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Sunflower Bean are a New York trio consisting of Julia Cumming (bass/lead vocals), Nick Kivlen (lead guitar/vocals) and Jacob Faber (drums). Their debut album ‘Human
Ceremony’ was released in 2016 to widespread critical acclaim and this year, they
returned with a sophomore record ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ which NME rated 5-star and listed as one of ‘the greatest New York albums of all time’.
I caught up with the band towards the end of the festival season, at a unique sold out show in Hull’s Central Library for the Get It Loud in Libraries project: “I went to school in New York City, where all the schools are stacked on top of each other and usually each school only has one floor, so if a school had a library, it was a very cool thing” she reminisced, standing in the music library which served as the band’s green room for the evening.
“One thing the industry is really struggling with right now is that we’re in the Spotify/Apple Music digital music age, which is one of the reasons why I love this library so much”, she added. Browsing the shelves of CDs, she noted “It’s holding onto something that we all really love: the physical manifestation of music”. Since we were in a library, I asked Julia if any of her songwriting has been inspired by books or poetry. “We have a lyric in our song ‘Twentytwo’ – “I do not go quietly, into the night that calls me” – which is inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem”, she replied.
A few days earlier, the band performed at Reading & Leeds, “That’s the best thing about
festivals”, said Julia. “You can connect a lot of dots and the bands who are on the same
stage as us tend to be at similar points in their careers, so it’s nice to share that with
Last winter, a UK tour supporting Wolf Alice gave the band the opportunity to tease new
material to huge crowds, including a sold out 10,000-cap. Alexandra Palace in London. In the New Year, they began their ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ World Tour in the U.S supporting Sleigh Bells, before visiting our shores for the record’s release, which landed them a UK Top 40 album.
They’ve been touring relentlessly ever since but certainly aren’t slowing down anytime
soon. “It’s definitely exhausting, but we love it and it’s the connection of playing the music live for people that really makes it all worth it every night”, Jacob explained. “A song isn’t really done until it’s out there, until it’s been released and performed live. That’s what makes it all make sense”, Julia added.
My favourite track from the new record is ‘Memoria’, especially the lyric ’The past is the
past for a reason’. When I asked Julia what the song meant to her, she explained: “There’s a reason that the past isn’t in your present, sometimes it’s because it’s faded away or perhaps you’ve put it there forcefully, in order to be able to move on from it”. She revealed that many of the choruses on the record came into existence as mantras, adding that “Hopefully, by us living our truths and vulnerabilities, it will help people to be okay with theirs”. It’s clear that they crafted this album with many sing-along moments, Jacob told
me: “It’s very cathartic to be able to sit in your car and scream lyrics like that”.
‘Twentytwo in Blue’ has demonstrated the band’s huge musical growth over the past
couple of years and has established even deeper connections with their fans, which
they’re very grateful for. “If you have any questions for bands that you love, now you can ask them directly and it will go into their phone and they’ll probably read it”, Julia
Sunflower Bean return to the UK for a headline tour in November, following their US tour supporting Interpol. Their new single ‘Come For Me’ is out now, lifted from their ‘King of the Dudes’ EP (out 25th Jan)
20.11 – The Church, Leeds
22.11 – EartH, London
27.11 – Academy 2, Manchester
Get It Loud in Libraries (est. 2005) put on gigs in libraries across the UK in areas with low live music provision and offer volunteering opportunities for young people who aspire to work in the creative industries. Visit getitloudinlibraries.com for more information.