Sunflower Bean Have A Headful Of Sugar And An Album Made On Their Terms

New York rock trio Sunflower Bean return with their long-awaited third studio album 'Headful Of Sugar’.

Sunflower Bean - Image © Driely

The album follows Sunflower Bean as they navigate the agony and ecstasy of American life. Lead single 'Who Put You Up To This?' is a kiss-off to a former lover – but also possibly to a former self. The track also opens the album.

Bassist/vocalist Julia Cumming says the band didn't feel inhibited by boundaries when creating the record.

“Why not make what you want to make on your own terms? Why not make a record that makes you want to dance? Why not make a record that makes you want to scream?”

This is an album made to be played loud, with the windows down.

The band have played all around – Glastonbury, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Reading and Leeds. Plus, they've supported the likes of Wolf Alice and Courtney Barnett. . . And have even opened for Bernie Sanders during his primary campaign rallies.

We chat to the trio – Julia Cumming, guitarist/vocalist Nick Kivien and drummer Olive Faber – ahead of the 11-track album's release.

Tell us a bit about this new album ‘Headful Of Sugar’.
A lot of our albums serve as time capsules for how we perceive the moment, and as our day-to-day experience went inward during the pandemic, we wanted to create something that was exciting, fun, loud, and present. Something to be enjoyed in the real world.

How did the process begin writing this new album?
Julia: We got together after the first few months of the pandemic and these songs just kinda burst out of us. Making the record, even though we knew very little about when or how it would be coming out became our lifeline. Everyday we had this little challenge. What are we gonna write today? What’s the most exciting thing we could write? Working without worrying about if it would even be heard was very freeing.

Who is this music for?
Julia: It truly is for everyone. Every song on the record is meant to hit a different part of your mind and taste. I’m really hoping that the people who like poppier stuff will leave the first listen as a headbanger, and vice versa. I want it to make you question your own taste and who you are as a listener, hopefully becoming more free and less judgemental.

Did much change about ‘Headful Of Sugar’’s direction between its inception and now its release?
Julia: Lots of changes were made over a long period of time, but they were more like small additions from different studios. One of my favourite things about the record is that it couldn’t be recreated in one studio. There are many sounds, pots and pans, sirens, ad libs that could only have made it on with the time it took to find them. But some of the vocals are the first ones we ever did.

Olive, you’ve said the songs speak to your experiences as a trans person. Can you elaborate on this?
Olive: There are aspects of the lyrics that relate to I think a collective feeling of letting go that was in the air while making this record. For me that meant transitioning, for Nick and Julia it means something else.

Julia, what is your favourite song on the album and why?
Julia: Right now it’s 'Otherside'. Even though it’s short and almost like a poem, I think it keeps a heartfelt and earnest element to the record. It’s very grounding and I like where it sits in the track listing.

And Nick, tell us a bit about your input on ‘Headful Of Sugar’.
Nick: I like to work from a place of excitement. I find whenever I’m having fun, I’m making my best work. It was really important to me to keep the creative space super energised and fast-paced. Sometimes our recording sessions can feel like action painting. Just throwing things around and seeing where they land. That spirit makes a record really vibrant.

You’ve had experiences performing all over the place – even opening for Bernie Sanders during his primary campaign rallies! What was THAT gig like?!
Julia: I call it, 'The Last Good Day' a lot! Haha. It was right before the pandemic and things were very optimistic. It was a surreal evening. All week I practised the bass solo to 'My Generation' and it just felt like this huge culmination of excitement and energy. Sadly, things took a huge dip after that.

Summarise ‘Headful Of Sugar’ in five words.
Julia: Sweet. Dystopian. Risky. Strange. Fun.

'Headful Of Sugar' is out 6 May.