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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sophia’s Thai Kitchen Season Finale

With weekly live music shows on its outdoor deck, the bar at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen serves as a reliable source for indie music aficionados to discover up-and-coming indie bands. Oct. 19 is the venue’s Season Finale, with performances by Brooklyn-based duo Widowspeak and Portland-based Pure Bathing Culture.

Widowspeak spent the first half of their North American tour with Iron & Wine and Pure Bathing Culture recently toured with Father John Misty. Now, the two bands are joining up for the remainder of their North American tours on behalf of Widowspeak’s forthcoming EP The Swamps and Pure Bathing Culture’s new album Moon Tides.

Kevin Wan, co-owner of Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, helps book promising new bands for their live music shows, which occur from the end of March until the end of October every year.

“Pure Bathing Culture has a cool, retro 80s vibe going on. I’m a big fan of Cat Power and Mazzy Star, and Widowspeak has that kind of sound,” Wan said.

Some of the artists booked by Sophia’s in the past, like The Lumineers and The Head and the Heart, have gone on to become huge sensations in the indie scene, often going on to play at big name music festivals.

“I tend to book on-the-rise indie bands and bands touring on new material. Davis people have a wide variety of tastes and Davis is a town that responds well to new bands,” Wan said. “Widowspeak and Pure Bathing Culture seem to be a complimentary package as performers. They have very different sound, but speak to a like-minded audience.”

In phone interviews, MUSE spoke with Widowspeak’s guitarist Robert Earl Thomas and Pure Bathing Culture’s guitarist Daniel Hindman. Thomas spoke about Widowspeak’s aesthetics and creative influences when working on their music.

“Molly and I are both really into storytelling and imagery, and every time we do a recording project, we come up with a set of influences in all aspects of art, like color, design, film and clothing,” Thomas said. “We pull all these elements together and then pull back and think about the feelings and imagery in the world that we want and then make songs from that point.”

Thomas and Hamilton have known each other since they were teenagers, and formed their band with one of their friends, Michael Stasiak. After touring extensively, Stasiak left the band, but the remaining duo has since upheld their dreamy, often foreboding sound that recalls the feel of different regions of America.

“A moniker we’ve acquired is ‘swoon lords,’ and we’ve been described as ‘cowboy grunge.’ We have a dreamy Western twinge. There’s definitely a lot of boots and fringe between [Molly and me],” Thomas said. “In terms of our aesthetic style, we’re definitely an American band, but not specifically from one region of the country like New York or the West coast. Right now we’re looking at New Mexico,” Thomas said.

Widowspeak’s latest EP, The Swamps, was approached like an album with one thematic element, recalling the swamps of Louisiana and dealing with themes like stagnation.

“Our last album had to do with nostalgia and the pitfalls that come from that. This EP is about that hazy feeling that the swamps give you, sort of like you’re moving underwater. We tried to replicate the feeling of walking through the swamps of the Bayou,” Thomas said.

Moving forward since their earlier work, Widowspeak’s music progresses from the feelings evoked by an old-world country life to those of a more modern world.

“Our last album, Almanac, had to do with nostalgia and living in a closed-off world, but in The Swamps we’re starting to deal with modernism and the modern world,” Thomas said. “We are trying to take more risks in our songwriting, and trying to expand that canon of what can be Widowspeak. We do a lot of layered recording based off home demos, but we’re also trying to introduce new tones and instruments.”

The Swamps serves as a bridge between their past work on Almanac and True Believer and their third studio record, which is still in its primary stages.

Former members of the indie folk band Vetiver (on Sub Pop and Bella Union records labels), Hindman and Versprille started working on music together and became Pure Bathing Culture. The duo works collaboratively, slowly building their sound through new beats while working together on music and lyrics.

“I’ll start with a drum beat and some kind of song structure, then I’ll bring it to Sarah, talk about it and finish the song together. We both co-write music and lyrics. It’s a highly collaborative process, and it works because its just two of us so we can move pretty quickly,” Hindman said.

Moon Tides is Pure Bathing Culture’s first full-length album. The duo created an introspective and cohesive album that resists being labeled under a specific genre.

“We’re songwriters, mostly, and we’re not trying to participate in a specific genre. People pay attention to that aspect in our music and will call it dream pop, but I don’t really like that. In its most basic format, I think we do pop songs, but beyond that people are going to call it what they want,” Hindman said.

Moon Tides, deals with themes of transformation and transition, and seeing the positive in that, Hindman said.

Pure Bathing Culture recently ended a tour with singer-songwriter Father John Misty, whose solo career kicked off after leaving Fleet Foxes in 2012.

“That tour was great. It was about two or three weeks long, and I was interested to see how [Father John Misty’s] audience would respond to our music because his music is really visceral and he is really entertaining as a person,” Hindman said. “Our show was much simpler than his, as it would be in this point in time, but people really appreciated us and really listened, which I think is a testament to say that people weren’t just there for him.”

Widowspeak’s Ep The Swamps is set to be released on Oct. 29, and Pure Bathing Culture’s Moon Tides was released in Aug. 2013.

Tickets can be purchased online at sophiasthaikitchen.com for $6 or at the door for $10.

CRISTINA FRIES can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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