into that stuff,” says Hindman. “Tarot, astrology, and we found it to be pretty fascinating and inspiring.” When asked if either of them were 27, an age where Saturn returns to its location from your birthday and is said to push one forward into adulthood, Hindman says, “That’s really when we started writing the music. Right at that age. That might have something to do with [why we made this band].” Coincidentally, there is the symbol for Saturn on the back cover of their EP.
Planetary imagery remains for the upcoming full-length Moon Tides, but there’s nothing new age-y about the music. Lead single “Pendulum” is a breezy indie-pop tune that feels more lucid than dreamy. Elsewhere, they dig deep into preternatural yacht rock with songs like “Dream The Dare” and “Scotty.” The genre’s light influence is especially apparent in the latter when Versprille sings the chorus of lite FM classic — albeit, slightly creepy — track “Into The Night” by Benny Mardones. “Golden Girl” is layered and lush and builds into a ballad of particolored synths. Ultimately, the entire package feels like Fleetwood Mac as re-imagined through cleanse enthusiasts, as if the band’s name truly personifies what they deliver sonically. And the name, which they got from Hinderman’s brother who had been studying architecture in Switzerland, is also a source of awakening for the duo. “[My brother had gone] to this spas called the Therme Vals Spa. The final session of the day is called ‘pure bathing culture’ [in English]… It took place at night and you waded through a series of pools and no one was allowed to talk,” says Hinderman. “I liked the combination of the three words together and what it sort of implied. [When you research it], these really beautiful images of bath houses and women and children bathing in the Ganges come up and it sort of opened this whole idea of rebirth and spiritual cleansing and transforming. It totally refueled the project and kind of functioned as a muse for us.”
Moon Tides is out 8/20 via Partisan Records.