When Sunflower Bean released new single ‘Come For Me’ at the end of last month, it saw the New York trio entering a whole new realm. More fiery and confident than ever before, it sounded like the sure-footed next step of three future rockstars. “‘Come For Me’ is so unashamedly big, radio friendly and in-your-face that it’s almost a shame it’s consigned to a between-albums EP - it’d more than hold its own as the huge first single of any album, and could well become the band’s biggest hit yet,” we wrote in our review of the song.
The band begin a huge UK tour on the back of this year’s excellent second full-length ‘Twentytwo In Blue’ and previewing ‘King Of The Blues’ in Cardiff tonight (19th November), and they arrive on these shores with a huge amount of momentum. ‘Come For Me’ pushes the rockier, balls-out moments of ‘Twentytwo…’ - namely the Thin Lizzy-esque ‘Crisis Fest’ - to the fore, and sees the urgent, socially-conscious voice their second album presented being transmitted even more forcefully, while packing in catchy licks and melodies by the pound.
In advance of the tour and the new EP, we caught up with vocalist and bassist Julia Cumming to talk all about ‘King Of The Dudes’, the importance of trusting impulses, and staying true to yourself and your vision.
Listen to ‘Come For Me’ and read the interview below - view the band’s UK tour dates at the bottom of the page.
You’re just about to start a big ol’ UK tour - are you raring to go?
The UK definitely feels like a second home. I make the joke that there's something in the water, but I think you can't play, or be a fan of rock music and not factor England and the UK's music history and fandom to be a large part of it.
And you’ll have some new songs to play we assume?
Definitely! We'll play 'Come For Me', and we also have Danny from The Lemon Twigs, who's coming on the tour with us. It's the first time we're gonna be touring as a four-piece. We want to really develop and be able to perform the songs in a really special and newly arranged way. It's the only tour that we're doing this for. It's really wrapping up 'Twentytwo In Blue' and entering in 'King Of The Dudes', and it feels like a really special time. We've been working with Danny a lot, and have 15 songs to choose from every night.
The new songs are gonna be super fun to play too, and we've been playing some in our Asia shows. I feel like music is a really particular form of communication that's always kinda shifting, depending on the day and the moment. Seeing crowds that are very foreign to us, seeing what they care about and how the song makes them feel is really special, so I'm excited to see how the UK feels about it.
And the new EP ‘King Of The Dudes’ is coming in January - it feels like you’re constantly on tour, how did you manage to find the time to work on that one?!
It's a bit psycho, isn't it? It's like...'Shouldn't y'all have taken a nap?!' I agree with that! It would've been nice to relax, and I feel like I'm not sure what we've signed up for now that we're doing this, but I'm really happy. With 'Twentytwo In Blue', we spent a really long time on it and there were all these thoughts we had about making a sophomore record and what we really wanted to do artistically. We spent a really long time on it, which is fine, as one should do with anything they really love and care about, but I got this sense from the world of music, and how direct it is between artists and fans, and I felt like we wanted to bring rock into that space, where not everything has to be that giant lead-up to this big thing. Ariana Grande just dropped 'thank u, next' and it's a smash! That's about life, and real life that's happening right now.
It was the summer, it was June, and we were driving around, and I think we just felt like there was more to do, and we were coming into ourselves. We wanted to explore that, so we went to LA and we made this thing. I'm really, really proud of it, and can't wait for the world to hear it. You gotta go for what you want, full steam ahead. One day I'm gonna be dead. If there's stuff we wanna make, we gotta make it - the rest of it doesn't matter.
"One day I'm gonna be dead. If there's stuff we wanna make, we gotta make it - the rest of it doesn't matter."
— Julia Cumming
The EP, and first single ‘Come For Me’, feel like they build on ‘Twentytwo In Blue’ really naturally - was it a case of continuing the momentum that record gave you?
On 'Twentytwo...', one really big part of making it was being really comfortable with ourselves as people and as songwriters, which hopefully naturally happens as you get older, because you just have less to prove of a certain kind of feeling. You can take [EP track] 'Fear City', which I feel like is a song about New York, which has this huge place in my heart, and all of our hearts, and is also about my own very personal experience about loving an addict. That's something that people do, but is not territory that I'd ever directly addressed on any of our albums yet. We're talking about religion and space on 'Human Ceremony' and we're talking about strength and trying to understand ourselves on 'Twentytwo In Blue', and now I feel like we can really get into the stories that define us. All of those lyrics were just getting on the mic. I knew what it was going to be about, and we just turned the mic on and there it was. I think that is one of the really defining things of the EP - it's like carving a sculpture with a knife. Every stroke you make it definite and you have to trust the place that it's coming from.
With finding that strength on ‘Twentytwo…’ and then making ‘King Of The Dudes’ quite instinctively, are you already finding yourselves working on what comes next?
There's a fine line between making something that can really wrap up and define what 'Twentytwo In Blue' is, and giving too much. We all wanted to keep the EP short. It's 12 minutes long - it's like The Ramones or something! It's a lot and it's a taste. I don't think that the strategy is going to always be the same for how we make work, but I think some of the things that are hallmarks for us are able to really shine through, which is the goal of making music that isn't defined by a trend or a time, but is defined by its identity and authenticity. That's stuff that we believe in, and I know that whatever we make in the future, whether it's deeply considered or it's made in New York, or LA, or Tokyo, I feel confident that it will still feel that way.
'King Of The Dudes' is out 25th January via Lucky Number.
Sunflower Bean are on tour in the UK right now - view the dates below.
19 Cardiff, The Globe
20 Leeds, The Church
21 Brighton, Old Market
22 London, Hackney Arts Centre
23 Leicester, Dryden Street Social
25 Oxford, The Bullingdon
26 Glasgow, Art School
27 Manchester, Academy
28 Portsmouth, Wedgewood Rooms
29 Bristol, SWX
30 Cambridge, Junction
01 Birmingham, Castle & Falcon