For Sunflower Bean, three New York City teenagers who released their debut EP “Show Me Your Seven Secrets” this week, they’ve played their hazy, psychedelic garage rock in over 50 shows in the city this past year. And they’ve already caught the attention of the New York Times, NPR and Interview Magazine.
We spoke with singer/bassist Julia Cumming this week ahead of their release show on Saturday on finding ’70s psych, their parents’ record collection, making an EP and the difficulties of playing a good live show in the unforgiving, concrete city.
Locally Amped: So you guys just were in Paris. What were you doing there?
Julia Cumming: ‘We were ‘trapped in Paris.’ It sounds like a really bad movie, or maybe a really good movie — definitely a Woody Allen movie. Yeah, I walked in a runway show and we played a show at an underground club. Because I was out there, we got the whole band out there and [took] advantage of the situation and take the trip. It all happened very quickly.
Locally Amped: Very cool. How did the band find and develop this garage-y, psych-laden sound?
J.C.: It made the most sense based on our tastes. All of us have parents who were hippies who taught us a lot — and I think this is really, really fun music to play. It really cuts through a little bit in the world of shoegaze that we’ve had in Brooklyn for a few years now.
Locally Amped: What were some of your parents’ favorites?
J.C.: For my dad, he was a huge Beatles head. That was more core education. But I also loved the early Who. Jacob loved The Who, and I think Keith Moon has made his way into his drumming. Nick has a lot more of a Pink Floyd-y, Zeppelin upbringing that was a little different than more of the poppy stuff.
Locally Amped: And you guys just put out your debut EP this week. What were some of the difficulties?
J.C.: It’s hard to figure out what the right songs are, number one. We also could have done a debut album full of the new material that we’re working on now. But we wanted to do something that wrapped up everything that we had been up to… This was the second version of the EP. The first version, we went into a fancy studio and paid money. It turns out that studio experimentation is necessary for any project. I think we’ve gotten close to a sound that we’re really happy with.
Locally Amped: Sunflower Bean played 50 shows last year in NYC. What are some tips for playing a good show in New York?
J.C.: If someone offers you a soundcheck, you should definitely take it. Try not to spill stuff on your equipment. If anyone spills stuff on your equipment, try to not be too mad about it. Try to avoid the venues that don’t let you play loudly enough. That’s problem that we have. We’ll play a show and they’ll be like can you have your amps at one? It’s just not possible. And have a good time — push yourself and pull all of the stops out because that’s sort of what I believe to be rock ‘n roll.
Locally Amped: If you could put Sunflower Bean on a bill of your choosing, who would you want to play with?
J.C.: Tame Impala. [Ed note. They have a song called ‘Tame Impala,’ and have called them major influences.] It would also be cool to play with Television, or — Savages, Foxygen or Conan Mockasin.
Locally Amped: Last question. Why ‘Sunflower Bean’ ?
J.C.: The boys picked it before I picked the project. Nick has been obsessed with sunflower seeds and Jake was going through a big coffee bean phase when they started so it became their jamming name. Also, I think it has a psychedelic sound. It does sound — it sounds like it’s going to be kind of fuzzy and weird.
I’m starting to have a subconscious theory where I feel like band names with food in the name are going to do better because everyone loves food. You’re not thinking about it but, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone was hungry for some beans after hearing us play. I am. I’m hungry for beans all of the time.
Catch Sunflower Bean live at their EP release show on Saturday, January 31 at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, NY.