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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Sunflower Bean to shed Sunshine in Gardner on Sunday


By Halley Freger

As the rock stars of Brooklyn’s Sunflower Bean headed to their show in Toronto, guitarist/vocalist Nick Kivlen drove the van while bassist/vocalist Julia Cumming and drummer Jacob Faber spoke with Concerts Correspondent Halley Freger ’17 over the phone. Don’t miss Sunflower Bean this Sunday, October 23 in Gardner Lounge for Sunflower Sunday. Festivities and snacks start at 7 p.m. Baroque rockers The Lemon Twigs go on at 7:30 p.m. followed by Sunflower Bean at 8:30 p.m.

The S&B: You’ve mentioned being influenced by diverse artists, such as Black Sabbath and the Cure. As a band of three people, do you find you all have pretty similar taste in music? Are there some artists you just don’t agree on?
Julia Cumming: Yeah, I think we all have a lot of the same core influences and that’s kind of one of the reasons we were all friends and thought that we started jamming in the first place. But there are certain places where one of us likes something a little more than the other and I think that’s the really interesting part because that becomes a kind of different influence that adds some flavor to the whole thing. If we all wanted to be Black Sabbath all the time what would be the point of doing that?

The S&B: Speaking of musical influences, what was the first album you really connected with?
Jacob Faber: For me, it was probably “Live at Leeds” by The Who. Just hearing it was the first experience of hearing something that was that powerful and that raw. There was something about the energy that they had going in those performances left a really big impression on me and drove me to explore a lot more rock music.
The S&B: How old were you when you heard that album?
JF: Probably like 5 or 6. It was right as I was coming out of my Aaron Carter phase.

The S&B: That’s just the natural trajectory of things, really. We all go from Aaron Carter to The Who. It’s just what happens. Was it a family member that got you into it?
JF: Yeah, my dad really loves that record. He’d always play it and I’d be there listening.

The S&B: After Julia joined the band, I read that you went through a brief doom-metal phase. What drew you to this sound? Do you think you’d ever return to it?
JC: Yeah, I think it was all of us being interested in that sound. The boys had been in a band called Turnip King that still exists now that was kind of like a shoegaze band and I had been in a sort of acoustic, psychedelic project that was kind of weird but for a long time we didn’t have drums so I think there was a real part of me that really wanted to do something heavy and the boys did too and it’s fun live to just really get into that and really do that. We still enjoy that and there are still a lot of elements of that sound that we have now. I think that for recording and when we made the album we wanted to not do something that’s just like that because the studio is it’s own instrument and you can work that in a different way. We didn’t just want to be a doom band, there’s more to us than that.

The S&B: That makes a lot of sense. Do you think metal lends itself really well to live performances as opposed to studio recordings? It was something fun to perform live, but in terms of taking advantage of the studio it didn’t translate as well?
JF: It’s definitely very fun to be heavy live and we made “The Stalker” and “I Hear Voices” single right before we started working on the album and the idea when we went into that was to make two really heavy songs. We went to a studio that only recorded to tape and was really stripped down. We just felt like it didn’t end up feeling like us. So going into recording “Human Ceremony” we really wanted to make a dynamic album and really have a full range of emotions and sounds on the record.

The S&B: As young people, how has your life plan changed as Sunflower Bean has gained so much popularity over the past few years?
JF: It’s taken the trajectory of not going to college at the moment. Me and Nick went to a year of college right out of high school but it just wouldn’t work. We were touring. We’re just on the road a lot.

JC: This is our last time playing this exact set, this “Human Ceremony” set, and then we’re going to be spending the winter and spring working on our next record that we’re really excited about. We love being on the road and we’ve had an amazing time and love playing live, but I think we’re really excited for the next record too and seeing what we can do there.

The S&B: What was it like transitioning from playing DIY shows in New York to playing larger venues on tour? Do you think it’s influenced your performance style or will influence the music you record in the future?
JC: I think, kind of like Jacob said, it’s all kind of been by increments. I don’t know how it seems to the outside, but I think to us, because we do it every day, with every single growth we have been lucky to do it step by step. So it’s like things just got a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger and we’ve been able to adapt to that and I think that’s helped us not get too overwhelmed and grow our team. We have a really wonderful manager named Crista [Simiriglia] who’s been with us from the beginning and stuff like that. So I think we are really lucky to have that stuff in place. I think as far as playing live so much together that will influence the next record because it helps us understand each other as musicians. We do a lot of improvisation on stage, so we have to listen to each other a lot and I think that trying to listen to each other keeps that communication open and will definitely influence the next record. 

The S&B: What are some artists you’re excited about right now? It can be musical artists but it can also be any type of artist (photographers, writers, filmmakers, a really sick meme account on Instagram)?
JC: Oh, that’s a good question. Let me think for a sec. I think since we’re musicians we focus a lot on the music world. I went to a party the other day and I watched some music videos for some artists that I had never seen before and that was cool because we’re really focused on rock music and there’s some really interesting experimental pop stuff going on. Like I’ve always really loved Empress Of and I found a new band when I was watching music videos. … the song is called “The Problem With Redheads” and the band is called Them Are Us Too and they’re from San Diego I think. It’s a really cool video. You’ve got to put yourself out there and try new things, listen to new things. I think I really like drum machines.

JF: Same. That being said there’s this really great rock band from England called Ulrika Spacek and they’re one of my favorites right now. They’re pretty awesome. Definitely check them out.

The S&B: Julia, as a model, do you think fashion and aesthetics play an important role in the music of Sunflower Bean or that there’s a relationship between the two?
JC: The way I always think about it is that it’s more so about style. Musicians and artists and whatever you have your own thing and that thing that you have and the way that you present it and what you are is your style. The thing about style is that it’s not necessarily beautiful or aesthetically pretty and fashion is often that way. I’m involved in fashion because I love clothes. I just do. And I love some of the photography and I think that it’s an art form that I enjoy, but it is secondary to the music that I make and the music that we make. I think that the band has a certain style and the style is just who we are.

The S&B: I think you raise a good point about fashion often being conflated with beauty and I think something that’s refreshing about the connection between style and music is that it’s often kind of a representation of a counterculture and one that isn’t immediately recognizable as beautiful which is really exciting. Every music genre has stuff like that, whether it’s punk or drill or whatever it might be.
JC: Yeah. I think that’s the stuff in fashion that I like and I try to be involved with is stuff that is pushing it a little bit and isn’t regular stuff.

The S&B: So on Sunday you’re playing your show at Grinnell, which is a little college in the middle of Iowa. Have you ever been to Iowa before? Do you know anything about Iowa?
JF: We’ve driven through it. I don’t think we’ve ever played Iowa before.
JC: It’s going to be fun. College shows are cool.
JF: What I know about Iowa is the Slipknot album called “Iowa.”

The S&B: Yeah, they’re from very close to Grinnell actually. Maybe they’ll stop by the show.
JC: Maybe one day there’ll be a Slipknot museum.

JF: I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be represented by. They’re a fun band.

The S&B: Okay, last question, if you had to pick between cyberpunk and steampunk, which would you choose
JC: Cyberpunk.
Nick Kivlen: Cyberpunk
JF: Definitely cyberpunk. Steampunk is more about thinking about an imaginary thing and cyberpunk is more about thinking about a real thing that’s happening.

The S&B: Wow that is the most beautiful description of the distinction between those two that I’ve ever heard.
JF: We’re kind of a cyberpunk band.



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