Pure Bathing Culture
To hear Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman tell it, their Portland, OR-based band Pure Bathing Culture has always evolved naturally and at a steady pace. "That's really the path we've been on as a band, always putting one foot in front of the other as opportunities presented themselves," Versprille said. "The music just revealed itself to us as we kept going."
But for Pure Bathing Culture's second album, Pray for Rain, the band has taken a big leap forward. You can hear it from the opening notes of their anthemic title track: in Hindman's clean yet serpentine guitar lines interacting with the live rhythm section and Versprille's lucid vocals cutting through it all as she asks: "Is it pleasure? Is it pain? Did you pray for rain?" Pray for Rain is the sound of the group confidently taking a step up to the next level and finding their footing as a true band.
"We needed to make a big step and our version of that was to cut the cord from our previous albums," Hindman said of the process, then confesses: "I was nervous all the way through. It was nerve-wracking and almost antagonizing at times."
The roots of Pure Bathing Culture stretch back to 1999, when Versprille and Hindman befriended one another on the first day of freshman orientation at William Patterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. A decade later, they became bandmates when they both joined Vetiver for their Sub-Pop albums Tight Knit and The Errant Charm. It was while playing in Vetiver that Pure Bathing Culture emerged as its own entity.
"Dan was working on some instrumentals that he would make on a looping pedal," Sarah said. "One night he was out and I just listened to this loop and wrote some lyrics to it. He came home and I showed it to him. We laughed at first, as we didn't have some grand plan to start a band. It just happened naturally." That song "Lucky One," wound up in the hands of Richard Swift, who encouraged the duo to keep writing. "Richard pushed us along and became an inspiration," Dan said. Swift wound up producing the band's first EP and dreamy full-length, 2013's Moon Tides at his National Freedom studio.
From there, PBC evolved from simply being the product of Versprille and Hindman writing songs in their own home to hitting the road as a full touring band. "Sarah and I conceptualize music and then write so it's a pretty fragile state," Hindman said. "Playing live was a huge change for us."
When it came time to write and record their follow-up to Moon Tides, the duo knew what they didn't want. "We didn't gravitate towards someone making indie dream-pop records," Dan said. That was when producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans, Angel Olsen, The Walkmen) reached out to the band and invited them to come record with him in his Dallas, TX studio.
"John pushed us to not make clichés, to not play into the style of other bands," Dan said. The challenges came right away as Congleton pressed the group into unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable territory in the studio. "He tricked me with the guitars on the album," Dan said. "We got the basic tracks down and he asked me to do scratch guitar and then John wouldn't let me go back and do the guitars again. He refused to do any layering."
As a result, everything on Pray for Rain is pretty much as Pure Bathing Culture actually sounds, all analog gear, with virtually no plug-ins or effects added afterwards, no hiding behind multiple layers. "There aren't a lot of tricks; What you hear is naturally what's there," Dan said.
It was a taxing yet ultimately rewarding experience when the album was completed. "It was shocking to hear what the finished product was," Sarah said. "It was like being in a vortex and then we came out with this record." She adds with a laugh something John Congleton told her when all was said and done: "You were very brave."
Sarah summarizes the Pray for Rain experience as one of "stepping into the realm of discovering who we are as a band and as songwriters," echoing a theme of the album itself, the process of change and transition. "You can find the best version of yourself in those hardest moments," she said. To which Dan adds: "You have to be backed up against the wall in order to really feel those feelings and respond to them." Pray for Rain is the sound of Pure Bathing Culture transforming from who they were to who they will be, of finding their way, ready to take steps both small and momentous on their musical path.
Big Search is the ever-present alter ego of Matt Popieluch as he continues to make his way through Californian life, channeling the cross-currents of romance, upheaval, and casual adventure.
After over a decade of making music in various bands like Foreign Born and The Cave-Ins, and assisting in bands Papercuts, Fools Gold, Glasser, Cass McCombs, Taken By Trees and Sky Ferreira, Big Search has been steadily uncovering the music being revealed to him in flow-states. After two albums and a number of singles, his new album Life Dollars will be coming out August 19th via Danger Mouse's new imprint 30th Century Records.
Life Dollars was recorded during two five days periods in Los Angeles with producer Rob Barbato (Kevin Morby, Bleached). The sessions were squeezed in between Matt's tour dates while he was working as a hired guitar player, recorded live with Dan Iead on guitar, Garrett Ray on drums and Rob Barbato doubling on bass. The majority of the songs here were written at the beginning of an international romance-turned-marriage that was not to last, giving the songs dual natures. As a result, the music embodies longing, idealism, uncertainty, isolation, and emotional gambling on a bed of drifting escapism.
The arrangements were inspired by the time Matt and Dan Iead toured as a duo through New England a few autumns ago. In a minimal rental car, surviving on pizza and a hackie sack, they developed the 12 string acoustic - electric guitar combination that would become the core of the record. Add a rhythm section, harmonies, synthesizers, vibraphone, and a few woodwinds and you've got all you need to rake in some Life Dollars.
Ablebody is an LA-based duo comprised of identical twins Christoph and Anton Hochheim (members of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart + The Depreciation Guild). They've been quietly releasing music under this moniker since 2013, self-releasing an EP and 7″ single, crafting remixes and demoing original material as well as a myriad of covers.
Drawing from the raw grandeur of the 60's, the melodicism of soft 70s pop and the sophisticated side of romantic 80s synth pop, Ablebody stand suspended between decades; students of the past but far from retro fetishists. Their musical prowess is evident but the songwriting remains tastefully direct at all times, with arrangements that bend and move in surprising ways but tastefully blanket the overarching sentiment of the songs in a way that we rarely hear in this decade.
The duo have recently taken their sound from the bedroom to the studio, working with producer/engineer Kenny Gilmore (Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti) to craft songs with a more visceral edge than they've explored in the past. Daniel Rosenbaum (Pomar) and Jordan Sabolick (Mt. Ossa) have joined the duo to help bring the songs to life and add new dimension to the live dynamic.
Their debut full length record 'Adult Contemporaries' will be released by Lolipop Records onOctober 14.