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Sunflower Bean

EP RELEASE: ‘King Of The Dudes’ – Sunflower Bean

WORDS: MATTHEW PYWELL    PHOTO: MANC WANDERER

New York! New York! One of the greatest cities on the planet, a cultural hub and more importantly the birthplace of so many great artists and bands. New York isn’t just a place where some bands were formed, New York has its own style, its own attitude. Responsible for artists such as Blondie, The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and The Strokes. Sunflower Bean are helping to carry the torch, passed over by those before, no more so than on their latest EP ‘King Of The Dudes‘.

King Of The Dudes feels like an ode to those that came before. The title track explodes into life just like the soda can on the EP’s cover art, singer Julia Cumming has the fierce, untamed swagger and determination in her voice, just as Debbie Harry before her. She sings of being a leader of men, not by choice but by circumstance. The second track, Come For Me, is a pretty obvious innuendo which details a night for Julia where she’s, “looking for some handsome distraction”. The guitar riffs take in the influence of disco, conjuring up thoughts of flares, vibrant oranges, and fluorescent greens.

On Fear City, riffs rise and fall to constant crescendos, before erupting into Julia’s soaring vocals on the chorus. There are so many good guitar hooks on the track, particularly in the last third, it feels as if they’re fully freed from chains and let loose. The concluding track, The Big One sees the band retreating into the gritty, cataclysmic realms of punk. It has the feeling of a song crafted out of expression rather than methodology, a sweet release of anarchic creative freedom, reminiscent of bands like The New York Dolls.

On King Of The Dudes, Sunflower Bean have taken hold of the fabled style of New York band’s past. With some glorious rock hooks and a take-no-prisoners attitude. While there’s not anything particularly innovative with what Sunflower Bean have done, they do their city justice by representing their own interpretation of rock, punk and disco elements from the ’70s/’80s.

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Ultimate Playlist: Sunflower Bean

NYC power trio Sunflower Bean started as a duo by Jacob Faber and Nick Kliven back in 2013 with a name that combined each of their favourite things – sunflower seeds and coffee beans.  Joined by ex-member of the Supercute! duo Julia Cumming in 2014, the then threesome moved from Long Island to Brooklyn and submerged themselves in the areas thriving DIY scene.

Constant graft and dedication brought them through the scene and out on to the radar – showcased by their awarded title of ‘Most hard-working NYC band in 2014’. From there on out it’s been a non-stop run for Sunflower Bean, with support and headline slots alongside the likes of Wolf Alice, Pixies, Cherry Glazerr and so many more. 2015 brought the true initiation of their domination, with debut album ‘Human Ceremony’ which – despite none of the band members being of legal US drinking age at the time – soared the international charts and placed them firmly on the map, at such a fledgling stage.

Bringing us bang up to date and now with a second album ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ under their wings, in 2018 the triad have announced a new EP entitled ‘King Of The Dudes’ produced by Justin Raisen (Sky Ferreira, Charlie XCX, Angel Olsen) and due to be released on January 25th, 2019. To celebrate the announcement, the band have shared the first single from the record: ‘Come For Me’, which sees the band in a more menacing light than ever before.

Julia explains,This song was inspired by inner strength, power, and sexual freedom. In 2018 there is no time to waste and no time for shame. This song is a declaration of that. Do you really want to come for me? Do you really want to waste my time? The song is a dare, a threat, and a beckoning.”

We asked Nick to put together a list of his favourite tracks, check them out below.

Apocalypse – Cigarettes After Sex

I recently really got into Cigarettes After Sex and it took me a second to get on board but now that I’m on I can’t get off.

Licking an Orchid – Yves Tumor

We’ve all been super into the new Yves Tumor record since it came out. It sounds like the future.

Serve the Servants – Nirvana

For some reason we walked out to play a set to this song the other night and it reminded me that’s its low key the best Nirvana song.

Broccoli – DRAM

My younger brother turned me on to DRAM a little while ago, safe to say he’s got hooks for days.

Walking My Tears Across Manhattan – Lawrence Rothman

I love this song so much. Being from NYC I think we have all felt this at some point.

Ghost Town – Kanye West

I know Ye has not been on it as of late but he did make one the of my favourite songs of 2018…

Death or Glory – The Clash

Such a tune, just makes me want to punch a hole in the wall out of excitement.

But I’m Different – Les Rallizes Denudes

Was listening to this while we were in Japan last week, pretty perfect soundtrack for the trip.

Crawling Up The Stairs – Pure X

Been revisiting this record as of late and this song especially hits hard.

Humility – Gorillaz

I came to this band so late but I’m so glad I did.

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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.

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