Psych, punk and arguing in the car: Why Sunflower Bean aced it at The Great Escape. Interview by Matt Wilkinson
In the recent past, The Great Escape has been the festival that’s put Warpaint, Parquet Courts, Mac DeMarco and practically anybody from across the pond who genuinely means it (maaaaan) on the map; the place where ‘could be legendary’ newcomers get one chance to go from being merely buzz-worthy to outright contenders. Mess it up and you’re done for, basically.
Here’s the skinny: Sunflower Bean made that leap this past weekend. Their live shows, which will please anyone with a passing interest in the way Tame Impala and Pond have been making rock music ‘feel’ exciting again, is all thriller. In the cavernous Corn Exchange, they jolt around like drunk kids at their first house party (it might have something to do with them all being barely 20), while a second show out of town is more nihilistic. Up close, their warped, erratic songs truly come alive, a mesmerising concoction that sucks in ‘Meddle’-era Pink Floyd, stabs of ’80s alt-pop like The Cure, Television’s brain-melting guitar intricacy and The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s cool.
But if the pressure’s on, Sunflower Bean aren’t showing it. “Bands that get remembered as buzz bands are the ones who never managed to make the jump,” is how singer and guitarist Nick Kivlen sums things up, while bassist and co-vocalist Julia Cumming (a glam-rock obsessive whose demeanour is equal parts Alice Glass, Ziggy Stardust and Mary Poppins) wonders out loud what buzz even means anyway.
Completed by drummer Jacob Faber, the trio are a giddy proposition in person, talking up the band calendar that’s Blu-Tacked to the wall of their shared Brooklyn apartment as if it’s a holy script, and kookily answering each other’s questions. Musically, though, the devil lurks within. From the homemade video for ‘2013’ (like Aleister Crowley directing The Goonies), to their thumping new single ‘I Hear Voices’ (Julia: “It’s about a fight we have in the car all the time”) they’re anything but cutesy.
“It’s ‘left brain versus right brain’ stuff,” offers Nick, as the other two erupt into laughter behind him. A coquettish proclamation that may be, but he also might just have bottled what makes his band so freakishly alluring.
SUNFLOWER BEAN: NEED TO KNOW
FOR FANS OF Tame Impala, Neu!
BUY IT New single ‘I Hear Voices’/‘The Stalker’ is out on July 24
SEE THEM LIVE Nothing confirmed yet, but more UK dates are promised for later in the year
BELIEVE IT OR NOT Nick and Jacob came up with the band name, because “Nick is obsessed with eating sunflower seeds and Jacob is obsessed with coffee”.