Q & A with New York's Sunflower Bean
by John Noyd
New York City’s vibrant SUNFLOWER BEAN channels an almost psychic musical tightness into colorful, combustible chemistry to design serpentine Valentines that seduce in lubricated grooviness while courting fiery desires with a heady mix of acid-etched textures drawn from haunting lyrics, shaman beats and liquid licks. Fresh from a stellar SXSW appearance and riding high from a critically acclaimed debut, the power-trio heads to Madison’s The Frequency, headlining a can’t miss show on April 6th with WEAVES and PILES. Bassist JULIA CUMMINGS and guitarist NICK KIVLEN were kind enough to answer some questions via email about the band’s sound, influences and life on the indie-rock bandwagon.
MAXIMUM INK: Psychedelic seems to be the go to label for rock bands these days, do you think of Sunflower Bean as psychedelic?
NICK KIVLEN: To me psychedelic rock means creative rock. Things that we think of as weird or trippy are things that haven’t been done before or seem strange and new. New experiences make the brain feel confused and “psychedelic”. So new sounds and music people haven’t heard before has the same effect. We don’t take drugs but we want to make something new and fresh. Psych isn’t retro, it’s the future.
MI: Why do you think psychedelic music is trending these days?
JULIA CUMMINGS: Trends kind of happen in cycles, and bands like Thee Oh Sees who are so great, kind of re-ignite some of that passion for guitar music. I’m not sure how “trendy” psych rock is in comparison to other genres like electronic music or rap, but bands like Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra (who are some of our favorites) really push the genre forward by making really innovative and ambitious music.
MI: Your debut, “Human Ceremony,” had you laying down songs you’ve played live for quite some time; are there songs you left off the album or will you have to start from scratch for the follow-up?
JC: We are currently writing new music for the second album, when we have off time or during sound checks. There is one fully done song and a few that are close. We didn’t really leave anything off the album, we were basically able to fit everything we wanted to make it cohesive in our minds.
MI: Do your songs come from jamming together or does someone have a song they bring to the group to work on?
JC: Usually Nick brings in riffs or ideas or songs in various degrees of doneness to the basement and we all jam on them and figure out where the song is going to go. Sometimes a song becomes a pet project of one of us, whoever has the most vision for it.
MI: Seems like the band spends a lot of time together, was there an immediate clicking when the three of you first connected?
JC: We were definitely all friends before we started making music together. We got along well and had similar influences and ideas about what we wanted out of a band.
MI: Is there an band or artist that you all agree on?
JC: We love Lou Reed. We are trying to talk about him less in interviews but he is probably the biggest point where we all agree.
MI: You’ve worked the most in New York City where you also live, what’s the oddest thing you’ve confronted on tour outside the city?
JC: Playing the college shows can be a little weird because anything can happen. One time we all slept in a room with an escaped snake
MI: What do you miss the most when you’re away?
JC: Probably our beds!
MI: The buzz on the band skyrocketed rather quickly, have you experienced any perks in all this sudden media attention
JC: We’ve all been playing in bands and making music since we were 13 and 14, so it doesn’t feel as sudden as it may seem on the outside! But it’s definitely an exciting time. We are getting to travel to Japan this summer, which is amazing and we’ve always wanted to do that.
MI: Do you have a strategy for surviving the flash and establishing long-term credentials?
JC: We are going to keep making music!
CD: Human Ceremony Record Label: Fat Possum
• Purchase Human Ceremony on Amazon
• Download Human Ceremony on Amazon