Pure Bathing Culture are a hardworking band. Only two years since the group’s inception, the duo -- multi-instrumentalist Daniel Hindman and keyboardist/vocalist Sarah Versprille -- are already music industry vets. Their excellent debut album, "Moon Tides," was released last year to adoring reviews and they’ve since crisscrossed the U.S. with bands such as La Luz and Gardens & Villa. Currently on the second leg of their national trek with indie pop stalwarts Tennis, they’re scheduled to make a stop at the world-famous Casbah on Sunday, Oct. 26. Truth be told, they’re on the cusp. They can feel it. We can feel it. Honestly, the world is their oyster.
And, coincidentally, right now they’re only thinking about food.
"I’m not gonna remember the name of the place but we did eat some amazing Mexican food last time we played Soda Bar," Versprille said. "We walked 10-15 minutes south and ended up at this amazing restaurant -- like a buffet, but it had everything out on steam plates on a table and you just got what you wanted. We found out after the fact that all the people that made the food were women that lived in the community and they compete to have their food featured in the restaurant. It was amazing."
Admittedly, when you’re on the road as much as Pure Bathing Culture, finding tasty cuisine is one of the few things to look forward to in a never-ending stretch of asphalt, gas station bathrooms and toothless trucker smiles. "We love all kinds of food," she added. "None of us are particularly picky eaters so we search for the best thing we can find."
For those wondering, they had actually stumbled into Super Cocina on University Avenue. But culinary delights aside (this ain’t "Top Chef" after all), they've got a lot more going for them.
The band has been on an upward trajectory since the beginning. Members of indie folk group Vetiver, Hindman and Versprille have been writing music together since 2009, and after moving to Portland, Oregon in 2011, decided to finally branch out on their own for real. Trading earthy, backwoods adulation for the cold, hard plastic of keyboards, shimmering electric guitar and the chirp of digital circuitry, they went to work and quickly released a four-song, self-titled EP in 2012. Their debut full-length would follow a year later, and while they’re still touring on the strength of "Moon Tides," they’re already eyeing the future.
"We’re excited to make our next record," Hindman enthused. "I mean, I love that our first record was simple; I love that it’s honest, and that the sounds are very pure. But I have nothing but excitement about making the next record. I think the first one was nothing compared to what we can do."
They’ll have their work cut out for them. "Moon Tides" isn’t a lackluster affair: Filled to the brim with undeniably beautiful melodies, Versprille’s rich, arching vocals cascade above tranquil, ethereal synths and soft, toy drum machine beats. [Listen to some of it here]
They’ve been labeled "chillwave" or "dream pop" by the press, but if you’re to ask them what they think they sound like, words like "New Age," "adult contemporary," and "slow dance" spill out. Believe me, if I had had Pure Bathing Culture’s latest single, "Pendulum," to initiate my rhythm-challenged feet into the slow dance world when I was 12-years old instead of Celine Dion’s "Because You Loved Me," I might’ve been a tad less awkward. Even so, the band don’t think much of labels.
"We didn’t think about genre at all when we wrote the first batch of songs," Hindman said. "The last thing I’d want is for Pure Bathing Culture to be classified a ‘dreampop’ band, or labeled something in a defining way like that."
It’s not a stretch to say that most bands don’t appreciate the way they’ve been categorized, but it’s almost a necessary evil in my world, in particular -- a fact that isn’t lost on the duo during our interview.
"Everyone has valid opinions and I’m not saying that people shouldn’t write what they feel," Hindman said. "[Journalists] offer an observation – but is it meaningful to flippantly criticize something? They take an approach of either they like the band and write about them in whatever way that matters to them. Or they decide they don’t like the band and it becomes a misdirected form of anger, or they kind of want to start showing how knowledgeable they are about music – ‘Her voice sounds like Kate Bush’s lower register meets Blondie,’ you know? A lot of people take a tone of authority when they’re just writing a critical piece. If you think about it in that perspective, it’s almost a little absurd."
According to Versprille, the problem is representative of a larger societal issue: "People should take the time to make their own opinions. Don’t let one negative opinion influence you to not like things. People, in general, should be willing to stand up for themselves and say ‘I do like this.’ If it means something to you, make your own decisions and be more autonomous. Decide what you want for yourselves. In the age of the Internet, we can all benefit by thinking for ourselves a little bit more – in any format – not just about music."
Thankfully, the band (which also features touring members Zach Tillman on bass, and Brian Wright on drums) is in the position to reach the masses. And even though tour life can be exhausting, they show no signs of letting up.
"[Touring is] grueling in the sense that there's so much driving involved," Versprille admitted. "We do get tired from all the traveling, but apart from that, it's so thrilling to get onstage and play our music for people all over the country."
The pivotal question remains: What will they find to eat here this time around? Versprille perked up: "We search for the best thing we can find. We love suggestions from people, so if you know of anything, please pass it along!"
There you have it, folks -- go ahead and help 'em out.