Sunflower Bean: Breathing Life into Modern New York Rock ‘n’ Roll


Enter three young-adults who are breaking the staleness of the hyper-commercialized current music scene with their own brand of fervor, curiosity, and ingenuity. Just having broken through the tail-end of adolescence into adulthood, Julia Cumming (vocals and bass), Nick Kivlen (vocals and guitar), and Jacob Farber (drums) make up Sunflower Bean, a psych-rock trio with a far harder sound and presence than their name suggests. Devoting the past few years since their forming to an intensive touring schedule locally and afar, Sunflower Bean was named NYC’s Hardest Working Band of 2014 by Oh My Rockness NYC, and it sure paid off. Now receiving coverage from esteemed music journals like the Rolling Stone, Consequence of Sound, and The Fader, Sunflower Bean is spreading its music across the globe, currently touring in Europe before they return for a countrywide US tour. Their 2016 tour season kicked off with the Feb. 5th release of their first full album Human Ceremony (Fat Possum Records) following the 2015 release of the EP Show Me Your Seven Secrets. Human Ceremony takes the listener through a musical trip through time and space with an array of songs that span decades and continents worth of musical influence. Obvious hints at Led Zeppelin’s influence on the band, “I Was Home” is a crashing rock song with catchy distorted guitar riffs that will be beloved by fans, and “Come On” is an lively composition of driving rock verses interspersed with psychedelic guitar breaks. Listening to songs like “2013”, however, with its reverbed guitars and layered vocals, brings to mind a spacey feel that is drawn straight from the Pink Floyd playbook without sounding even a bit trite or predictable. Fans of Australian band Tame Impala would be right at home with many of the tracks on both Human Ceremony and Show Me Your Seven Secrets alike, both equally evocative of the modern-yet-transcendent experimental sound that Tame Impala has grown so popular for (not to mention the homage to Tame Impala by means of a song entitled exactly that on Show Me Your Seven Secrets).

I can’t help but lament the growth of the lightweight alternative genre that has set firm roots in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Populated by a seemingly never ending influx of disillusioned hipsters from across the country and globe, Brooklyn’s trendiest culture spots have become breeding-grounds for a new generation of indie-pop that has replaced hard-hitting drums, fat basslines, and fuzz-laden guitars with twinkly synthesizers, drum machines, and disingenuous breathy vocals that culminate in an ethereal, droning wash of meaningless noise. Some call it evolution, an experimentation in sound; I call it bullsh*t. I can’t imagine a world where rock is anything but deep yet gutsy, abrasive yet vivid. I crave music characterized by one word: wild.

Thankfully, there is yet hope, and it’s name is Sunflower Bean. With a distinct attitude that draws as much from those of greatest artists of the past as it does from the phenomenon of being a lost young adult in the changing 2016 world, Sunflower Bean has crafted a sound that is unique and potent, with a presence that is rock ‘n’ roll to the core. Human Ceremony is out now on iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp; you can also find a list tour dates and links to the band’s social media accounts at their website: Sunflower Bean has taken the US rock scene by storm with Human Ceremony, and if their two albums are any predictor of their future work, it doesn’t seem like Sunflower Bean will stop stirring up trouble for the boring indie scene anytime soon.

Image via Tumblr.