We speak to the Portland duo about their groundbreaking new release Pray For Rain.

Pure Bathing Culture are an Indie twosome from Portland, Oregon (where else?) combining their unique take on guitar pop with poetic and considered lyrics that all too often missing from groups like PBC. The duo (who are now also a couple), Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hindman, met back in 1999 at college and became fast friends, telling us, “we weren’t a couple then but people on campus often assumed we were or that we were brother and sister. We played in bands together before we started this project but it took 10 years of knowing each other and also falling in love for us to start making this music together.”

It’s an indisputably heart-warming story, and the couple-cum-band’s first output, Moon Tides, was a well-received slice of gauzy synth-pop that produced some truly memorable tracks in ‘Dream the Dare’ and ‘Pendulum’. For their follow up record, Pray For Rain, though, Hindman and Versprille wanted to move their sound in a new direction: “We didn’t gravitate towards someone making indie dream-pop records,” they explain. Enter John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans), who produced Pray For Rain and encouraged the duo to break old habits and push out of their comfort zone, an experience that was difficult but ultimately rewarding. “It was intense working with John. He was pretty demanding in terms of what he wanted us to track where as on Moon Tides we tracked a lot more instruments and layered things quite a bit. It was hard at times but he helped us to understand more about what the fundamentals are for us.”

The result is an album that is nearly entirely analogue with very few effects added or extra layers plugged in – which means PBC live sound almost identical to the way they do on the recording. As for the lyrical aspect of their music, you only need to look to tracks like ‘Palest Pearl’ (the latest single from Pray For Rain) to see the poetic quality to PBC’s writing as well as the diversity of their literary influences, including Elizabeth Bishop, EE Cummings, Louise Gluck and Dylan Thomas. ‘Palest Pearl’ itself is based on a poem by Hilda Doolittle, the Modernist poet who became a feminist icon upon the rediscovery of her work in the ’70s.

With that in mind, we get onto what feminism means to Versprille, who replies, “feminism to me is all women feeling powerful being exactly what they want to be without judgement or bias. It wasn’t a conscious decision to put that exact message out with ‘Palest Pearl’, but our music is a lot about empowerment and it’s definitely very, very important that women feel empowered and if our music can be a part of that conversation we are honored.” With regards to the role of women in the music industry, Versprille suggests that “women’s roles in all aspects of business and culture are constantly being redefined. Especially now during a time when people seem to be more willing than ever, especially with the emergence of great outlets like The Lenny Letter, to take the issue of women’s roles everywhere more seriously and ask the important questions about how women are treated and perceived in any professional or personal  environment.”

They’re a “consciously mindful” group and that certainly shines through in their music, but the serious stuff aside, we’re keen to know what the band’s rather enigmatic name is meant to suggest. Predictably, however, they’re unwilling to tie themselves down to one interpretation: “Honestly, we hope the music speaks for itself! Not sure exactly what to tell people to think and we’re happy for them to have their own personal impressions.” It’s that mutli-faceted lyrical complexity that distinguishes these two in a pretty crowded genre: long may it continue.