Concert preview: Sunflower Bean continues to grow
Sunflower Bean rarely sits still musically, so it felt fitting to interview the band as its members whisked from one city to the next in the midst of a late-March West Coast tour.
"I have to hold the phone up to Jacob's mouth when he talks because he's driving the van now," said singer and bassist Julia Cumming, who will join Jacob Faber (drums) and Nick Kivlen (guitar and vocals) for a concert at Rumba Café on Friday, April 8.
A similar forward momentum has propelled the Brooklyn trio since its 2013 formation, allowing its omnivorous sound, which draws on everything fromPiper at the Gates of Dawn-era Pink Floyd to Led Zeppelin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, to continually grow and evolve. Indeed, many of the songs off the group's 2016 debut,Human Ceremony, now exist in radically different form live, making the bandmates wish they could follow Kanye West's lead and release updated versions of the record as changes warrant it.
"Kanye West keeps on going and touching up [The Life of Pablo]. Have you heard about this? How he keeps releasing different versions of his new album?" Faber said. "I feel that should be the standard. If we put [Human Ceremony] out right now there's a ton of shit that I would fuck with and change after playing it live over and over and over again. [The music] constantly changes in the most random, subtle ways over the course of five [or] six months of touring, and it changes the songs and makes them just a little better each time."
The Sunflower mates attribute their eclectic sound to their diverse musical tastes, and the album gamely bounces between dreamy shoegaze cuts ("Creation Myth") and stampeding hard rock turns like "I Was Home," where the guitars briefly conjure images of heavy machinery clear-cutting a forest.
"So many great albums are dynamic," Kivlen said. "Pretty much every Beatles record or Led Zeppelin record or Velvet Underground record is dynamic. They all have soft songs and loud songs, and songs with distortion and songs with harmonies."
The lyrics traverse a similar divide, drifting between concrete realities and more mystic lines as difficult to grasp hold of as smoke - an approach Kivlen traces at least in part to his earliest musical influences.
"The first two loves I ever had were the Ramones and Led Zeppelin, and they're kind of the exact opposite," he said. "With Led Zeppelin, at least on IV, which was the one I had, the lyrics were super-mystical and very vague, and the Ramones were saying exactly what they were thinking: 'I don't want to go down in the basement'; 'I want to sniff some glue'; 'I want to beat up the brat with a baseball bat.' Both [approaches] are good, and both convey messages in a different but meaningful way."
Besides, Cumming said, there's something to be said for preserving some sense of secrecy in the music.
"Sometimes I've found out the actual meaning of songs I've liked and it's not what I thought it was and it's like, 'Oh, damn, I wish I'd never figured that out,'" she said. "I think it's good to keep some element of mystery, because if you give it all away what's the fun in that?"
9 p.m. Friday, April 8
2507 Summit St.,
Also playing: Honduras,
Wolfman & the Airship Captain