Don’t just lump them in with “dream pop.” Duo Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman of the band Pure Bathing Culture pull from a much more massive and diverse collection of artists and genres as influences on their recently released and first full length album Moon Tides. “I really like Wu-Tang Clan,” says guitarist Daniel. Singer Sarah finds joy in ’90s R&B while both say ’60s pop and Motown records as having the biggest influence on their sound. With the inclusion of drum machines and Sarah’s intimately airy vocals, PBC dig beneath an easily applicable genre label to create something that’s much more of a throwback than what initially hits the ear.
Having relocated to Portland from NYC in 2010 after a series of lucky chances made the move more convenient, the former Vetiver members found themselves inspired by the change of scenery and soaked in its influences as they helped make PBC a reality. As they prepared for a stop back in their home of many years on the heels of the album’s release, Sarah and Daniel talk from Portland about that city’s slower pace, their unique name, and what they’re most excited about with their homecoming.
PBC plays Glasslands Gallery Wednesday, 8/28.
How has relocating to Portland affected your sound as musicians?
DANIEL: It’s influenced our sound a lot. For one thing, pretty much all the music that is on our record was written here after we moved here. We have a rehearsal space here that’s in our house so that’s really conducive to being productive and working every day. We never had that in New York. From the work perspective, we were able to really focus and become productive in a way we had never been before on the East Coast. Also we were influenced by the culture here. It’s a beautiful place to live, and it was also a new place for us to live so there was a lot of inspiration in that.
What parts exactly about the culture have been influential on you?
SARAH: I don’t know if I can speak specifically to the culture, but I think in general the space that exists here and the slower pace has definitely influenced our ability to exist through the work.
DANIEL: There’s a lot of musicians but they’re not showcasing for major labels and trying to make it. That’s just the way people are in New York. You go to New York to do that, or you go to Los Angeles or Nashville or some place like that. It’s not like that here. And I think people talk to us a lot about astrology and new age spirituality and stuff like that we sort of came into contact with out here through meeting people and that definitely influenced us. Something new for us. We didn’t really know about that stuff. That was fun for us.
So the interest and influence of astrology are fairly new for the two of you?
DANIEL: Yeah, a couple of the first people we met here were into it and talked to us about it. It influenced us…not in the sense that we took it on like a religion or that we can predict the future but it’s almost like a muse. It was just an interesting thing, whether it’s symbolism or discussing archetypes of personality or different ways of explaining morality, for example. All of those elements influenced the music that we wrote. We talk about it a lot, and I think we get pegged for that. It’s not the center of our being or the core of what our music is about per say. It’s really just something that influenced us for some of the writing. I think the next record that we write could be about something totally different.
Then what would you say is the center of your musicianship or creative process?
DANIEL: Sarah and I writing songs together is the center of it. It’s not about dream pop or the ’80s or new age mysticism. Really, we’re just songwriters. What the band is is the fact that we write songs together. If she wrote songs by herself or I wrote songs by myself, it would be a different thing. That’s really what the project is for us. That’s why it’s a band.
What brought the two of you together on this project?
SARAH: The whole project really started with Dan because Dan is pretty much always working on music and continues to be super passionate about it. The way Pure Bathing Culture started is that he had been working on some loops, and just one day, I wrote some lyrics that ended up being the song “Lucky One.” We come together and decide what to work on and work on it together.
DANIEL: It’s funny. It’s not something we set out to do–to have a band together. There’s something really conducive and natural to the process where she does her thing and I do my thing and we don’t really have to fight about it. It’s very natural. I think that’s why we were able to have a sound as a band. We didn’t decide the sound. It just happened.
I’ve read that there are some improvisational aspects to your music. How does that work for the two of you?
DANIEL: I think the stuff about improvisation had to do with people asking us questions about recording with Richard Swift, and he likes to record really fast. It’s not improvisation like jazz improvisation but he has a way of getting you into a zone where you’ll do a take and then, even if you aren’t completely sure about the take but it’s an early take, you just end up keeping it. It really influences the overall flow of the recording session. There’s not a lot of heavy conceptualization. We just recorded all the songs really really fast.
Which of the songs off of the full-length was recorded the quickest?
SARAH: I feel like for the most part they each took a full day, or a full day and a couple of hours. I can’t remember if one came out quicker than the others.
DANIEL: Yeah, but a day of recording with Richard is like four hours.
SARAH: [Laughs] That’s true!
DANIEL: I think they were each recorded in maybe three hours total.
You had also mentioned that you were most excited for the New York City stop on your tour. Why is that, or have you changed your minds?
DANIEL & SARAH: [Laughs]
SARAH: No, we don’t feel that way.
DANIEL: Yeah, we changed our mind. It’s Baltimore now. [Laughs] For us, coming all the way to the east coast from the west coast…it’s funny when you come out here you feel far away. As a baby band, it’s hard to get back, you know? It’s been cool to be back on the east coast again as Pure Bathing Culture and to travel all the way doing shows.
SARAH: I think we look forward to playing New York because we did live there for a long time and we do have connections to the city. We haven’t played many shows in New York as Pure Bathing Culture. I think we’ve played only two, but they were both great. I’m really looking forward to the show at Glasslands. It’ll be really fun. I love that venue, too.
Finally, what’s the story behind the name Pure Bathing Culture? It’s very unique.
DANIEL: We got the name from my brother who was in Switzerland during college visiting a spa. He was studying architecture, and the spa was designed by an architect he really admired. So he went to the spa and he had a series of questions there. You weren’t allowed to speak, you had to wade through various pools that were in really beautiful environments. The English translation translated to “pure bathing culture,” and he was just telling me about it at the time we were just starting to get serious with a couple songs and it just sort of stuck with me. It just clicked instantly.