Sunflower Bean has a new album Twentytwo In Blue coming out March 23rd. In lieu of putting them through our usual line of questioning we dispatched Dani Miller of the Surfbort freak family to talk to the band for the sake of art. Below is what transpired.
Dani Miller: What do you guys do to stay healthy being an artist/musician?
Jacob Faber: I started going on runs on tour in the mornings. I think that really helped, even more so emotionally than any physical thing. Obviously, physical exercise is really good, but I think it’s a really good way to clear your head in the morning and get ready for the day ahead of you.
Dani: Mental health is so tricky being an artist and going on tour and stuff.
Julia Cumming: I think there’s a certain point in this lifestyle where it’s kind of like a switch. It really depends on anyone’s career, but I think for us or for lots of people, it’s no longer like you have your life at home. And then you get to go on tour and be wild. So if you’re treating yourself like shit while you’re on tour, then you end up having a shitty feeling. It’s a little bit of growing up by being like, “Am I going to go out and wile out or should I try to take it easy?” And I think it can go down a lot of different places. This is not exactly related, but I’ve noticed we’ve gotten a lot better at even the way we speak to each other. Like when you have band arguments that are, of course, going to come up time to time. I think part of taking care of your mental health is working on your communication and we all do that.
Dani: I feel like punk’s lifestyle could be like, “Party! Go crazy!” And there’s some of that, but I think health is very cool, too, so that’s awesome.
Julia: Well, I think there’s a big stigma that you have to—we think we have to be miserable to make music. But actually, when I’m depressed, I’m absolutely paralyzed and can’t make any work at all.
Dani: What advice do you have for the youth? Do you have anything you want to shout out to the youth of America or the world?
Jacob: My advice would be there’s no reason waiting around. The future feels extremely uncertain. It’s age-old advice, but follow your heart. Really go it to the most.
Julia: There’s definitely been an awakening this year of young people, which is really exciting and also bittersweet. A lot of people, especially young kids, used to be allowed to be complacent because things didn’t affect them in the same way. Now, that’s not really responsible. I feel like that’s what Jacob says, which is that it doesn’t feel responsible or good to wait around or say “Oh, I’m going to do that thing I really want to do or should do in a few years when I’m more this or that.” You’re only going to be exactly what you are right now.
Dani: Yeah. Start now. That’s really good advice. Because there’s so many pressures of being young, like college and what to do exactly. But, yeah, follow your heart and start what you want to do as soon as possible. That’s great advice. For me, the recording process is so immersive and I always find things out about myself or the world. I have, like, visions when I record. I just wanted to see where you recorded and what that process of recording Twentytwo In Blue was for you guys. There’s lots of punk love ballads on there. It’s awesome. I picked out a couple that stood out to me. I’ll say them and you could tell me more about them or what they’re inspired by. I think “Crisis Fest” was a really strong anthem for the current political culture and solidarity with the people, if you want to elaborate on that song.
Nick: It seems like this year and the last year were just that, a crisis fest. We were writing it and just thinking about what it means. Because it’s impossible to ignore certain things that are happening right now. I feel like how could you write a record and not be influenced or inspired or however moved or touched by what’s happening politically in the U.S. right now? You always have to think about what the goal or point of writing a political song is going to be. Because it’s really easy to write a song where you just denounce a lot of things or just point out problems about what’s happening or criticize things. We really wanted to just speak to people and connect with them and have a sort of encouragement that, even though things are really, really uncertain now, eventually, and soon, we’re going to be able to really have voting power.
Dani: I read that you guys said that it was politically inspired by escapism, which is sick because I think that’s important that people need a song to come together in these times, too. And, then, “Oh No, Bye Bye”? I love you guys singing together. Can you tell me more about that song, too?
Julia: That one, even when we initially wrote it, stuck out as the track that finished the record. And it went through a few different iterations of trying to find the heart of it right. You know what it’s like? Writing songs? They’re sort of alive and they have a life of their own. It’s like trimming a bush as it grows and you can kind of trim it to where you want it to be, but it just comes out as this thing. And I think “Oh No, Bye Bye” is definitely one of those that took on a life of its own and we were able to breathe a little bit of life into it in the studio and play around with some influences. I think it’s an unexpected song and that’s fun, too. After you’ve made your way through the record, it sneaks up on you.
Jacob: We wrote it pretty early on in the process. We always knew it was a really good song, but, quickly, there become other priorities. So it was like a little treat throughout the whole process and we’d check on it a little bit. It wasn’t one of the ones we were working on intently every day, but it was more of a slow process. It was the last song that was done for the record. So when it was done, it was like a real punctuation mark.
