Photo Credit: Rebekah Campbell
NYC indie-rock band Sunflower Bean have been creating a steady buzz since forming in 2013. Influenced by a wide range of bands such as Minor Threat, Beach Fossils, Metallica, Nirvana, the Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin and Brian Wilson, they have been growing and evolving their sound over the years. Consisting on Julia Cumming (vocals/bass), Nick Kivlen (guitar/vocals) and Jacob Faber (drums), the band released their first EP Show Me Your Seven Secrets in early 2015 via their Bandcamp page. Later that year they signed with Fat Possum Records and re-released the EP. In 2016, they released their first full-length album Human Ceremony, which had a more pop-friendly and nuanced sound than their neo-psychadelic-tinged earlier sound. In 2018, the band released their second album Twentytwo In Blue via Mom + Pop Music. The band’s strong work ethic and relentless touring led their local listings site Oh My Rockness to name them the hardest working band in the city in 2014. Their goal as a band is to work towards longevity. The band sings about topics such as transitioning into adulthood and trying to conquer the world’s realities that the transition forces one to face. They’ve tried to speak honestly to their generation about how scary that transition can be. They recently released their latest EP, King Of The Dudes, which they recorded in LA with producer Justin Raisen. They have toured with DIIV, Wolf Alice, The Vaccines and Interpol and will be touring later this year with Beck, Cage The Elephant and Spoon. With summer festivals, a fall tour and writing new music on the horizon, the band has plenty to look forward to in the coming months. Staff writer Emily May recently spoke by email with the band and discussed the new EP, touring less this year and what’s next for them You can follow Sunflower Bean and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase their music via the following links. Check out “Twentytwo” and “King Of The Dudes” below.
You released your latest EP King of Dudes earlier this year. You’ve mentioned that with your previous album, Twentytwo In Blue, that the band did what it had time to do. With the new EP, though, you took more time and if something didn’t feel right, it wasn’t done. What led you to approach the recording of the EP in a different way? What was the recording process like?
So, with Twentytwo in Blue we really hit the ground running right after finishing up touring Human Ceremony. We felt really inspired from being on the road from a year and a half. We were growing as people with every mile we drove so when we got home we were ready to start writing. The process for TTIB took up pretty much an entire year and we worked through every detail, seeing through almost every idea that made us feel something. TTIB was the first record where we had some time really work on something. Naturally, our next creative endeavor King Of The Dudes would be different. After recording, releasing and touring TTIB we quickly felt another urge to get something out and this time we wanted it out quick. We visited LA two seperate times and worked with Justin Raisen in his studio where we wrote and recorded the EP. It was a fun, visceral, fast paced two weeks. With KOTD we made sure that urgency of the song was built into them and that you feel the energy surging through your body as you listen. -Jacob
Julia- You’ve said that Twentytwo In Blue helped you to be yourself and to be comfortable with who you are as a singer/performer/writer and with your story and your path. What has your growth been like, both personally and artistically, over the course of each album? Nick and Jacob- How do you feel you have grown, as well? How do you feel your sound has grown?
Twentytwo In Blue definitely helped me find myself in a new way. I can’t imagine who I would be without it at this point. We’ve essentially been growing up making music and releasing it, so it feels like a natural progression to getting a stronger voice, and writing songs that serve it better. I feel less afraid to be myself everyday, as an artist and a person. – Julia
Everyday I feel like I grow. It’s crazy, I’m someone constantly looking at themselves from even 3 hours before and thinking about how I can be closer to the person I want to be. Growing up is a strange thing and something that proves itself pretty impossible for people to understand at every step of their life and yet we all do it. My musicianship growth informs my self growth and vice versa. It’s all intertwined, we all grow together. – Jacob
I always just try to think about what we haven’t done yet and also what we might not expect ourselves to do. -Nick
You worked on King of Dudes with Justin Raisen in LA, whose work on Angel Olsen’s album My Woman and Sky Ferreira’s album Night Time, My Time piqued your interest and led you to consider a change in direction musically. What is it about those albums that you found so inspiring?
The energy on all those albums is insane. Like you just listen to them and they make you FEEL. That was through line I saw. All those records are vastly different but yet there’s a feeling that links them all together. I think that’s what really caught our eyes and ears. This guy working out of his garage in LA can capture feeling, which a lot of producers even, with millions of dollars of equipment can’t do. – Jacob
I agree with Jake. You can make a song that breaks the chart in the United States in a garage in LA, talking about sex and power and strength and weird things too. Justin is a special person and brings that to anything he works with, whether it’s angel or sky, or yves tumor. – Julia
Justin isn’t like a lot of other indie rock producers. He has an energy like a drill sergeant on acid. That sort of fire made us work quick and on instinct. He taught us a lot of eccentric techniques we’ve used since. -nick
The three of you have spoken honestly about the shift from being a teenager to adulthood and have realized that you are going through a lot of the same things your fans are going through. What do you feel have been, and are currently, the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in that transition? Do you feel that having a platform to express yourself and the things you are going through has helped to make the shift easier?
I am going through so many changes right now, even as an early adult that I never thought I would. Nobody tells you that the early 20’s are pretty fucking weird too, deciding what kind of person you’re actually going to be. I would say I am lucky to have songwriting as a way of dealing with life, but going through it all publicly and through releasing music can be strange. Maybe it’s exhibitionist. – Julia
You’ve said that with Twentytwo In Blue, that you wanted to start understanding your own motivations as artists. Do you feel that you you have begun to accomplish that? What have you discovered?
I’ve discovered how much I yearn to communicate with people, to find a part of myself that is as real as I can be and see how it feels to share it with others. It isn’t the entire motivation, and you can’t write for people, you have to write for yourself. But when you get closer to yourself, you get closer to humanity and life. – Julia
You’ve experienced a couple of firsts recently-performing in Mexico and at Red Rocks Amphitheater. What were those experiences like for you? Do have any specific goals going forward that you are hoping to accomplish as a band?
Playing Red Rocks was pretty fucking sick. It was like 34 degrees out and raining. I Could barely hold my sticks. But moments like that really remind you how crazy this life is and it’s very humbling. And as for specific goals, we’re just trying to make another album. – Jacob
Yes, we definitely are thinking about our next album more than shows. We have been extraordinarily lucky to play where we’ve played and I hope it can continue. But we need to make some more music first! – Julia
You have said that you find inspiration as a band in your fans who come out to your shows and visit the march table afterwards. How do you feel that your fans have inspired you? It sounds like you relate to them on a personal level.
Yea! I mean meeting people who come to our shows is super important to us. Just as they find inspiration from watching us play we find inspiration from meeting everyone. It’s like somehow out of the infinite possibilities of entertainment these days these people came to see Sunflower Bean. We’ll never take that for granted. – Jacob
Nick- You have said that with the last album, there were a lot of feelings that you needed to get out and that while you write a song it informs you of what it needs to be. What were you feeling when writing for the new EP? What influenced the songs? Did you all share in the songwriting process?
I don’t really remember what I was talking about specifically but every song is different. Some are spur of the moment burst of writing and feeling, others can be written over a long stretch of time very meticulously. -nick
You have set up a solid second fan base in the UK. What has it been like for you to build a fan base there, as well as playing Reading and Leeds Festivals for the first time? You’ve mentioned feeling a bit lonely in NY as there weren’t many younger bands around when Sunflower Bean was starting out. You met and hung out with some younger bands in the UK, though, and have said that you feel like you are a part of an international community. What has that been like for you?