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May 9th, 2012 12:01 am WW Staff | Cover Story

Best New Band 2012

10 local acts that Portland’s music insiders think you should hear.


IMAGE: Megan Holmes

2. Pure Bathing Culture

  • 97.5 Points
  • Formed: 2011
  • Sounds like: A weird dream where Stereolab hangs out with Enya around a campfire on the banks of a river where yellow water runs over chunks of black coal.

New York isn’t ready for the New Age. It’s too busy, too expensive, too removed from the natural world. Or so it seems to Pure Bathing Culture. Back in Brooklyn, the duo of Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille ran on pizza and subway fare. Last year they moved to Portland and got into natal charts and crystals.

“We’ve been super-influenced by a lot of West Coast New Age spirituality, things that we weren’t really looking into,” Hindman says. “We’ve been super-influenced by astrology, and the tarot has become a muse.”

“I’m sure a lot of it exists on the East Coast, in New York, but people on the West Coast...seem to have more space for that type of thought,” Versprille says. “[In New York], there’s a lot of people competing for resources and it’s pretty intense.”

Hindman and Versprille seem comfortably settled into a quieter life in the Southeast Portland house they share with Versprille’s cousin and her elderly miniature poodle. The house’s open upper floor is a studio and rehearsal space that “doesn’t exist” in New York, with plush yellow couches, a big chunk of orange calcite (“It’s very calming,” Versprille says) and the spiritualist books that inform the EP the band is releasing at the end of this month.

Hindman, a lanky man with curly brown hair, is originally from Delaware. Versprille, who has sharp bangs, big glasses and occasionally slips a hard vowel into her speech, is from Rochester in upstate New York.

“Some of this music was written in Brooklyn, but I feel like it really developed here,” Versprille says. “We decided we wanted to explore it, but we didn’t have the space or the time because we had to work extra jobs.”

There’s lots of space on Pure Bathing Culture’s self-titled debut EP, a record with obvious parallels to dream-poppy Baltimore duo Beach House. “Lucky One” has Versprille’s ephemeral vocals floating through subtly hypnotic, bloopy drums. Layers of guitar and vocals give “Ivory Coast,” a song the band says is about being obsessed with your muse, uncanny depth. “Silver Shore’s Lake” has a touch of Simply Red-style ’80s blue-eyed soul under layered electro haze. So far, Pure Bathing Culture has played only eight shows, the first in January at Doug Fir Lounge, and yet it has enough buzz to land on this list.

Part of that may be due to the popularity of another band it plays in, Andy Cabic’s folk-pop project Vetiver. Touring with Vetiver, Pure Bathing Culture met lauded producer and musician Richard Swift, a recent Shins recruit operating out of Cottage Grove, who encouraged the band to come to Portland.

Hanging here, Hindman and Versprille have had time to read and think about new things—like the zodiac.

“I think of the signs of the zodiac almost as like collected folk wisdoms that have been created from centuries and centuries of humans observing other humans,” Hindman says. 

Having time to observe and ponder, he figures, is how this esoteric knowledge was developed in the first place. “People didn’t have anything to do besides lay on their back and look at the stars,” he says. “Before the Internet, and before this modern age we live in, people were much more attentive. They were seeing things that we don’t look at now.”

Versprille stops short of calling it practical: “It’s not so much that I want to read my horoscope and predict the future, it’s more of an interesting intellectual pursuit.”

But there is a Pure Bathing Culture ethos, the band says, something that’s developed since arriving in Portland that channels the spirit of this place.

“If we had any message in our music, it would probably be that you should take yourself seriously, take your relationships seriously—don’t miss it. Don’t miss this opportunity,” Hindman says. “We’re just interested in new forms of spirituality and ways of connecting with something beyond everyday life that gives meaning to why we’re all here.”

As pop music goes, this is an ambitious purpose. Pure Bathing Culture takes it on seriously, but cheerfully.

“Hey,” Versprille asks, “do you want to know your Native American spirit animal?” MARTIN CIZMAR.

Willamette Weeks Best New Band showcase, sponsored by Miller Genuine Draft and featuring Radiation City, Pure Bathing Culture and Onuinu, is Friday, May 11, at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave. 9 pm. Free. 21+.

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