Dani: It was there from the beginning. That’s cool. I have some joke questions, too. If your record was a dog, what kind of dog would it be?
Julia: I think it’d be a mutt. I think it would be a really cute dog with really sharp teeth.
Nick: Like a dog with sharp teeth, but also a really cute smile and floppy ears.
Julia: I want to say my favorite dog, but I feel like that’s just my favorite, that’s not what the record is. The record is all of us and what Sunflower Bean, which, I think, is a pretty lovable mutt.
Dani: Cool. I’m going to check all these people out. That rules. And, of course, your favorite band is Surfbort. I already knew that. Next question. So, as people who are both in fashion and music, how do you see those worlds intersecting and what’s your approach to band aesthetics versus everyday dressing? Is it separate or does it go together for you guys?
Julia: It’s really easy for music and fashion to be intertwined. So it can get really complicated because fashion is the commerce of style and style is what people are always looking for musicians to have. So that can get really complicated when you’re in both lines. I think the way that we’ve always dealt with it is just by being ourselves and wearing what we want and keeping the most control over our art as possible. I personally, really love aspects of fashion and style as an art form and a way to express myself. I use that with how I dress onstage. It’s just part of who I am and my art. The stuff we wear on stage and the stuff we wear as people are not really that different from each other. I have to keep my clothes that I can sweat in and the clothes I actually wear separate. Most of the stuff I ever wear onstage is vintage because it’s affordable and because no one else has it.
Nick: Just to elaborate on what Julia said earlier. I made the mistake for years of always wearing the same thing on stage that I was just wearing that day. And recently, I started just wearing the same thing every single night and then taking it off immediately afterwards. It is so convenient and so easy and so great because your clothing doesn’t get completely ruined and you can not have to go around the country with terrible, sweaty clothes. It’s really really great. That’s our tip.
Dani: Thank you for the hot tips. I’ll take that with me. What do you guys think of during a live show? What are you guys thinking on stage?
Nick: When we first started playing together a couple years ago, I was a bassist in another band originally. When we started performing together, I would feel absolutely insane because I had so much more stuff to do as the guitarist and singer of a band. It was so hectic. I felt like I was playing like a super super intense timed game of chess where I had to keep my mind super focused on hitting on pedals and singing and remembering parts and doing all that stuff. But since then, it’s relaxed a good amount. I think we’re all pretty comfortable on stage. I think it’s a natural thing, of course, when you do it hundreds and hundreds of times that you can…not pay attention, but you have the room to relax a little bit and see if you can pull some new stuff up because you’re already in control of the situation. I think we’re all pretty confident in playing so we don’t have to over stress and think about it.
Jacob: The best shows come when you get that balance of being able to turn part of your brain off and really submerge yourself in the actual music that you’re playing and also still be very quick and attentive so that you can be in the moment and react in the moment. That’s the ideal situation, but there’s always shows where, at least for me, for whatever reason, it feels like I can’t. It feels like you’re standing at knee deep level the whole show and then your mind can wander and go to all these places. It can get weird.
Dani: The energy of the crowd and the song and the band, there’s so many aspects. It’s wild.
Julia: I feel like it really does depend on the night. That is one of the benefits of having played together for a while now. We can understand a lot about each other or about the songs and it gives you the opportunity to free up a little bit and try new things. I think, sometimes, we like to try new things on each other and maintain the element of surprise and, as much as we trust each other, keep everyone on our toes so it’s always a bit exciting and always a bit different.
Dani: What was “I Was A Fool” inspired by?
Nick: It’s an interesting thing to think about where the inspiration of some songs come from. Where some might be derived from a specific thing or specific moment. That song we stumbled upon while we were just playing around in the basement. Me and Julia started singing each different improv vocals over the song. It just shaped out that way. It’s not really inspired by any specific thing.
Dani: Just to add some extra fun into this interview, what animal are you guys most like? I’m kind of like a dolphin or a horse. Do you guys have animals that you relate to?
Julia: I think I used to say that Nick was like a dolphin. That might be because he tapers down and gets skinnier as he goes down like a tail. But I don’t know. What do you think Jake?
Dani: Maybe I’m just a furry—I’m always talking about animals. But! Fuck, Marry, Kill: Elon Musk, Patti Smith, and Kermit The Frog.
Julia: I would definitely kill Kermit The Frog. Elon Musk and Patti Smith are great, great options. It’s hard because I really have a big crush on Elon Musk so I want to do both. I’m going to say Marry Patti Smith and do the dirty with Elon Musk.
Find Dani Miller clowning around with Surfbort and on Instagram here.