In a time when I find myself tripping and face-planting over the sheer number of bands evoking the sounds of the ‘90s on a daily basis, it’s nice to hear an artist yearning for an aesthetic of a different era. Portland duo Pure Bathing Culture, comprised of Dan Hindman on guitar and Sarah Versprille on keyboards and vocals, originally came together in college in New Jersey, but first officially worked together when they moved to Portland to play with Andy Cabic in Vetiver. Pure Bathing Culture are essentially an ethereal wave gospel, sprinkled with the cheeriest bits of 21st century dream pop. They have an incredible knack for stimulating spirits, but their sounds are also quite playfully lovely in the warmest and most inviting kind of way. Their debut LP, Moon Tides, was released last August and in the time since they’ve gained a plethora of comparisons to the likes of Cocteau Twins and Talk Talk. They’ve also done quite a bit of touring. Pure Bathing Culture are currently on a US tour supporting husband/wife duo Tennis, which will be stopping at our very own Underground Arts on September 30th. Both Dan and Sarah recently took some time to chat with me about how the band’s spent the past year or so and what we might expect of them, both at their upcoming area appearance and on their next releases.
I ask the band what have been the highlights of the band for the past year, since Moon Tides dropped, and Dan tells me that while the critical praise they’ve received has been nice, the touring has been both the most fun and most productive thing for Pure Bathing Culture. “I think in a general sense, just getting out to tour in general has been a highlight,” Dan tells me, explaining that Pure Bathing Culture weren’t quite solidified as an entity until they were out on the road, playing together.
“Touring has just been about learning to become a band. I don’t think we really had time to develop before the record. It happened really quickly, recording the album, but being on the road and just getting an opportunity to become a band has really been the highlight. And we played London, which was really cool and we sold out New York City, which was great. Things like that have been the highlights.”
In terms of who exactly is talking about Pure Bathing Culture, according to Dan, what seems to be most significant to the band is the reactions from fans and uncompensated admirers: “I think our favorite reaction is when someone just really enjoys it and isn’t just reacting to some hype, when we can get through to someone beyond the bloggers and they sincerely like it.” And when I inquire about the kinds of people who most seem to “get” Pure Bathing Culture and the people they’re most excited to attract, Dan tells me, “I really like it when older people respond to our music. It makes it feel like we’re more than just ‘a hipster band,’ which is not what we are at all. It’s really nice when I feel like we can reach beyond the average blog-reading demographic.”
Both Philly and PHILTHY are quite big fans and supporters of Portland, or PDX, from indie acts like Alela Diane and Radiation City to The Dandy Warhols, so I’m curious what is Pure Bathing Culture’s take on the city. Sarah explains to me that Portland serves as more or less the perfect environment for a band that are more interested in simply being a band than set on superstardom: “Portland is an amazing place to live as an artist. It’s really affordable and the quality of life is really high. We have a large rehearsal space in the attic where we can rehearse at any hour of the day and, I mean, you can’t find that in New York.”
I ask the band about their current tour with Tennis and what can be expected of the live experience and Dan tells me that he’s really excited for the current set, but that they’re also very excited to explore some new sounds and new songs: “It’s a really, really good live show, just the most mind-blowing live show you’ve ever seen [laughs], but it’s also going to be really concise, 30-40-minutes [laughs]. But on a serious note, we’re gonna play new songs. It’s a chance to work out new songs that we haven’t played much live and that will probably evolve throughout the tour.” He also explains that their latest sounds (which can be expected on a new album to be released on Partisan in 2015, but that will likely be previewed in singles in the very near future) aren’t necessarily a departure from Moon Tides, but see the band exploring new sonic boundaries.
“I feel like it’s an organic evolution for sure, but we’re also trying new things. Our new songs will be a stronger sound than our old sound. Sarah has become a stronger singer since our last album and we’re just a stronger band. We’re making a bigger sound, a more resonant sound.”