From the magazine: ISSUE 87, June/July 2013
Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman are hanging out in the unfinished basement of New York’s Mercury Lounge, feeling a little disoriented. It’s only been a few years since the couple packed up their Brooklyn apartment and moved to Portland, Oregon, but they’re having trouble reconciling the 2013 version of New York with the city that exists in their memory. “After soundcheck today, I went outside and saw like four places that weren’t there when we used to live here,” says Hindman, who’s tall and lanky with a shock of wavy brown hair. “I felt so Planet of the Apes. I just don’t identify with any of this.” New York tends to evolve at lightning speed, but the atmospheric love songs on Pure Bathing Culture’s debut full-length, Moon Tides, suggest that he and Versprille—a freshfaced redhead, dressed plainly except for the green gemstone hanging from her neck—have done their share of growing, too.
Hindman and Vesprille met as music students during their freshman year at New Jersey’s William Paterson University, but they didn’t fall in love until nearly a decade later, in Brooklyn. They joined the folk band Vetiver in 2009, and spent the next few years living together in Greenpoint when they weren’t on the road. They had never discussed starting a band of their own until one day, out of the blue, Versprille began writing words to sing over a simple guitar loop Hindman had built. That song fragment would eventually become the chorus of “Lucky One,” one of four easygoing tracks on last year’s Pure Bathing Culture EP, which set Versprille’s emotive vocals against balmy guitar patterns and rickety electronic percussion. When they played the EP for producer and current Shins member Richard Swift, a mentor-like figure Hindman describes as a “crazy intuitive magical Pisces,” Swift extended them an open invitation to record at his National Freedom studio in Cottage Grove, a middle-of-nowhere Oregon town a couple hours south of Portland.
Spurred on by the visceral magnetism of the West Coast and the impending expiration of their lease, Hindman and Versprille left New York for Portland in 2011, the year they both turned 30. Though barely full-time residents, they found the landscape endlessly inspiring, from the hilly Forest Park in downtown Portland to the boundless canyons that wind along the Columbia River. “The Pacific Northwest has this quality: it’s almost a prehistoric feeling,” says Versprille. “You can almost imagine dinosaurs living there. It’s otherworldly in this crazy way.” Recorded over 10 days with Swift, Moon Tides sounds like starting fresh someplace beautiful. The mood is hazy and consistent, not unlike Oregon’s temperate, oceanic climate, and Versprille sings the sorts of indelible, worn-in melodies that sound like they’ve always been around. It’s a streamlined aesthetic, one you might expect from two musicians who’ve been an integral part of each other’s lives for nearly 14 years. “There’s something really cool about [Sarah’s] influences and my influences coming together,” Hindman explains of their shared love for decades-old pop sounds from the UK, like Cocteau Twins and Vini Reilly. “There’s a minimalism to it.”
Onstage at the Mercury Lounge, that simplicity translates remarkably. Versprille’s vocals sound steely and insistent alongside Hindman’s fluid and heady guitar work. Sometimes, they glance across the stage at each other, half-smiling, their eyes glassy with a palpable admiration. Watching them, you get the idea that each of them always understands where the other is coming from, musically and personally, no matter which coast they’re on.