sunflower bean: new poster kids of rock 'n' roll
Ahead of their show in London tonight, we meet the band taking over the world one powerful performance at a time.
As they soundcheck amongst the old-school social club charm of gold tinsel streamers and velvet booths at East London's Moth Club, Julia Cumming, Nick Kilven and Jacob Faber already have i-D's undying love. The Brooklyn band run on a sort of magic formula, with Nick and Julia's some-time harmonies, some-time call and response vocals entwined in a fiery relationship as she thrashes her bass and he plays the guitar better than anyone we know. As Jacob and his drums keep their sexy psychedelic sound under control, it's increasingly difficult to believe/remember/accept that all three of them are only 20 years old. Having spent much of the past year on the road with DIIV, The Vaccines and label mates Fat White Family, it's a wonder they found time to both record and release their brilliant debut album, Human Ceremony. Out now on Fat Possum, the LP marks their first time working with a producer - they recorded it in just 11 days with Matt Molnar - and though the result is just as awesome as their Show Me Your Seven Secrets EP, you can hear their growth in the record's polished sound. They wrote it, as they always have done, in the basement of Jacob's parents' house. The sound down there is really good… plus, well, it's their special place. Lou Reed once said that you make an album and then you have the rest of your life, and the band regularly looks to this quote for motivation. "I think developmentally, it's good to draw a line under something, to stand by it and say: this is our first record… and it's not the only record we're gonna make," Julia attests. "I think it's different now than it once was. In the digital age everything you put out lives forever. Everything's accessible. It's not like how David Bowie could just go through phases and then bury them."
"I was thinking about when you look through a dollar bin in a record store," Nick continues, "and you see things by artists who were good enough to make a record and be on a label, but they've been forgotten for whatever reason. I bet they were actually really cool and popular and probably friends with all our favourite bands." He has a point. We should start rescuing the forgotten artists. That said it looks unlikely that Sunflower Bean will suffer the same fate. Finding herself muse to Hedi Slimane, Julia has a series of Saint Laurent campaigns under her belt and appears on billboards for the house across the world. "I started keeping a diary so that I can remember all the amazing things that are happening. Not that it's all peaches and cream, but… you know. We're livin' some kind of dream." So now their album is out, what are they going do with the rest of their lives? "You mean when we're old and washed up?" Not exactly Nick, but tell us anyway. "Well, I love collecting things, so I just wanna have a house that we can all live in together. I want ten pianos that I'm gonna find on Craigslist and I'll put them all in the same room. I'll also have a clock room, a mirror room, a flower room…" And until Sunflower Bean curate this mad house? "We'll just be making records…" says Julia, "and hopefully they won't end up in the dollar bin!"
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Eleanor Hardwick
Julia wears jacket Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane. All other clothing model's own.