The Busiest Band In Brooklyn: An Interview with Sunflower Bean

words: Lauren Rearick

Sunflower Bean won’t slow down. 

Since 2013, the New York City trio has been chasing a dream, and with a relentless live touring schedule they’re one of bands most frequently taking the stage in the city that never sleeps.

That’s not the craziest part, though. The three musicians Jacob Faber (drums), Julia Cumming (vocals/bass) and Nick Kivlen (vocals/guitar) debuted a full length album with Fat Possum Records, earning critical acclaim, before the bandmates cracked the age of 21. 

What began as high school jamming between Jacob and Nick is now a full-fledged force to reckon with.

Cumming likens the band’s meeting to that of the “weird table” at school. Each member was active in the city’s DIY scene and they bonded together over a shared love — music.

Each member had grown up musically inclined, and their seriousness about a potential musical future was what inspired them to start something together.

“We each started around the time we were 13, 15 and 16,” Cumming said. “By the time we got around to forming a band together we already had some things figured out and ideas of what we wanted.”

The band felt it imperative to chase the dream while they still had the financial means, knowing full well how New York’s cost of living could make it harder as the band moved out and moved forward in their lives. When they came together it became a shared interest for them to “get everything done before we had rent or got older.”

Attending a performing arts school, the band made a name for themselves in a live setting first, and according to Cumming played the most shows in New York City between 2014 to 2016. 

“We really wanted to make this happen,” she said.

In 2015, they recorded their first EP, Show Me Your Seven Secrets, and after continued live performances returned to the studio in the summer, recording their full-length album Human Ceremony. 

“It’s different for every bands, but for us an EP was more a collection of songs,” Cumming said. “The concept of an album is a little lost when things are single based nowadays, but we wanted our album to be one piece, with its own flow.”

Photo: Crista Simiriglia

Photo: Crista Simiriglia

Human Ceremony is the result of a band coming into their own. Recorded with producer Matt Molnar (Friends), the band worked towards creating a sound and experience that’s different from what is showcased on stage.

“We wanted this to be more melodic, and we wanted to do more singing,” Cumming said. “We wanted this album to be a way cool experience when you’re experiencing it from start to finish.”

Part of the magic of their listening experience lies in the mystery — the band purposefully didn’t include linear notes with the record and intentionally experimented with new sounds and ideas. Taking cues from many modern and past musical influences, Sunflower Bean has formed a sound that’s diverse, but cohesive.

“We definitely don’t want to be identified by no one sound,” Cumming said. “We really hope to turn this band into our own.”

That endeavor includes “playing of lots of shows,” and eventual work on a follow-up album. 

“For us, music is definitely our life and we hope I hope we’ll always have this to turn to,” Cumming said. “We’re really excited to make another record, but that won’t be for awhile. We’re taking this one day at a time.”

Photos: Surf Curse with Slow Hollows & Hana Vu at The Smell, Los Angeles, California (5/5/16)

mp3: "Soft Animal" - The Hotelier