Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean Photograph by Brad Elterman

In Conversation With: Sunflower Bean

‘I wanna be a part of it, New York, New York’. Frank Sinatra got the ball rolling with that one, an accolade to the state, anthem to the bright-lights-big-city and a definable entrance for the NYC music scene. Enter the likes of Talking Heads, Blondie and Sonic Youth who paved the scene ever further with loud-and-proud music that’s never too far off the party playlist. As an almost modern day reincarnation, Sunflower Bean fused together in 2013 with an electric-blue echo of psychedelic rock and post-punk from their lean-lunged & intriguing lead singer, Julia Cumming mixed with guitar/vocals from Nick Kivlen and drums from Jacob Faber.

Today is indeed International Women’s Day – a celebration of all the women around you, powerful in each of their own unique manners – they’re unstoppable. It would be ridiculous to think of Sunflower Bean as anything other than pace-makers in the current music-clime and they are, no-less, fronted by a woman. A time that cast the first stone for Sunflower Bean was the day that their illustriously, psych-y rock track ‘Bread’ was recorded. Having attended high school together, Nick and Jacob often spotted each other on the train into the city, both on their way to play and catch gigs amongst the lights and chaos of NYC and Brooklyn. “We were kind of always the youngest people around, so I think we naturally gravitated towards each other” mentions Jacob – speaking from their hometown – so their paths then naturally entwined and they began to work together. You could say the train journeys must have not appeared so lonely any more. After a while Nick then met Julia and invited her to join their upstarting band ‘Sunflower Bean’ which was titled simply due to Nick loving sunflower seeds and Jacob being a raging coffee fan. Speaking of the first track Julia recorded with them, Nick recalls an encompassing and wholly entrancing moment for the band: “[Julia] came out to the basement of a friends’ house we were recording in and did the vocals for “Bread” in one take. What you hear on that track is the first time Julia ever sang it. From that moment on I thought we might have some magic on our hands.”


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Since their early days the trio have grown, not so much quantitatively but qualitatively. Having met Wolf Alice whilst the famed London-based band toured in the US, Sunflower Bean recently supported the quartet alongside their UK headline tour, alongside acting as support for an exclusive Jessie Ware show & touring with Sleigh Bells, bringing them to a much broader British audience. Though, that’s not all – with festival and tour dates and the trepidation of their second album released shortly (23rd March), a heightening hum seems to be building around Sunflower Bean.

Speaking of their second studio album, the trio mention that they hope for this to be a souvenir-like collection of tracks. “We’ve made an album that we hope can be your companion. When we listen to music our favourite songs are ones that we can take with us and can be for us whenever we need. That is what we want ‘Twentytwo In Blue’ to do for whoever listens.” According to the band, “intent has changed more than anything” in the two years since their debut album ‘Human Ceremony’ was released – the Brooklyn-based threesome have shifted and grown and, using their audience as market research, they’ve explored exactly what the music scene is looking for in the current climate. This method comes across in their music as their sound is still synonymous of the rough and punk-laced symphony of before but now a softer, more harmonised, method has taken hold. The theme for the new Sunflower Bean record also resonates with their attitude to developing their sound through changing, moulding and pen-ultimately – growing up: “we have come to realise that this record has a lot to do with resilience and how that plays into being a young adult and trying to figure out the world in this crazy time.”

During this time we all know often too well how difficult fitting into our ever-shifting surroundings has come to be. News now scantily offers the truth without some subliminal messages thrown in amongst it & the homogenised front of our modern-day music scene represents this shift in the dynamic, Sunflower Bean being a brilliant case in light.