Pure Bathing Culture takes on Blue Nile’s ‘Hats’

Portland musicians Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille met at 18 while studying jazz performance at a New Jersey college, and there was an initial romantic spark. “Sarah had beautiful jazz hands, and slowly, over time, I couldn’t resist them,” says Hindman of the girl who eventually became his significant other and co-founder of the ethereal synth-based duo Pure Bathing Culture.

“But it’s funny, we became best friends, roommates and bandmates first, and didn’t really become a couple until our late twenties,” says Hindman.

When PBC on its recent fourth album decided to recreate, note for note, one of its all-time favorite works, it really swung for the fences by choosing “Hats,” the gorgeous, delicate-hued 1989 sophomore effort from The Blue Nile; the pair performs it live in The City this week.

Singer Versprille says it wasn’t easy capturing vocalist Paul Buchanan’s wheezy forlorn magic, as on the current “Hats” single “Downtown Lights,” which features a vocal assist from longtime chum Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie.

“So we had some difficulty, and there were some moments where we were like, ‘This arrangement is insane,’” she says. “But it was thrilling just to dig into those old songs and do our own recreation.”

Pure Bathing Culture was introduced to the Blue Nile during sessions for its eponymous 2012 debut. Late producer Richard Swift was trying to put his finger on who his clients reminded him of before he disappeared into his studio’s back room and emerged with a Blue Nile CD.

“He played it for us, and I’d never heard anything like that before,” says Hindman. “It was like equal parts really sensitive and loose, clean and focused, yet constantly emotional. It was just the best sound, and we became obsessed with it.”

The project was underwritten by Turntable Kitchen’s Sounds Delicious series, which urges artists to cover the classics, a la Gibbard’s re-recording Teenage Fanclub’s “Bandwagonesque.”

Currently, the pressing is limited to only 1,000.

Hindman hopes Buchanan has heard PBC’s reverent takes. “We’ve tried to reach him through email and a letter,” he says. “But there’s always the fear of him finally hearing our version and thinking it’s really s—-. That would suck so bad!”

The PBC team acquired good time management skills in the “Hats” process. It already has its next album, “Night Pass.” recorded, ready for 2019 release, and even themed.

“It’s much more upbeat songs about perseverance and protecting the people you love,” Hindman says. “And after this tour we’re going to Richard Swift’s old studio to record even more songs. I’m really excited about it all.”

Pure Bathing Culture
Where: Cafe Du Nord, 2174 Market St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22
Tickets: $12
Contact: (415) 471-2969, www.eventbrite.com

Tom Lanham

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