supercute sunflower bean singer, julia cumming, is hedi slimane's new muse

Bushwick-based teen musician and model Julia Cumming is one to watch. Fresh out of high school and already taking the city by storm, her band Sunflower Bean play Baby’s All Right tomorrow night!

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Aug 1 2014, 2:35pm

Photography Kathy Lo

Peppered with cheerful reminders of utilities due dates, chalk-drawn cartoons, and VHS tapes of Spice World, Saint Laurent model and Sunflower Bean bassist Julia Cumming's Bushwick loft is as bright and friendly as the girl herself. Within five minutes of pouring me a homebrewed cup of Dunkin Donuts hazelnut coffee (the stuff of immediate spiritual connection) and offering to show me the guitar-printed dress her mom made, Julia had me under a spell. Articulate and contemplative, she pauses our interview only to say a friendly good morning to her roommates who have just made the perilous voyage out of bed. Whether taking style cues from space age Muppets or worshiping glam rock gods, it's all weird, wonderful, and most importantly, genuine in Julia's world.

Tell me about your bands Supercute! and Sunflower Bean.
Supercute! was the first band I was involved with. It was with my longtime friend Rachel Trachtenburg; I joined that band when I was 14 and she was 16. It was Rachel's baby, but it ended up as a partnership. We did cool things, we were given a lot of different opportunities. It taught me about the music industry and helped me be more responsible. We had a lot of ambition and we were trying to do something, but both Rachel and I are multifaceted people. So after a long friendship and a lot of different things we wanted to do, it didn't really make sense anymore.

Sunflower Bean happened as that project was ending for me. I was good friends with Nick and Jacob who were looking for a bass player and so things fell into place suddenly. I was looking to explore a different sound, because the two [bands] are pretty opposite. 

How would you describe Sunflower Bean's sound?
We used to call it "neo-psychedelia for the digital age", and now we've just been calling it "night music," however someone may take that. It's like if Black Sabbath mixed with The Smiths, maybe?

Fashion and music have always been pals, and no one knows this better than Hedi Slimane. Can you tell us about your involvement with Saint Laurent?
Especially in Supercute! since we were all girls, there was always a bit of this fashion orientation. I've always been someone who liked clothes a lot; my mom sews a ton and it's always been another creative outlet for us. In Supercute! we used to sew our own costumes, we made all this crazy shit! For one tour, we made these big skirts out of multicolored fake fur and lame with giant fur collars. We looked like aliens from a movie about space where everything was made of tinfoil. Through that, I started getting more seriously involved in fashion. Modelling can be an expression. I don't think it always is, but it can certainly feel like you're making art when you're doing it. It's not something that should be looked down upon. As with everything that happened with Supercute! I got lucky with Saint Laurent as well. We stay pretty tight with the Saint Laurent family! 

Who's the best dressed musician or band ever?
I'm a pretty hardcore glam fan, so I'm saying Gary Glitter. But, I have a lot of little philosophies about glam. When you don't have a religion, you have to make up your own things that mean a lot to you. With music and stage presence and life, glam means a lot to me. You see his performances and you see the way he made people feel, and how he felt in the performance. It's magnetic, you can't look away. It feels like love and it feels like art.

I ask myself: 'What Would Gary Glitter Do?' when it comes to a lot of life things. It helps because usually it's like: Gary Glitter wouldn't give a shit. So you just go for it! Do something that just feels really genuine and authentic for yourself, and I think people are gonna respond to that.

What's the most important thing you've learned over the years as a musician?
One of the most dangerous things that can happen as a musician in 2014 is to lose sight of the music. There are so many ways of self promotion--so many different pressures that you put on yourself and are put on you by everyone: to be the best at social media, the best at emails, to always be moving. You spend all this time doing that stuff, and sometimes you can actually stray from what you're trying to do in the first place, which was make music. What I've learned is the simplest thing: stick to what you were trying to do.

Credits


Text Emily Manning
Photography Kathy Lo