It’s been a busy year for Sunflower Bean. They’ve released their sophomore album, Twentytwo In Blue, toured relentlessly around the world, and even have an EP on the horizon. Ahead of the band’s Leeds gig, I chatted to frontwoman Julia Cumming about new music, tour life, Heathrow Airport, and she even told me a joke…
You played your first UK date of your tour last night at The Globe in Cardiff; how was it?
It was really fun, it was a great first night and we had just come from Thailand and we have a new kind of touring member that we have never played with before named Danny. And it’s just been really fun to expand on the sound. It’s good; we’re excited for tonight.
Does the UK feel like it’s becoming some sort of a home yet? You’ve played a lot here this year…
Yeah, definitely. I feel like if you like rock music then you kind of have to like British music; it’s so important. I was at Heathrow Airport trying to pick up a lost bag and I was listening to some waiting music and it was something really amazing like alternative rock and I was like only you guys would do this… Only you guys would have experimental alternative rock as waiting music while I pick up this bag. So it’s stuff like that when it’s such an important part of the culture and that’s been really cool to experience and understand.
When I saw you perform in March (The Wardrobe, Leeds 29.03.18) you said you wanted to keep rock music in the charts. Can you shed some more light on that? What music inspires you at the moment?
I think maybe more than rock. I think it’s a fight against hegemony more so and also wanting to make stuff that doesn’t feel like it can blow away, something that will really stay with people is the hope. The music that inspired us was made by guitars and it’s just who we are and it’s important to keep that moving. We’ve been listening to Miya Folick who’s on tour with us right now and Yves Tumour. We’re trying to stay with stuff that is creative rather than one genre and understand what’s on the radios. We all love Kendrick Lamar…
Did you catch him at Leeds Festival this year?
I did see him at Leeds for a little bit. We’ve seen him in the US a few times at different festivals this year which has been pretty amazing.
Moving onto your sophomore album now, Twentytwo In Blue: Listening to it made me feel very nostalgic and wistful, especially on songs like ‘I Was A Fool’ or ‘Twentytwo’. To what extent is that album a kind of coming of age album?
Yeah I think that we have an identity that goes through it no matter what but I don’t think we realised how we were commenting on the experience until we really looked at everything. It feels like there’s parts of the creative process that you can’t even understand when you are in it. I think that like what you just said, and hearing stuff from people like that… We’ve got a lot of messages about people who are this exact age, especially in the US , a lot of people who inspired us when we were driving around and seeing that they really felt this way about being a young adult and all of the exciting and weird and strange parts within that. That’s been a really nice part of putting it out there because music is communication and it’s nice to see how the record bounces around through time with people.
You’ve just released your first punchy single ‘Come for Me’ from your upcoming EP. How did the song come together? Its pop art-esque cover is particularly intriguing.
I had this idea about wanting to write a song about sex which I didn’t think we had really done and I was thinking about it in the context of indie rock and the context of the radio. I think that when you care about art you have the tendency to be very self-serious and we wanted to make something that was not self-serious. It was just something that was kind of an idea… like where does sexuality right now in 2018 fit into indie rock? At first, it felt like it was a kind of aggressive kind of song, you think of boxing or sports and then we were thinking about combining the feeling of boxing with the feeling of sexuality and the line between them and there you have company. And as far as the cover, I’m completely obsessed with diet coke and so that is a very simple answer. We wanted to capture the explosion of the music. Actually I heard a funny joke about diet coke and sex. Let me see if I can remember it… Okay, what do diet coke and sex have in common? They’re calorie free and you can have as much of it as you want! You’re the only person I’m telling that to. Cause you’re the only one who would get it.
Can you explain the idea behind the EP title, King Of The Dudes?
King Of The Dudes itself was a joke, a nickname that Nick (Kivlen, the band’s singer/guitarist) would give me. If we were at festivals where I would be high fiving people and going up and talking to them and hanging out he was just like, ‘oh like you’re the king, you’re the king of the dudes’. Why for me to be myself do I have to be the king? That’s such an odd interpretation of my identity. When we started making the song this summer we told our producer about it and he was like ‘oh my god you guys have to do that, you have to make a song about that’. When I think about what space [the EP] wants to take up, it’s commentary on female power in general and my own confusion in my identity because of the places that I’m in that aren’t necessarily very female oriented – which is okay, it’s not like females have to stay in female oriented places, but rock is a very particular thing and I think that this might be part of our response to that.
King Of The Dudes is coming out on the January in the UK. What can we expect musically?
It’s very tight, it’s twelve minutes, it’s like The Ramones. We wanted to give something that would put a bow on how we’ve been feeling and give a taste but also not give too much. It’s not an album. Thank god for that cos we’d probably go insane. I think it’s in a similar vein and I think it will be really exciting and fun and I’m excited to play it live.
By Natasha Lyons