Sunflower Bean recently performed at The Old Market; I was lucky enough to chat to Nick Kivlen – guitarist and vocalist – over the phone about the band’s upcoming EP and their experience as young musicians.
Your new EP ‘King of the Dudes’ is coming out, can you tell me the story behind that?
Yeah! The story is, we were in LA in June and met up with this producer named Justin Raisen. We were thinking about maybe working on new music before the year ended – we had a few ideas. The meeting with him went so well that we decided to fly out to his garage in August and record with him and write with him; we recorded the EP in his garage within one week… It was like a real ‘garage-rock’ record in the way that we wrote it and recorded it really quickly in an actual garage.
What is your creative process is like?
Our creative process is different for every song. Usually, it begins with either me or Julia [Cumming] having an idea for the beginning of something then we’ll all jam on it and flesh it out into a real song. For the EP we didn’t really have anything, we sort of just jammed and whenever we got onto something we were really feeling, we would just continue with it. It was a new experience – being in the studio and writing in the studio. It was a different creative process to our last record where we already had everything when we went to record it.
I saw you guys support Wolf Alice on tour last year and I thought your stage presence was phenomenal. Have you always been confident on stage or has your confidence grown as you’ve performed more?
Thank you! The thing about being on stage is it’s just practice and experience. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become. We’ve all been performing live music from an early age. Julia was twelve when she went on her first tour and me and Jacob were in a high-school rock band that played a lot, so we’ve all had a lot of experience on stage. It’s always a learning experience – getting better at being on stage and in front of people, being comfortable with doing things and not being afraid to be embarrassed because there’s definitely been a lot of embarrassing moments too.
Can you give any advice to other young musicians that are trying to make it?
Yeah, I definitely could! Practice. Everyone always says practice is the most important thing and it really is. The more you do something, the better you’ll get at it. The first year we were a band we played almost any gig that was offered to us – we ended up playing almost 100 shows… just play! If someone wants you to play somewhere you should do it no matter what; even if there’s no one there, even if there’s no money… It’s always worth it to do it because that time on stage is invaluable.
What would you say has been your favourite gig, or one that stuck out to you?
Recently, we were on our first Asia tour, and that was just incredible…. We were in Bangkok at a music festival and it was their first time having a Western music festival and everybody was so excited, it just felt really momentous. It was completely novel for them to see all these bands from all different parts of the world come and play. They were super genuine and super excited.
So going back a little to ‘Twentytwo in Blue’, quite a lot of it is political and about trying to be ‘an adult’. Do you have anything to say to young people who are trying to become more political, especially through creativity?
You have to get involved and not be afraid to put yourself out there or do something new. I really struggled with that as well; sometimes you feel like you’re powerless and there’s nothing you can do and there’s a disconnect between learning and being engaged. You can be as up to date on what’s happening and as informed as you want to be – that is also really important. Getting engaged is this whole other step, it’s not really clear how you can use your individual voice to actually do anything, but just looking to see what groups are in the city that you live in and finding different ways to become active. Julia actually started her own thing called ‘Anger Can Be Power’.
I was reading about that, that sounds really good!
Yeah! It’s a great place for young people to meet and listen to speakers, get new ideas… the events are fun and they’re not intimidating! I think that’s the big thing about getting involved in stuff that’s political or issue-based – it can be intimidating; politics can seem like a dark art…but really your voice can be heard and you can get involved, there’s no secret to it.
Finally, I’ve been a bit stuck for music lately, what are you listening to at the moment – any recommendations?
You see people always ask me this and then I’m blank! I’m funny when I listen to music, I usually get really focused on one artist – I’ll be completely dedicated to them. For me right now, that’s the band ‘Cigarettes After Sex’. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them, but I really love them. I discovered them about two months ago and I’ve just been obsessed with them ever since. They have a really distinct sound and they kind of stick to it on all their songs, but the lyrics and melodies are really beautiful and I think that the lead singer has a very unique voice. I love the band!
Sunflower Bean’s new EP ‘King Of The Dudes’ is set to be released in January 2019. You can stream ‘Come For Me’, ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ and ‘Human Ceremony’ now.