Discovery: Sunflower Bean


In a Brooklyn sea of dream-pop and indie-rock, Sunflower Bean wants to bring back some good, old-fashioned rock-‘n’-roll. The trio—comprised of Julia Cumming (also a runway model), Nick Kivlen, and Jacob Farber—have taken it upon themselves to make up their own version of rock-‘n’-roll for the digital age. Drawing from lo-fi sounds and dark rock and psychedelic undertones, Sunflower Bean’s music is not as delicate as the band’s name might lead you to believe: it’s sultry and hypnotic.

Sunflower Bean’s EP Rock & Roll Heathen will make its debut this fall, but in the meantime, the band has been touring New York and currently the West Coast. We’re excited to premiere “Tame Impala,” an invigorating rock track from Sunflower Bean’s upcoming EP that serves as an ode to the band Tame Impala, which Sunflower Bean sees as a modern-day Led Zeppelin (fittingly, Tame Impala itself has a song named “Led Zeppelin”).

We caught up with the members of Sunflower Bean at the Hudson Music Project this year about the anti-rock-‘n’-roll Brooklyn music scene, writing a concept album, and their admiration for Mac DeMarco.

NAMES: Julia Cumming, Nick Kivlen, and Jacob Farber

AGE: 18 [Cumming] 19 [Kivlen and Farber]


ON BECOMING SUNFLOWER BEAN: Nick Kivlen: Me and Jake started jamming together at the end of our senior year in high school. We were playing with one of our pals in high school, and he was going to college. At the end of the year, we were looking for a new bass player. I had just re-met Julia after meeting her two years ago at a different show with different bands we were playing in.

Julia Cumming: We were all hanging out as friends, and I wanted to join a new musical project and play bass. It worked out and the stars aligned.

ON INFLUENCES: Jacob Farber: The Velvet Underground.

Cumming: I’d say Black Sabbath.

Kivlen: I’d say Neu!

THEIR COOLEST GIG YET: Kivlen: There have been a lot of really cool gigs so far. We played a pretty packed show at Shea Stadium last night. That was a really fun one.

Farber: When we played Penn State, that was crazy. There were a lot of people crowd-surfing.

THE MUSIC OF SUNFLOWER BEAN: Cumming: We’ve been calling it neo-psychedelic for the digital age, but now we’re kind of just calling it night music because I think the imagery is right.

Farber: I think at the heart of it, it’s rock-‘n’-roll.

Cumming: Our first EP is titled Rock & Roll Heathen. So we’re trying to stay with those vibes.

ON UPCOMING RELEASES: Kivlen: We’re always working on new music, and we just finished recording our debut EP. We wanted to release something before the summer ended. The EP will be a very brief preview of what the album will look like.

Cumming: August 2 is when we’re releasing our first single, which has an A-side and a B-side.

THE RELIGION OF ROCK-‘N’-ROLL: Kivlen: Well, we basically all have not followed the whole “go to high school and go to college” formula, so that’s probably it.

Cumming: I just graduated high school in June, but these guys are one year out of it. I think rock-‘n’-roll in general saves lives. It gives you strength. It gives you a place to be who you are in the least cheesy way possible.

Kivlen: I mean, at this point, it’s almost like a mythology: the culture and everything.

Cumming: It almost feels like you’re joining a part of history in a way. We were all in the big electric tent today, and all simultaneously were thinking about if Jimi Hendrix was playing at this festival instead of EDM.

Kivlen: This is the new counterculture for our generation, and it’s really shitty.

ON MAC DEMARCO: Kivlen: Mac’s having a moment right now. I opened up for him two years ago. I was playing in a band called Turnip King. It was at 285 Kent in the beginning of the summer in 2012—about two months before his album II came out. It was funny seeing the difference in reaction opening up for him then and then two months later seeing him at DBA after the first single from II came out. It was completely different.

REFLECTING ON THEIR MUSIC: Kivlen: We’re writing a concept album: an alternative history of the creation of the Universe, with the God being someone like Brian Jones, Lou Reed, or Billy Corgan [laughs]. This is real. This is true to life.

Cumming: It’s funny because it’s true.

Kivlen: It’s a loose conceptual album, but it’s there.

Farber: It’s there.

Kivlen: Our song “Rock & Roll Heathen Part II” has a couple of nods in it. There’s a definite nod to Spacemen 3 and there’s a definite nod to a certain Velvet Underground Song. “Rock & Roll Heathen Part I” is a nod to a certain Rolling Stones song. So, if there are any music nerds out there, they should check out this EP.  Our song “Tame Impala” stemmed from a Tame Impala song. It doesn’t sound anything like it really, but Tame Impala have a song called “Led Zeppelin.” It’s like you guys are up there too for certain people. It would be like Jimmy Page all rolled into one.

Cumming: I feel like we’re re-bringing up this ancient kind of art because things feel so different. Naming this song “Tame Impala” because of what Tame Impala did to “Led Zeppelin,” we thought, wouldn’t that be hilarious?

REACTING TO THE BROOKLYN MUSIC SCENE: Kivlen: I think our music is a reaction to what’s happening in the Brooklyn music scene right now where everyone wants to be the anti-rock-‘n’-roll. The whole shoegaze dream-pop thing going on in Brooklyn is kind of boring. Everyone is taking influence from My Bloody Valentine or a bad Nirvana rip-off. It’s sort of boring to see over and over again. I’d rather have the scene lean towards a more balls-out rock-‘n’-roll scene.

Cumming: Or balls-out anything.

Farber: It’s just taking more risks.

Cumming: You want to feel something as someone who watches a show, and as someone who performs in a show. I think people really react when you show that your heart is in it.