2016 Artist Survey: Sunflower Bean

Julia Cumming, Jacob Faber, and Nick Kivlen on 2016's Best Albums, Trump and the Election, Self-Driving Cars, and Scary Movies

Feb 07, 2017 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern (for Under the Radar) Issue # 59 - 15th Anniversary
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For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Julia Cumming, Jacob Faber, and Nick Kivlen of Sunflower Bean. The New York band released their debut album, Human Ceremony, in 2016 on Fat Possum.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.

Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.

A shorter version of Sunflower Bean's survey appeared in the print version of Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.

Top 10 Albums of 2016

1. Sheer Mag: III
2. Weaves: Weaves
3. Cate Le Bon: Crab Day
4. DIIV: Is The Is Are
5. Ulrika Spacek: The Album Paranoia
6. Charles Bradley: Changes
7. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity
8. Angel Olsen: MY WOMAN
9. The Lemon Twigs: Do Hollywood
10. Porches: Pool

2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?

Jacob Faber: This year went by so quick for us, especially since our debut album came out in February. We've pretty much been on the road since October 2015 so it's been an incredible time. Being on the road so much you encounter so many weird things and have to solve so many problems all while keeping morale high. Keeping a good morale is the secret to a good tour. That's all small stuff though. I think for the world 2016 has been a tough year. We've seen a lot change. A lot has gotten better but a lot has also moved in a direction that isn't good for a whole lot of people.

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?

Jacob: We were in Oxford Mississippi on election night. By the time we got off stage I think Trump had won Florida so it was a weird vibe. We all just proceeded to drink a bottle of Jack and try to digest what had just happened. Waking up the next morning was the weirdest part.

Julia Cumming: I think the spread of misinformation and fake news that goes viral in the age of social media is a big part of the problem. We haven't grown as quickly as the technology has to develop a way to teach people what is credible and what is propaganda. So it's hard to find a place where everyone can hear each other when we can't agree on what reality is. It's like living in alternate universes. I also think the American people and youth are incredibly disengaged, and feel like their votes don't even matter. If there is anything this election can teach us, it's that the worst thing really is possible. Knowing that, we need to do a lot more to get people voting, get people involved, keep them involved, bring truth to light, and protect each other.

Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it? 

Jacob: It is really, really, really, bad that he is president. It's terrible in every aspect. It's terrible that he was even able to run. It's terrible that a man like that was able to con so many old angry white people into voting for him. It's terrible that I think a lot of people underestimated the silent majority of the middle of the country and we weren't able to mobilize enough to get Bernie up there despite the climate of the Democratic National Convention. But despite all that I know that we will pull through, because it's about the kids, and the kids are smart and we know what's right.

Julia: It shows so much. Too much to try to describe right here. It highlights the rise of reality TV, so much that we could actually have a president who is a reality TV star. It shows that we need to be really careful with the things we give our time to, and our minds, even in passing when you scroll on your TV. Otherwise, these things that start out as funny become larger than life, and can rise to have an unbelievable amount of power. We need to protect POC, women, immigrants, and families of immigrants. I think this changes all of our lives forever. It's not okay to just stand by while this is going on as a bystander. It's not right.

What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?

Jacob: I'd like it if a politician could be president LOL.

If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office? 

Jacob: I would try to low-key pass all the bills ensuring people's human rights and making sure climate change is being taken care of.

What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors? 

Jacob: I'm not an expert on Brexit but what I've gathered from my British friends is that a lot of people voted in favor of it not really knowing what it was, thinking that it would be some kind of savior to the working class but in fact it's just bad for everyone. In that way I think it's similar to the election of D. Trump.

We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?

Julia: It was a sad year for music. We all knew it would happen sometime but it was really hard that it all happened in the same year. Especially Bowie. Losing Bowie felt like a meteor hit the planet.

What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?

Julia: Hahaha. Really good!!! Hopefully I'll get to hear it in the afterlife. Maybe heaven is like a big jam that everyone can join in to and it never sounds bad.

What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?

Jacob: I saw Paranormal Activities in theatres when it came out and that fucked me up for a while. I was like 13.

Julia: I remember seeing Mummy or something when a guy gets buried alive with a bunch of bugs. That really got me. Is that even a scary movie?

Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?

Jacob: No, I think we should be careful about how much things become automated because our brains will start getting smaller.

Julia: I am definitely worried about an A.I. future. Although, I still don't have my driver's license.

Nick Kivlen: I think we should be weary of our dependence, but it is fascinating.

Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year. 

Jacob: There is this really sweet girl, Sarah that comes to a lot of our shows. She'll take the bus city to city to see us and it really means a lot because in almost every city we'll be able to look out into the crowd and see at least one person we know.

Julia: There are a few other girls too, Mare is another one. It's nice to say hi and see what's going on with them!

Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?

Nick: It is all about streaming now, and I think we are all wondering when the bubble is going to burst. It is amazing because you can hear any song, by any artist, any time, but it is terrible because those artists are not being paid a fair percentage.

Julia: The music industry is a whole different monster in comparison to 2001. The Internet, way more home recording capabilities in every computer, streaming services, illegal downloading. I think the fact that people can do so much more recording at home for cheap has helped a lot of people start making music. Plus, the Internet makes it possible for you to find your niche group of fans.

Which Stranger Things character do you most relate with? Why? 

Jacob: Jonathan and Steve actually came to see us play in Atlanta two weeks ago. I'm gonna say Jonathan since he is the quiet "weird" kid who has great music taste.

What advice do you have to the leaders of the Democratic Party in terms of how to rebound from this election? 

Nick: America is changing everyday for the better. The next generation is going to lead the country to a more accepting, diverse, and educated world. Things are always getting better. The young people want progress.

If you have kids or plan to have kids one day, will you encourage them to be a musician or artist or would you prefer they get a more stable job?

Jacob: I'd prefer that they follow their dreams whether that's art or whatever job they want to have.

What celebrity, musician, or historical figure, living or dead, would you most want to be stuck in an elevator with?

Nick: Keith Richards, I don't think meeting him would be disappointing.

What band, besides your own, has the best name?

Nick: Sun Kil Moon. I love this name because it is so simple but instantly instills millions of interpretations. It's like a three word poem (and the real name of a Korean boxer). 

What VHS tape or DVD did you wear out growing up? 

Julia: Glam Rock.

What song, past or present, best sums up 2016? 

Jacob: "Beginning to See The Light" by The Velvet Underground.

Nick: "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by The Byrds.

www.sunflowerbean.bandcamp.com

www.facebook.com/SunflowerBean/

 

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