Posted On 10 Feb 2016
Tag: 285 kent, All Access, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Baby's All Right, Beach Fossils, Brixton O2 Academy, Cate Le Bon, Diiv, Easier Said, Fat Possum Records, Human Ceremony, Jacob Faber, Julia Cumming, Long Island, New York, Nick Kivlen, No Joy, Palma Violets, Rough Trade, Show Me Your Seven Secrets, Sunflower Bean, SXSW, The Vaccines, Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sunflower Bean are a New York trio and they recently released their full-length debut album, Human Ceremony via Fat Possum Records. The collection emerges at the intersection of dreamy modern psychedelica and urgent fuzzed-out bliss. That push-and-pull colors the aural tapestry of these three musicians—Jacob Faber [drums], Julia Cumming [vocals/bass], and Nick Kivlen [vocals/guitars].
“Everything comes from a conflicting interest,” affirms Nick. “We love dream pop, but we also really love rock ‘n’ roll. It’s those two spectrums.”
“You’re allowed to obsess over Black Sabbath as well as The Cure,” adds Julia. “It’d be boring if everything was just one way or the other.”
That diversity defined the group’s approach since Nick and Jacob started jamming back in high school. They would hole up in Jacob’s Long Island basement for hours on end, channeling this vast cadre of influences. Julia’s addition would only expand that creative palette further in 2013.
Through constant gigging around New York, Sunflower Bean sprouted into a sonic enigma, boasting a fiery musical call-and-response that serves as a centerpiece, giving the music what Jacob refers to as a “lyrical aspect” between the guitars, drums, and bass.
They transferred this multi-headed energy into their 2015 Independent EP, Show Me Your Seven Secrets. At the same time, this distinct alchemy enchanted ever-growing audiences live. By the time, they entered the studio for Human Ceremony, Sunflower Bean had a lively aural cauldron from which to draw.
They took the summer of 2015 off and retreated to Jacob’s basement to write together. Taking the ideas out of the basement, they hit a Brooklyn studio with producer Matt Molnar [Friends] and tracked eleven tunes in just seven days. Whereas the EP was recorded after Sunflower Bean played 100 shows in one year, Human Ceremony showed the band’s studio side with richer soundscapes, overdubs, and music that had yet to be debuted live.
On the lead track “Easier Said,” Julia’s delicate vocals glide over a lilting clean guitar that spirals off into a vibrant hum.
Learn more about Sunflower Bean in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! So, how’s 2016 been treating the band so far? What do you think were some of the highlights of 2015?
Of course! Thanks for asking us some questions. It’s been treating us very well. We’ve been extremely busy prepping for the release of the album and getting ready to tour for the next year basically. We did so much in 2015 that felt like highlights for us. I guess it started with selling out Baby’s All Right in January for our EP release show. SXSW was a big one for us too. We met Fat Possum and our UK/Europe agent at SX and that definitely changed a lot for us. We sold out our Rough Trade show in the summer which was a dream. Then, towards the end of the 2015, we got to do a full US tour with our friends, DIIV, which was the best tour ever. Right off the back of that we did a UK tour with The Vaccines. I guess that’s a lot of highlights…but it just felt like a really great year all together.
How did Sunflower Bean first come together? How did you come up with your name? What other names were you considering?
Nick and I actually went to the same high school which is where we started playing in another band together. That allowed us to play a lot of DIY shows in Brooklyn, which is where we met Julia. Her band at the time played a show with our band. Nick and her kept in touch. Then Nick and I decided to do our own project, Sunflower Bean. We went through a rotation of bass players while playing some shows in Brooklyn. Nick finally asked Julia to join and she did! Nick came up with the name one day. It sounded like a magic word like abracadabra and it just stuck. There was never another name thought of.
Why do you think you all work so well together?
I think we all work together so well because we all have similar goals, ideas, and taste. We are all fully in this together. We all made the choice to not go to college to follow this through.
What does it feel like to be about to release your debut album? How did “Human Ceremony” come together?
There are a lot of different emotions. We are excited to share the album with people, mostly. It’s just been ours for a couple of months so it will be nice to have other people outside of our family hear it. “Human Ceremony” came together after about a month of pre-production and demoing. We recorded it in just 7 days and then that was that…we had finished our debut record. But really the first 2 years of being a band all went into that record. Everything you do before the record is a build up to it, even if you don’t know it.
Can you talk about the recording process of “Human Ceremony? What was it like writing this collection in Jacob’s basement in Long Island? Did it really come together in just 7 days?
We spent 7 days in the studio tracking everything but the whole process was actually over a couple of months. We took a lot of time to write, rehearse, demo, and think about all the songs before going into the studio. We didn’t have a lot of money making this record so it was really important that we had everything figured out before going into the studio.
How do you think being from Brooklyn has influenced your sound?
We were able to see a lot of bands play when we were growing up, and bands like Beach Fossils used to play all the time and were really influential to us. Brooklyn had 285 kent, which was our favorite venue, and you could go there any night of the week and there would be an amazing show. So we were definitely influenced by the music scene in Brooklyn.
You went on a big international tour at the end of last year. What was that like? What were some of your favorite shows on that tour? Can you describe what tour life is like for Sunflower Bean?
It was a pretty incredible experience. We did a US tour with DIIV and No Joy which was the funnest tour we’ve been on. Just to get to see one of your favorite bands play every night for like a month straight is such a treat. Playing the famous, Fillmore, in San Fran was a definite highlight of that tour. We then did a big UK tour with The Vaccines and Palma Violets which was like nothing we’d ever experienced. Just the sheer size of the venues and amount of production that went into each show was crazy. When we played a sold out show at Brixton O2 Academy was probably our favorite show of that tour. Tour life is great! We really enjoy touring. We read, eat, and sleep a lot and often wear the same thing for days.
You are becoming known for your exhilarating live show. So, can you elaborate on what exactly that is? What can someone expect from one of your shows?
I mean our favorite thing in the world is to play live. So when we are playing we are just having the best time so maybe that just comes through in our playing.
You take inspiration from a wide range of bands like Black Sabbath and The Cure. Can you talk about why these bands in particular influence your music? Are there other bands that consistently inspire you all and your music? Who would you love to work with one day?
There are lots of bands that inspire us. Unknown Mortal Orchestra and DIIV are new bands we like. We toured with DIIV and it was a really incredible experience, so it would be fun to do that again sometime. Also, Cate Le Bon is a really cool Welsh singer we all love right now.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
If we gave everything away, that wouldn’t be very fun! It’s for the audience to decide. But if some kids pick up some guitars and make some more music after listening to us, that would be great too.
Learn more about Sunflower Bean here: