​from a sunflower bean, a mighty sound grows

Making moody psychedelic magic with exactly the right attitude, the young NY trio is one of the most exciting things in music right now. Hey Sunflower Bean! We wanna jam! We wanna be in your gang!

by Francesca Dunn
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10 June 2015, 2:23pm

Sunflower Bean, in all its psychedelic post-punk glory, is: bassist Julia Cumming, the stunning ex-Supercute! member and current muse of Hedi Slimane, young Dylan-alike Nick Kivien, who plays guitar like he was born to do it, and Jacob Faber, who bangs the fuck out of the drums. Having just released its addictive Show Me Your Seven Secrets EP, the Brooklyn band has begun to get the recognition it deserves as it continues its rise to the top. The most impressive/sickening part about the whole thing? They're so damn young. At just 19 (JC) and 20 (the boys), there comes an inimitable energy that by no means sacrifices quality; the trio are deeply dedicated to their craft in both skill and style. Watching them perform is mesmerizing. As great hair flies about the stage, they're electric, empowering and impossible not to fall hard and fast for. Following the first of their three showcases at The Great Escape, we caught up with the deeply cool threesome on the end of the Brighton pier for a chat, a beer and a session with a selfie stick.

So, how have your lives changed since i-D came over to your place a year ago?
Julia: Do you guys remember that? It was a summer morning…
Nick: Julia took photos in the apartment.
Jacob: Yeah, I don't think I was there.
Nick: You were! You lived there!
Julia: Things have been really different since then. The boys are a year older than I am so they were in college last year and I was in my last year of high school and we've all kind of taken a year off just to do music. It's so different when you're doing it full time. It's like the beginning of your whole life in a way, cause we can't really imagine ourselves doing anything else. So it's kind of funny, once you start doing it it's like, wow, this is what I'm gonna be doing forever.
Nick: Hopefully!

And is that daunting or amazing?
Julia: Both, definitely both. It's been good for us to jump into it and work on it a lot. It lets us travel and come here and take the weird opportunities that the world may have for us.

Is there anywhere you haven't been yet, that you want to go?
Julia: I wanna go to Japan, and just Asia in general. It'd be really interesting.
Jacob: New Zealand….

You basically need a world tour don't you?
Julia: Exactly!

You guys can legally drink here. How come you're not going crazy?
Nick: We're on a very even keel right now. In high school Jake and me hung out with the naughty group.
Jacob: More like the second naughtiest group.
Nick: We were like the theatre kids who also hung out on the golf course.
Julia: I wouldn't call you theatre kids!
Nick: We were like a hybrid! Well we always hung out in the theatre wing, that's for sure.
Jacob: I was the president of the band in high school.
Julia: Wow! That is so cute.

Is your music teacher proud of you?
Jacob: Oh my god, I dreamed about him last night. We probably shouldn't go into this now but I literally just remembered it. I had a dream about my band teacher… cause he like occasionally texts me and I never respond. He's a weird dude. But in my dream I went back to high school and he was so angry at me that I don't come back and do alumni things.

So, as president of the band, did you have a badge or a special hat or anything?
Jacob: I think I had a certificate.

And you were at a different school Julia?
Julia: Yeah, I grew up in Manhattan and studied classical music at a performing arts school.

Have you always played the same instruments?
Nick: I grew up playing the saxophone.
Julia: I studied vocal music. I was singing in choruses and stuff but I played guitar and bass too. Nick's actually the only one who didn't study music.

You're just a natural…
Nick: Well, I've been playing for ten years, but thank you!

What would you say is the most influential gig you went to growing up?
Nick: Oh man, I know it right off the bat. One of the first real DIY shows I ever went to was a show at this place called Cheap Storage in Brooklyn in the winter of 2011 and I saw this band called Night Manager that I really loved at the time. They were an amazing New York band that broke up right before they were about to jump off. I also saw Total Slacker for the first time that night - they're one of our favorite hometown bands. And DIIV were headlining, and that was right before they blew up, so it really was an amazing show. One of the best shows I've ever been to.
Jacob: Yeah, I've seen Total Slacker a bunch of times and that's always been really life changing. 285 Kent in Brooklyn. All those venues are closing down now though. It kind of showed me that rock and roll existed you know.
Nick: Have you guys ever been to 285 Kent? I don't wanna compare it to something and be corny cause it was only open for like three years but it was the pivotal warehouse on the waterfront.
Julia: I mean, it's shaped so differently that it's hard to imagine it being like CBs but the bathrooms were like curtains it was really cool.
Nick: Just how people talk about Brooklyn being the scene of New York City, that was the centre. It was just an unmarked industrial door.

Sweet. So what's your idea of a good party?
Julia: We're not big partiers, so I guess just nice people and a lot of food.
Nick: For us, it's a can of coke and a cigarette… nah I'm just kidding! That's an inside joke between me and our friend Matt. Cause he has like amazing willpower so whenever it's time for him to go anywhere he always gets like a can of diet coke from the bar and he's like, okay! This is it!

It's all he needs! So you've just played both SXSW and TGE, how does it compare playing to fans vs. industry?
Nick: Fans are younger and they have hair on their heads.
Julia: I don't know… when you start a band you don't imagine that you're starting it to play to industry people. But you know, a person's a person.
Nick: The industry gets a bad rep but I like most of the industry people that we meet.
Julia: Yeah, Nick's good at bonding with guys. He's a guy's guy.

You played your first London show recently. How was that?
Nick: Like a small victory, totally. We were worried. We didn't know how the show would go but people came out for it!
Julia: Yeah, we didn't think that anybody would show up.

Surely you've got lots of fans by now though! You've done US tours right?
Julia: Yeah, we did an American tour in March after SXSW.
Nick: We drove straight to South By and from there we went to Arizona and played the Crescent Ballroom, then we went to LA and played the Echo, which was fun. We got to hang out at Burgerama for a few days.
Julia: We like the States; it's just so huge. Like, after you've been to the West Coast you just have to book it all the way back. We drove the whole way.

What was the most satisfying show of the tour?
Jacob: The most satisfying show was San Fran.
Nick: Yeah, San Fran sold out so it was a great final show for the tour. It was really fun.
Julia: We did some shows with Cherry Glazer too… I'd say the most surprising show was Denver. That was really good but for no reason at all.

Cause nothing really happens in Denver…
Nick: Yeah! Except for weed.

Except for weed. Nick, I like the little hand charm around your neck.
Nick: It was actually a gift for Julia on her birthday, and then she bought another one and gave me this one. I finally got her a proper gift and then…
Julia: …and the gift was returned. Nick's a very, very cheap young man.

That's very sweet - it came full circle. So whose music are you into at the moment?
Nick: Sun Kil Moon.
Julia: Unknown Mortal Orchestra… we've been big fans for a very long time. You can hear the new record online and it's really, really, really good.
Nick: We've played with TOPS who're sitting right over there. We really like them. They're from Montreal.
Julia: Yeah, we listen to their CD in the car.

And which is your local venue?
Nick: Our local is Baby's All Right.

Which other bands are from your hood?
Nick: Probably our two biggest influences actually - DIIV and Total Slacker. There there's TONSTARTSSBANDHT- they're from Montreal… from Florida to Montreal, then down to New York. They're great.

Is there anybody who you really wish you were friends with but aren't?
Nick: I'd love to be friends with Connan Mockasin, I think he'd be fun.
Jacob: People frighten me, so I dunno…
Julia: Most of the people I wanna be friends with have passed away.
Nick: I'd also love to chat with Jimmy Page.
Julia: And Bob Dylan, right?
Nick: I wouldn't wanna talk to Bob Dylan, I'd just like to see him in person.

And then be him?
Julia: Yeah, that's a good point. There are times when I'd like to just be someone. I just wanna live that. I'd like to talk to Mark Bolan for a while but I'm sure he'd be a dick and I'd be really sad.
Nick: I'd like to meet Mick Rock, the photographer who shot the covers of Transformer and The Madcap Laughs.
Julia: Oh, that'd be super cool. I'd also like to be friends with Lou Reed but he's probably a jerk too.
Nick: No, Lou Reed would be fun!

Which Simpsons character do you think you're most like?
Jacob: Crista [Sunflower Bean's manager], can you decide for us?
Crista: I would say you're like Lisa, and that's only because you played sax and you're a feminist.
Nick: I would probably be a mixture of Nelson and Milhouse. Julia's definitely Homer… no, Julia would be Chief Wiggum!
Julia: Cause he likes donuts?
Julia: I think I might actually be Milhouse's dad, just because of how tragic he is. Crista would be Marge.
Nick: Marge is too nice and optimistic for Crista…
Julia: It's all coming out now!
Nick: Crista would be Mr Burns!
Crista: No, I wouldn't!
Nick: Yeah, Crista is Mr Burns and Jake is Smithers.
Julia: Nick, stop it! You're so rude!
Nick: I'm just having a jest!

Oh, you guys!
Julia: "I'm just having a jest!" Who are you? 
Nick: Which is the character that speaks in broken English?
Julia: Apu?
Jacob: Dr Nick?
Nick: Maybe I'd be Dr Nick…
Julia: I don't think this character exists.

He does. So, finally, what's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Nick: I know mine right away. The best piece of advice is Vincent Van Gogh's last words… "the sadness will never end."
Julia: Oh god! Such a bitch…
Nick: He shot himself but he fucked it up, and then he died a few days later… and then his brother died six months later from a broken heart.
Julia: So one of my really good friends is a musician called Kate Nash, we worked together a few years ago, and this one time she was feeling really sad and we were talking through stuff and I remember something I said…
Nick: Oh wow, so this is your good advice?
Julia: I try to live my life by it though! I was like, Kate, when you wake up in the morning, don't forget to tell yourself that you're a bad bitch from hell and that no-one should fuck with you. Because what else can you do, you know?! When you're feeling bad you've just gotta be there for yourself and know who you are.

Good mantra.
Jacob: I can't think of any right now… probably something Lou Reed said.
Nick: Actually Bob Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall when everybody was shouting "Judas!'"and he gave the best advice when he said, "play it fucking loud."
Julia: I read once that Beyoncé only lets herself feel bad or sorry for herself for one day. If something really bad happens, she lets herself wallow in it for a day and then she's back in business. It's like, goddamn!
Nick: What was it JFK said? There's nothing to fear but fear itself?
Julia: Yeah, well there's tons of good advice Nick. We're done with it now… we're done.

@sunflower-bean

Show Me Your Seven Secrets is out now on Fat Possum Records 

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