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November 2018
Feature

Sunflower Bean: "We’re trying to keep rock music moving forward"

New York trio Sunflower Bean released their debut earlier this year: and it’s all up from here.
Published: 11:33 am, October 26, 2016
Sunflower Bean: "We’re trying to keep rock music moving forward"
Brooklyn trio Sunflower Bean have been one of the year’s understated success stories with their stirring debut album ‘Human Ceremony’, chock-full of evocative and gently mysterious indie rock. They’re a band who have found their own unique niche within the current wave of exciting young bands, but there’s more to Sunflower Bean than you might expect.

At the heart of everything they do is a desire to relentlessly evolve. “We’re a three-piece rock band that give it our all,” says guitarist Nick Kivlen as the band trek from Brighton to London for the final leg of their sold out UK tour. “We’re constantly trying to progress, improve and keep rock music moving forward.”

While Sunflower Bean have built a reputation on their powerful live shows, it’s in the studio with their debut and its bewitching charms that the band have shown their creative chops and challenged themselves. “I think with making ‘Human Ceremony’ we grew a lot as a band,” explains bass player and singer Julia Cumming. “We learned to do the whole studio thing. We’re from the city and we’ve been a part of the DIY scene for a while. Playing a show is something that we know how to do but making a record is something we had never done before. That was a really new and special experience for us.”

Following the album’s release in early February, the band have continued to look for different ways to express their growing creative impulses. Their latest release is a covers EP that highlights a different side to the band. ‘From The Basement’ is a collection of four songs that each mean a lot to the band members. From Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ to T-Rex’s ‘Life’s A Gas’, they represent a heartfelt purity and diversity that runs throughout Sunflower Bean’s work. “We didn’t want to do anything radical but capture the feeling of us playing them in our practice space in the basement,” says Nick.

“One thing about Sunflower Bean is that it’s not just one influence,” adds Julia. “The varied things on the covers CD show who we are.”

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While Sunflower Bean are distinctly a product of the swirling creative and artistic atmosphere that engulfs their home of Brooklyn, New York, the band have caught fire in the UK where they complement the likes of homegrown trailblazers Wolf Alice. As Nick explains, the UK’s feverish appetite for exciting indie rock music makes them very much a kindred spirit for our burgeoning scene. “I feel like in the UK it’s a lot more rock orientated,” he begins. “It’s more part of youth culture right now. In America, rock music is very underground. It’s less of a mainstream music in America. Coming to the UK is a lot of fun for us. Everyone is super excited and into it. In the US the people who come to see us are excited but on a smaller scale and takes longer.”

Beginning with the release of their debut and countless thrilling shows 2016 has been a year of memories and new experiences for Sunflower Bean. “Just a few weeks ago we went to Japan and China. That was really special,” says Julia. The excitement levels at their shows are also ramping up and the band are responding in kind. Last night I crowd surfed for the first time with a mic,” laughs Julia. “I’ve crowd-surfed before but never at one of our own shows. That was a new experience and meant a lot to me.”

Despite the buzz around them Sunflower Bean are smart enough to know that their fortunes could change from country to country and city to city. “In theory you do the same thing every night but in actuality every night is drastically different,” says Nick. “You’re constantly doing new things.”

“It humbles you,” continues Julia. Tonight we’re going to play to 800 people in London but the next night you have no idea, sometimes you’re feeling really great about yourself and sometimes you’re like. ‘Oh, still got a long way to go!’ It’s good; it keeps you from getting a big head.”

As the year draws to a close next thing on the agenda for Sunflower Bean is writing and recording their second album, a process that they haven’t even had time to begin yet. “We’re looking forward to having some time to write,” says Julia. “We’re going to start working in the winter.” The second Sunflower Bean album may be a little bit further off then but in the meantime, they’re riding the wave and enjoying their time as one of 2016’s triumphs.
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Taken from the October issue of Dork, out now - order your copy here. Sunflower Bean’s album ‘Human Ceremony’ is out now.

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