Sunflower Bean Are Stretching Things Out

The trio are careful about what they do in the studio, but once they hit the stage all bets are off.
Sunflower Bean Are Stretching Things Out

The trio are careful about what they do in the studio, but once they hit the stage all bets are off.

Words: Dan Epstein

photo by Andy DeLuca

August 13, 2018

FROM: Brooklyn, New York
HEAR: Twentytwo in Blue
SEE: XPoNential, Pickathon, Voodoo

“There’s a certain intensity with festivals that comes from everyone being there, and being backstage, that gets you really amped up to play,” says Julia Cumming, bassist and lead vocalist of Sunflower Bean. “With regular club shows, you can get into a pattern that you’re used to; but at festivals, you’ve got a million things coming at you all at once.”

The hard-touring New York trio, which also includes guitarist/vocalist Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber, has had plenty of experience with both club gigs and festival dates in their five years as a band. Sunflower Bean’s moody, melodic, psychedelia-tinged brand of indie pop—as heard on Twentytwo in Blue, their second and latest full-length release—takes on a more playful and unpredictable feel in a live setting.

“With this record, we did a lot of orchestration that we were really happy with,” Cumming explains. “But it’s fun to stretch things out and surprise people, and offer something that they can’t get on the record. There’s something magical about people playing together—and even the possibility of failure. If you do a show one night, then the next night it’s not going to be the same, and I think that makes it possible for us to tour a lot, because each night is different. We try to surprise each other and we try to push each other to have a really interesting show. I think what a lot of people expect from live music these days is basically fireworks and someone pressing play—which is fine, but we offer something else. What we do is almost a different kind of art form.”

“We just really believe in live playing,” adds Kivlen. “It’s something that’s inspired us over the years growing up, and it’s something we really hold close to our hearts. Which is not to say that we’ll never expand things or do anything different, but it’s just where we’re coming from. If people are coming to see a live band, then we’re going to give them a live show!”

Having only previously played in New Orleans once—in February of this year, opening for fellow New Yorkers Sleigh Bells at Republic NOLA—Sunflower Bean are looking forward to getting further acquainted with the vibrant city in October, when they’ll be playing Voodoo Fest.

“The first time we were there was actually right around Mardi Gras, and it was pretty overwhelming, in a good way,” Cumming recalls. “So I’m excited to take in more of the food and more of the culture, and to take in more of that amazing town… Also, it’s close to Halloween, which is one of our favorite holidays,” she laughs. “Shows around Halloween are fun, because you can kind of conceptualize costumes and play cover sets. One time we did a Halloween cover set as The Smashing Pumpkins–slash–Marilyn Manson. I don’t think we’ll be doing that for Voodoo Fest—but I can’t say we won’t!” FL

This article appears in the 2018 FLOOD Festival Guide, presented by SiriusXM and Toyota. You can check out the rest of the magazine here.