Ceremony of Rock N’ Roll: An Evening with Sunflower Bean

Photo by Stephen Whiting

Photo by Stephen Whiting

By Stephen Whiting

Texas heat held nothing in comparison to the electric energy of the three-person trio Sunflower Bean at Space 24 in Austin. Established in 2013, Sunflower Bean roots began in the indie rock scene of New York founded by Nick Kivlen (lead guitar and vocals), Jacob Faber (drums), and Julia Cumming (bass and lead vocals). Contrasting psychedelic indie pop with thundering riffs reminiscent of bands like Black Sabbath, Sunflower Bean quickly made a name for themselves and was given the title of “coolest young band” by Rolling Stone.

Despite their hectic touring schedule - opening for bands such as Sleigh Bells, Wolf Alice, and Best Coast - there is an exuberant energy that surrounds each member. It’s no surprise considering their reputation for playing copious amounts of shows; Oh My Rockness tallied up an astonishing number of 50 hometown shows played by the band in 2014 before the eventual release of their full length album Human Ceremony in 2016. Hot on the release of their latest single Human For from their sophomore project Twentytwo In Blue, Sunflower Bean is on euphoric ride that shows no signs of stopping.


Before taking the stage, Cummings flashed a smile to the crowd asking “You guys ready to hear some rock n’ roll?” which led into the thundering rendition of “Come On”. The band transitioned into several songs off of their latest album such as Twentytwo and I Was A Fool, each of them creating a biting yet vibrant sonic landscape showcasing the band’s progression over the years. A special crowd responsive version of the politically charged “Crisis Fest” inspired by Cummings began with her chorus “If you hold us back you know that we will shout” followed by resounding shouts of “No no no” by the crowd. The show finished with some older music by the band, the melancholic “Easier Said”, and the finale with the raucous riffs of “I Was Home”. The band left the stage flooded in cheers from a bewitched audience.

For my first live experience with the band, Sunflower Bean set a high bar for themselves. While the band could easily fill in their set with the passionate shouts and ferocious tones of their early material, they deftly alternated between punk-style sounds complemented by swirling psychedelic pop material. Composed only of a guitarist, bassist, and drummer, Sunflower Bean still manages to ooze confidence on a small live stage. Rather than shying from their influences such as The Velvet Underground or Tame Impala, Sunflower Bean is able to embrace them and create a new dimension within a genre of their own. Enough to awaken even a sunburnt Austin audience.

Twentytwo In Blue is out 3/23 on Mom + Pop. Pre-order it here.