The alternative rock trio, based in New York, tell EDWIN GILSON about their upcoming second album and why it’s a “scary” time for their home country

IT WAS autumn 2016 and Sunflower Bean were travelling across the great plains of central America on tour.

One sight became increasingly familiar, and unsettling, to the band on their journey: signs of support for Donald Trump. Whether these were amateurish, homemade placards or official “Vote Trump” banners, they were unavoidable.

“We saw first-hand what the political climate was outside of our New York bubble,” says drummer Jacob Faber.

“It was pretty dark. Where we’re from is liberal-leaning so getting out to the middle of the country and seeing Trump support everywhere – on people’s lawns, on their cars – was scary. We were in Mississippi when he got elected and it was quite an intense time.”

Sunflower Bean’s second album Twentytwo In Blue, out next month, was written and recorded in the first year of Trump’s presidency. While it’s not a political record as such, the atmosphere in the US over the last 12 months permeates the record.

“It would be impossible for us to write a record that doesn’t talk about the times we’re living in,” says Jacob. “Meeting like-minded kids all over the country on tour weighed heavy on us. We were thinking about our place in the world.”

The title of the album also comes from the fact that all three members of the band – singer and bassist Julia Cumming and guitarist Nick Kivlen as well as Jacob – are currently 22.

They’re very young to be about to release a follow-up record, but that’s testament to their songwriting ability. The group have a fuzzy charm with elegantly overdriven guitars underpinning Julia’s silky vocal and catchy melodies.

Sunflower Bean started life as a Long Island-based duo made up of Jacob and Nick before Julia came on board after the dissolution of her former group Supercute!.

The trio moved to Brooklyn, New York, in a bid to take their music to a wider audience – and in that they’ve succeeded. Long Island has been referred to as somewhat of a cultural wasteland, but Jacob wouldn’t go that far.

“It’s not a cultural wasteland, exactly, but it’s a classic suburb kind of place,” says the drummer. “We were always going to New York anyway so it made sense to be there full-time.”

As for Julia, Jacob says the singer helped to flesh out Sunflower Bean’s sound as well as bringing something new to the table.

“We knew we needed someone else who could really sing and add another dimension and more depth to the band,” says Jacob. “Luckily Julia was around and it just clicked.

“It was a pretty natural fit. When it was just me and Nick the band was much more rocky but she brought a lot more composure and beauty to it.”

The aim for Twentytwo In Blue was simple, adds the drummer. “At heart we’re just trying to write good songs,” he says. “That’s the heart of rock and roll and the focus of this record. It felt like we birthed these songs like babies and raised them like children in the studio. Each one is like our own odd little child.”

Sunflower Bean’s fanbase largely consists of milennials and specifically teenagers, and it was this demographic the band had in mind when they set about writing the record.

“It’s about resilience and being aligned with young people” says Jacob of Twentytwo In Blue. “It’s us saying, ‘we’re here, we’re going to be resilient and fight back and not let this [Trump’s victory] ruin our world’”.

With that kind of attitude it’s no wonder Sunflower Bean have struck a chord with the young generation. The music helps too, of course. It seems they’ll be shining for many years to come.

Sunflower Bean 
Concorde 2, Brighton, April 5,