(photo: Rebekah Campbell)
When Sunflower Bean comes rolling into town this Halloween, they’ll be doing it on the heels of a nearly year-long touring adventure. It’s been a whirlwind of musical momentum since the band released their debut long-player Human Ceremony on Fat Possum Records. Filled with beautiful melodies and intricate, swirling guitars, the Brooklyn-based trio bounds from metal-inspired hooks to hauntingly atmospheric psychedelia that, taken in its 11-song entirety, defines one of the year’s best indie pop records.
Sunflower Bean emerged from the NYC scene after playing hundreds of opening gigs garnering the love and attention of local scenesters and press, all while the group was still wrapping up high school. The band ultimately caught fire thanks to the CMJ Music Marathon — Guitarist and singer Nick Kivlen recounted, “CMJ 2014 was when things really picked up, and in about the course of one week and several showcases, we broke out of our local NYC bubble. Going into SXSW 2015, there was a lot of interest in the band.”
Though the group played a series of great performances in Austin that week, their big moment (the night when most of Fat Possum Records could come see them) came during a less-than-stellar set. Kivlen described “a horrible SXSW showcase” — one filled with jeering onlookers, a less than ideal pub-style bar setup, and chaotic disruptions thanks to walk-ins from the cast of…The Walking Dead. Despite all of that, the brightness still came through. He added, “Somehow we walked away impressing Fat Possum enough for them to sign us.”
The band recently released a four-song EP recorded at their basement practice space, aptly titled From The Basement and featuring exquisite covers of T. Rex, The Modern Lovers, Spiritualized, and Neil Young. For the new EP the band chose a selection of songs they love, but didn’t put too much pressure on themselves to reinvent the tunes. The result is wistful magic that is uniquely Sunflower Bean. Kivlen explained, “We decided to choose four extremely personal songs that we are each really attached to and just faithfully record them.” That relaxed approach paid off. Kivlen added, “Just through the process of us playing them, they become transformed.” It’s that happenstance charm that permeates the music of Sunflower Bean.
That alchemy extends to how the band came to bring singer and bass player Julia Cumming into the mix too. Kivlen said, “Me and Jake had really strong chemistry