Sunflower Bean On Touring, DIY Living, And Their Future ‘Career-Killing Noise Record’: BUST Interview

by Katherine Barner

Sunflower Bean has been labeled a band on the rise from multiple outlets, from Rolling Stone to Consequence of Sound, after the release of their first album Human Ceremony in February. Human Ceremony is like taking a walk back into the dreamy rock music world of the ’70s. It’s hard to believe that only two members of the band are barely legal, and one can’t even buy a beer yet. We sat down with Sunflower Bean’s Nick Kivlen, Jacob Faber, and Julia Cumming  before their show at House of Vans in Brooklyn with The Paranoyds and DIIV.

Katherine: Tell me a little bit about the place the band is in now.

Jacob: We’re touring our album a lot. We’re working on a lot of new stuff as well in our time off, which isn’t very much, but when we do have time off we try to play a lot and write some new stuff, trying to look ahead.

Julia: Yeah, that’s basically what we’re up to. But I think we’re just getting ready for another album in our own way, while still playing this one out and visiting lots of cool places in the world.

K: How are you getting ready for this album?

Ju: Obsessively thinking about it.

Ja: I think since we made the first one, we realize how long an actual process it is. I think we’re trying to just really give ourselves time to really let it grow.

Ju: We’re learning a lot about recording and it’s another goal to be able to demo stuff and experiment with home recording. I think the more that we can learn about it and learn about the studio as an instrument is another cool way for us to get even more into album making.

K: How have things changed since you released Human Ceremony?

Nick: Just more well attended, people really excited, it’s been cool, ever since the album came out. We had just done an American tour in October and a European tour in November, and then our album came out in February and we did another European/American tour and the difference was kind of crazy. The second one was much more well attended, much more enthusiastic crowds.

Ju: It’s been really exciting. I think we have lots, our manager and record label, all the people that we like love and trust. Everyone’s put a lot of work into make sure the album gets heard, so for people to know the songs and know the lyrics and be really excited about stuff is kind of insane.

K: How does that feel, on a personal level, having more attention then you’ve been used to in the past?

Ja: We’re still like most of the population, like any population. We’re like only starting to open our door like a little bit. Most people don’t know we’re there so, but it’s cool to see it kind of unfolding.

Ju: It’s really cool. I think also we do it pretty full time so we think about it a lot every day and it’s basically our whole world, so I think it kind of feels a little more gradual when you’re in it. We’ve all been playing music since our early teenage years, so it feels like a nice long path that we’ve been down and we definitely  know what it’s like to not have the attention too.

N: Even though we have some things in place, just because of how small the music industry kind of is, I  feel like we’re still a 50% DIY band. We’re still in a little van, we’re still sleeping on floors, we’re still selling our own merch, making our own merch, it’s still very I guess…

Ju: A family business.

N: Yes, a family business.

K: You guys stand out, among many other reasons, partially because you’re so young. What challenges have arisen from touring and finding success this young?

N: I looking forward to our next record, our age not being as much of a factor in the reviews because almost everything we do mentions how young we are. The first year of being in the band, Julia was 17 and me and Jacob were 18, and now me and Jacob just turned 21. By the time our next album comes out we’ll be 23 or so.

Ju: Not that long.

N: Yeah, that long.

Ju: I hope not, but we’ll definitely be in our 20s.

N: We’ll definitely be less young.

Ju: I think it’s good. It is kind of like a little family in the car so I think that makes it easier, it’s not so lonely. I think the thing about touring that’s hard is being away from family. It’s kind of like your concept of home life changes but every show is a really unique opportunity and it’s definitely cool to meet the people that come.

K: Have there been any specific moments on tour that have really stood out for you?

N: Our Bowery Ballroom show. When you start playing music in New York, all your shows are attended by virtually no one, and we had been playing in DIY bands since we were like 15 or 16, Julia even younger, so we’re just used to playing to empty rooms. To finally have like a real record come out and sell out Bowery Ballroom, only one out of like 10,000 bands get to do that, so we felt really lucky. Because we know how it is. We really feel fortunate to be able to have met each other.

N: It’s kind of amazing that any bands happened at all. Like if someone drops the ball and there’s no one to catch it, anything can ruin a band’s career. It’s a miracle that the Beatles happened. If you throw 10 million jacks out a window and only 5 of them land in the circle, there’s this circle on the ground 100 stories up, you throw all these jacks off a roof and then only 5 land within the circle and that’s like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, and um…

Ju: Is this what’s going on in your brain all the time, you’re just thinking about jacks?

N: So maybe we’re one of the jacks that fell within a circle that was the size of like 3 feet.

K: Ideally, where would you like to see yourself at this time in five years?

N: Probably releasing our career-killing noise record.

Ju: We already have a name for it.

N: It’s called Heavy Lead Vest.

Ja: Keep an eye out for that.

N: 2021, Heavy Lead Vest. By the band formally known as Sunflower Bean.

K: Who are some artists you think we should be looking out for?

Ja: Last year we went on tour with this band called Weaves, they’re super awesome. They’re perfect pop songs but weird enough that it’s really good and interesting. They’re walking the line between too crazy and pulling it together.

N: There’s this band called Sheer Mag from Philadelphia that I’m obsessed with.

Ju: Cate Le Bon. She’s the bomb. She’s the Cate Le Bomb. I’ve made that joke so many times. They’re over it. Nick’s like, I’m done.

N: I think Cate Le Bon’s having an influence on us.

Ju: Cate Le Bon is like changing the game.

K: Has there been any particularly fun/weird tour moments?

Ju: When you’re on tour there’s a different way of dealing with stuff that just happened. Like I was in the bathroom in the UK and the door was jammed closed and we were about to go on stage and I couldn’t open up the door at all. Without thinking, I took off my shoe and just slammed the lock and broke the whole thing off and went out. And when we got out there I was like why, why was that my only option? Like oh, something’s wrong? Brute force. I just need to get on stage now. If I could do that with more locks I definitely would. Like my home lock.

N: TV sets.

Ju: TV sets, stereos, lots of things. I wish I could just break it into working but that’s not how life works. What are you gonna do?

Photo Credit: House of Vans

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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