Interview: Sunflower Bean’s Julia Cumming

Describing themselves as ‘guitar, bass and drums’, the New York trio Sunflower Bean are an American rock band who formed in High School in 2013. The band consists of Julia Cumming (bass and lead vocals), Nick Kivlen (lead guitar and vocals) and Jacob Faber (drums).

Sunflower Bean have announced their second record “Twentytwo in Blue”, released on March 23rd, when all members of the band will be 22-years-old.

Julia Cumming of Sunflower Bean spoke to Platform about their bands new single ‘Crisis Fest’, their first headline tour in the UK and what inspired them to be the band they are today.

 It’s such an achievement to have released a second album by the age of 22 and to be touring all over the world, what are you most looking forward too about your first headline tour in the UK?

I’m looking forward to seeing the songs come to life with people, music is really funny and it’s very communicative. As much as it is I think about writing the songs, which everyone has their own reasons for doing, I haven’t seen the full spectrum until I see it with the people and have that exchange between us. It’s going to be really cool to finally get this out into the world.

“Twentytwo in Blue” will be out March 23rd.

What’s the message behind your new single, ‘Crisis Fest’? Can you tell us what the recording process was like and who wrote the songs?

All our songs are written by all of us, you could split hairs at who did what, but everyone has their hand in it, it’s one of the reasons why our songs don’t always sound the same and why we don’t sound like one particular person.

We started on the drum, and we started because we were listening to a lot of Slade. We were trying to fix the drums on a different song, but we got this completely different beat and started playing on that.

Ultimately what was really important was our reactions about what’s going on, especially in the United States. We’re completely in a vacuum and you’re going to be affected by your environment and what’s going on in the United States in really toxic.

Can you describe Sunflower Bean in three words?

Guitar, Bass and Drums.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?

It’s almost like you get a tiny percent better at every show, and as long as you’re paying attention you’ll learn something new. You have these progressions, and steps over time that we’ve been able to grow. And I think with this record, there’s been a lot of progress vocally for me personally as an artist and lyrically and that’s been really special. On a personal level and the trust between me and my band mates to have us all push ourselves to the new level has been one of the best things.

So last year you supported Wolf Alice on their UK tour, how was that?

It was wonderful, they are incredible people and incredible musicians. They’re really inspiring to be around, people think it gets easier and you get more successful, but I think it stays hard the stakes just change. For them they handle everything really well, people wouldn’t believe how hard they work on every aspect of their show and every aspect of who they are and that’s something to really look up to. To have the opportunity to play in front of all of their fans and meet some, that was really special.

Who would you say are your greatest inspirations both personally and as a band?

My personal inspirations are Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney, that’s my dream to really be an artist like that that’s really deep and in control of themselves as an artist and a musician and to be able to push melodic boundaries and make beautiful work. That’s where I’d love to go with myself.

Especially as New Yorkers, and as a New York band the Velvet Underground is something we all have in common and is a band that we can always pull back to and look on, y’know to refresh ourselves when we may not know what’s going on. They’re a great one to always just look at and feel.

As Sunflower Bean, what’s been the highlight of your career so far?

I think that the day that this record comes out which is March 23rd will be the highlight of my career.  I think it’s the best thing that I’ve done and the best thing we’ve done and it’s the best thing that I’ve done so far. I’m really excited about, it’s like a Lou Reed quote that we actually tell ourselves sometimes “you make a record, then you have the rest of your life” and to me that means yes, put everything you have into this thing and it also means there will be more, there is no ceiling and we’ll always be searching and working towards that.

March 23rd, 2018 that’s the day I’m most excited about.

And finally, what advice would you give other bands trying to make it in the industry?

Something to think about is really practising, there’s a Kurt Cobain quote: “any band that wants to take themselves seriously needs to practice 5 times a week” that’s something we took really seriously. When you give yourself the time to practice and give yourself the time to play together it takes away certain fears. Especially, as a woman in the industry where you do potentially have to work harder to prove the same thing.

Of course I want to improve, you should always want to improve but it means I’m not scared. And for me to not be scared, means that I have the freedom to be who I am on stage and who I want to be. And I think the most freedom you can give yourself and focusing on that will make you the happiest and most successful.

You have to be all encompassing, but the songs will prevail. If you’re writing good songs they will prevail, so work on your songs and work on yourself as a player and do what you have to do to make that happen in 2018. But persistence and hard work will set you free.

Sunflower Bean are playing at the following venues in the UK:

22/2 – London, UK @ The Jazz Cafe

24/3 – Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms

26/3 – Norwich, UK @ Open Norwich

27/3 – Birmingham, UK @ Hare and Hounds

28/3 – Newcastle upon Tyne, UK @ Riverside

29/3 – Leeds, UK @ Wardrobe

30/3 – Manchester, UK @ Gorilla

31/3 – Liverpool, UK @ The Magnet

01/4 – Glasgow, UK @ Stereo

03/4 – Bristol, UK @ Thekla

05/4 – Brighton, UK @ Concorde 2

06/4 – London, UK @ Koko

By Tayla Davies

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