Do we really need another buzzy, fuzzy, psychedelic, AND artsy NYC band fronted by, no joke, a runway model? If that band is Sunflower Bean then, yes. Yes we do.
Let’s get something out of the way first. New York City’s Sunflower Bean is fronted by Julia Cumming, a hot runway model, who plays bass and has the sexiest voice in rock this side of Sarah McLachlan, Hope Sandoval, and Ritzy Bryan. Oh, and did I mention she’s drop dead gorgeous? Okay, now that we’ve addressed what is obviously the band’s initial visual attraction, and potential distraction, if you’re still primarily only interested in this band because of its hottie lead singer, please go back to surfing for whatever it is you surf for on the internet and click on by this article. If you’re interested in one of the most interesting, albeit cliche challenged, bands to emerge over the past few years, keep reading and join me in conversing about a band that defies its suspect designation: a buzzworthy, post-punk sounding band from Brooklyn with Pink Floyd and hard rock influences.
Formed in 2013, Sunflower Bean is comprised of Jacob Faber (drums), Nick Kivlen (vocals/guitar), and the aforementioned Cumming (lead vocals/bass) and released their first full length album earlier this year. They are described by Jon Pareles of the New York Times as a band that suggests “what might have happened if psychedelica had emerged after punk and The Police rather than before” (Seems my allusion to the potential pretentiousness surrounding this band through my semi-sarcastic intro seemed founded)/ Sunflower Bean IS all that, but more. A heavy helping of psychedelica does run through much of Sunflower Bean’s music, particularly in songs like “I Was Home” and “Space Exploration Disaster” from Human Ceremony (that recently released album mentioned above), but the band’s bedrock is good ole fashion hard rock riffs, time signatures, and clean bass and guitar chimes that would make Robert Smith, as well as Lou Reed, proud. Being children of, most likely, Generation X parents though, there’s also a strong vein of “well, whatever, never mind” running through their compositions as well. “Come On” has some unmistakable post-grunge riffing going on, and the lyrics to “I Was Home” are right up there with Cobain, albeit a little more happier and content with itself. The band seems to be most comfortable when they are in that also aforementioned Robert Smith-y/Siouxsie and The Banshees post-punk-like rhythms and chiming guitar tone zone. Even if the heavy guitar smackdown at the end of “Creation Myth” hints at daring new horizons for the band if they should choose to pursue them. “Easier Said,” the album’s strongest commercial (or most accessible) track demonstrates the sound that will most likely get them to a level big enough that they can tour the Southeast US (sadly, the closest they come to the Carolinas over the next year-at least as scheduled thus far-will be Nashville, TN. Road trip anyone?).
That being the case, their newest single, a song not off of Human Ceremony(and their first after signing with Mom+PopMusic), titled “I Was a Fool” smartly makes use of the post-punk psych that propelled “Easier Said.” The band avoids out and out comparison, and self replication, by employing a layered acoustic/electric guitar combo over a slinky bass and live drums that sound almost programmed. Moving from The Cure and Siouxsie to early U2 in their most commercial release yet is a smart move, and betrays the band’s love for more than just one side of the post-punk spectrum, and their smart songwriting skills.
Putting aside my own pretentious comparisons of Sunflower Bean to the early titans of goth and post-punk, I can’t help but continue to leave “I Was a Fool” in my own personal iTunes heavy rotation mix, along with “I Was Home,” “Easier Said,” and “This Kind of Feeling.” This band has captivated me, beyond their look and image. Rarely does a band come along with this much built in cliche baggage (for anyone outside of NYC that is), and completely blow away all your expectations after just one listen. Now, they just have to write one more post-punk song that sounds like The Cure, Siouxsie, AND October era U2 (without sounding like The Cure, Siouxsie, AND October era U2 too much to be cliched) big enough to get them enough airplay to fill a club in Charlotte so I can get out and see them without embarking on a 5 hour drive.
(Oh, and if it helps, Julia was a rocker before she was a runway model… maybe I’ve got it all wrong and I’m just the pretentious jerk here. Well, whatever, I love this band so never mind…)
Catch Sunflower Bean on tour. Especially if you’re going to be in Europe.
Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.