Pure Bathing Culture

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.

Mary Alouette has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about her, and just might be New York City’s best-kept swag songstress secret.

Her first year as a solo artist is off to promising start after releasing her debut EP, Midas, in April 2012.

She shows serious vocal and musical talent, as her voice bears both tone and control earned through opera training and the emotional connection of a jazz and soul singer. Also a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Mary has laid the groundwork for a fresh, distinctive, and unforgettable sound.

Her songs, full of infectious melodies and dangerous rhythms, blend floating, jazzy vocals with poignant lyrics. Manipulation of electronic beats, synth pads, acoustic bass lines, and glitchy textures shapes a modern orchestration under the gypsy jazz guitar’s hot rhythms and haunting acoustic licks.

Born Mary Kavalauskas, she adopted the name Mary Alouette in part as a pseudonym so she could sing without a visa in international jazz clubs, but moreso as an homage to her favorite singers, namely Maria Callas, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone, who also performed under stage names. Other influences include Kate Bush, the jazzy hip-hop grooves of Hiatus Kaiyote, the raw, emotional beats of Burial, and the cool of Berlin’s Modeselektor.

Currently, her band is one of New York City’s most original acts, with a compelling musical experience that places her in a spot all her own. She performs in music clubs in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and in Brooklyn, while songwriting by day in her Bushwick loft.

Her gypsy jazz performances have warmly welcomed sold-out crowds in venues throughout the Washington-Baltimore area, and seasoned NYC gypsy jazz players call her to lay down vocals for their latest albums.

Alouette presently works as an assistant audio engineer and producer at ishlab, a music studio in Brooklyn. She started the position in an effort to brave her naïveté when it came to music production and to further explore her love for electronic music. After practicing mixing and recording techniques, she was quickly offered the opportunity to work independently on projects and assist in sessions with platinum and major label artists.

In 2011-2012, Alouette held an Artist-in-Residence position at Strathmore Center for the Performing Arts in Maryland, among a select handful of rising young musical artists. This provided her the opportunity to work with national and international musicians, as well as industry professionals. She recently concluded her residency with performances on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and at Strathmore Hall.

The blazing tempos and exotic melodies of Django Reinhardt’s 1930’s gypsy jazz lure Mary, especially after working on a vineyard in the South of France and growing up singing from the American songbook. She has lit up festivals along the East Coast with various gypsy jazz ensembles in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Montreal, Canada.

Performance has always been a part of Mary’s personal expression, nurtured by her childhood in musical theatre, choral performances of Mahler and Beethoven at Carnegie Hall, and singing the National Anthem for the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. The decision to pursue opera at McGill University in Montreal, then and in Austria and the Italian Alps, began as a motivation to build her voice. She also soon immersed herself in Montreal’s diverse, lively, electronic and world music scenes and worked with digital composers while at McGill. Mary also taken to street art, bombing stencils as a visual representation of her music. An authentic vision has materialized and it’s made a strong impression.

Alouette won Washington Area Music Association’s New Artist of the Year 2012 and Debut Recording 2012 (Midas). Her song, O, Be I Your Bluebird, placed as a finalist in the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Competition.

Presently, Mary Alouette is working on a new album to be released in Spring 2013.

Jimmy Whispers

Former Light Pollution main man James Cicero has hit upon something special with his new solo project, Jimmy Whispers. He sings sincere songs about love and loss with just a chintzy organ recorded straight to an iPhone, and what the music lacks in fidelity it more than makes up for in unself-conscious heart, blissful melodies, and enchanting hooks. He's finished an album, but you can't get it just yet—a proper release is in the works. Cicero plays out often enough, though, that the tunes will stick with you till his next show—and you can still walk away with a copy of his Summer in Pain zine. It builds on themes that also turn up in his music, in his stage banter, and in the crude "Summer in Pain" street art he's plastered around town: there's a collage about Chicago's gun violence, a letter to a woman selling a wedding gown via a flyer, doodles of sharks, non sequiturs about finding inspiration in sadness, and an image that superimposes Cicero on a photo of Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen. Summer in Pain is pretty scatterbrained and not always easy to understand, but it feels entirely earnest—which makes it a great companion to Cicero's songs.



Tiger Dare

Tiger Dare makes atmospheric dream pop in Brooklyn. Formed when Mike Zorrilla and Henry Freedland discovered a shared affinity for music with in-headphone intimacy and spacey, shimmering guitars, the band has grown to include the talents of bassist Michael Kirby and drummer Pete Hilton. Debut record Wires Over, Wired In translates slowcore, shoegaze, psych and indie pop influences to offer up hushed vocals and intricate arrangements, unburdened by gravity or friction; a dream-machine in motion. These are subtle anthems for the open-hearted, peering into the lost and found of looking-glass time and endeavoring to find some simple, off-screen truths in a weird and wired world.


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