20 questions with the sunflower bean – Billboard

Sunflower Bean’s third studio album, A head of sugar, is a liberating project both for the New York trio and for its listeners. Created primarily in the Catskills during the pandemic by Julia Cumming, Nick Kivlen and Olive Faber, the sequel to the band’s 2018 LP Twenty-two in blue introduces bright pop textures to the band’s sound, taking production risks as the songwriting becomes more personal and incisive. The result is an album that Kivlen said would never see the light of day — but once it does on Friday, May 6 via Mom + Pop Records, it could significantly expand Sunflower Bean’s audience.

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Before A head of sugarthe three members of Sunflower Bean answered 20 questions from Billboard about their musical background, karaoke jams and the creation of their third album.

1. What was the first piece of music you bought yourself, and what was the medium?

Nick: I remember buying tons of singles for a dollar from the iTunes Store. I remember receiving “Coming Undone” from Korn after watching the music video.

Olive: The first thing I remember buying was the Nirvana greatest hits CD – the black one with silver-printed Nirvana on the front. There was “You Know You’re Right” and I loved it so much.

2. What was the first concert you saw?

Nick: Van’s Warped Tour in 2008 at the Nassau Coliseum. The final moments of the early Y2K pop punk era before the recession. It is also the day Amy Winehouse died. It sounds like a cursed event, but I actually had an amazing time.

Olive: My dad was very into jazz fusion, so he took me to see Victor Wooten and Chick Corea when I was really young. One of the first gigs I remember going to on my own was MGMT in Radio City [Music Hall] in 2010. I asked a girl to come with me and she refused, but I saw her there with her friends and was in my bag for most of the show.

3. How did your parents influence your taste in music?

Julia: The music was always playing in our house. My parents are super passionate about it and very obsessed with songs and songwriting. I always joke that I had no choice, because music was the coolest and most important thing ever. I admired my parents, of course, and they enjoyed music so much. I remember dancing to “Waltz #2” on my dad’s feet in the living room.

Nick: They bought me a Ramones CD at a garage sale when I was about 7 years old. It completely changed my life. They also bought me an electric guitar soon after.

Olive: There was always music in the house and in the car. Music has always been a constant. I feel like it instilled in me this idea that you can create a soundtrack to your own life.

4. Who made you realize you could be a full-time artist?

Nick: Probably when the local Brooklyn bands I was seeing started going to Europe or playing at Terminal 5. Beach Fossils’ debut album was hugely influential because it showed that something amazing could be done at the home on your laptop. It was really magical to be so young and surrounded by talented people.

Olive: Like Nick. Like, just seeing local bands come out and do big tours and that didn’t make me believe it was possible.

Julia: Growing up in the East Village and Alphabet City, I was surrounded by a lot of artists and art lovers. I loved going to open mics and see everyone playing, being different, just full of life. It was a very alternative way of life but I thought it was normal and I was really inspired by it. I always thought if I could have a roof over my head, food, good friends and family, and do what I wanted to do and live how I wanted to live, that would be all I needed. I still live by that.

5. What’s at the top of your to-do list?

Julia: I want to play Madison Square Garden.

Nick: I don’t really have any, but it would be cool to make a song that you hear in the bars you like for the rest of your life. Think “The boys are back in town” or “Walk on the wild side.”

6. How has your hometown shaped who you are?

Nick: Growing up in the suburbs was slower, and you could spend time hanging out and practicing your instrument. The city was also only 40 minutes away by train, so it was easy to sneak in and see some live music, then come home and practice the guitar.

7. What’s the last song you listened to?

Olive: “I really wanted you”, Emmitt Rhodes.

Nick: Pusha T.’s new album and “Make No Sense”, YoungBoy never broke again.

8. If you could see one artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?

Julia: Iggy Pop – again.

Nick: Nirvana.

Oliver: Nirvana.

9. How has the pandemic affected your creative process?

Olive: Since we weren’t on the road for the first time in about six years, I was able to really immerse myself in recording and figure out how to do things at home with the few microphones and inputs we had.

10. When did you start working on the songs that would eventually figure out A head of sugar?

Nick: I’m thinking of May 2020 as a start date. We reunited after being apart for three months and went straight to work in our home studio. We wrote and recorded “In Flight”, “Roll the Dice” and “Headful of Sugar” in about a week.

Olive: We started writing like in the fall of 2019 and continued until it was mastered in August 2021.

11. In a press release for the album, you talk about the fact that “tomorrow is not promised, no tour is promised”. How did this state of mind influence this album?

Nick: In doing it, I was sort of resigned to the fact that it was never going to come out. It felt like the world would never be the same again and it was just time to have fun making music with your friends. Do it for the love of the game.

Olive: We were able to let go during the writing process. We got to a point where we were writing and recording one song a day, every day. It allowed us to be much less precious for each song and keep going.

12. How has the bond between band members evolved during the pandemic?

Olive: We were able to hang out as friends like we haven’t in a while because we were working on tour all the time. We were living together again while we were recording a good part of the album.

13. Who else contributed to the new album and how did they join the band?

Nick: Jacob Portrait was our remote producer. We would record a ton of songs and send them to him. He organized what we were going to continue working on.

Julia: Suzy Shinn and Shamir were also prominent in the song “Stand By Me”. I have always admired Shamir and his career, always following who they are and sticking to it. I also thought Suzy was so cool, she’s one of the most passionate and powerful producers in the game. Shamir really brought the melody of the verses to life. Without them, I don’t think this song would have been finished.

14. After turning behind Twenty-two in blue and EP 2019 king of guyshow do you think your approach to touring will change for this album?

Nick: I’m not sure that will be the case. The live band is all about how the three of us naturally jam. This has always been constant and will not change.

15. Which song from the album are you most excited to start playing live?

Nick: “Beat the odds.” It’s very unbalanced in the live version.

16. What is your favorite karaoke?

Nick: “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka.

Julia: “Walk on By”, Dionne Warwick.

17. What is one thing your most dedicated fans don’t know about you?

Nick: When I cook, I like to take a lot of liberties and artistic license with the recipe.

Julia: It’s true. Sometimes his cooking is scary.

18. What movie or song always makes you cry?

Nick: “Hello It’s Me” by Lou Reed and John Cale.

19. What do you hope to accomplish by the end of 2022?

Julia: I think putting that record out and feeling like it was able to reach who it should…excite people, make them cry and laugh and most importantly HAVE FUN. This is the most important thing. All other expectations became unnecessary at this time. Just playing and streaming music is a privilege and a pleasure.

20. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Julia: Don’t take anything for granted. Take your antidepressants. Write! All! The! Weather!

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