Sunflower Bean is one of the coolest teenage bands making music right now in New York. Their dark, bass-heavy sound falls somewhere between droning ’70s psychedelic rock and jangly post-punk. The music video for their latest single, the beautifully haunting “2013,” was shot entirely on an iPhone. In the video, which we’re pleased to premiere here, the band plays around on snowy suburban lawns and thrashes out in a basement while covered in glitter, taking selfies and Snapchats all the while.
I sat down with the members of the band—Julia Cumming (from Supercute!) Nick Kivien, and Jacob Faber (the latter two from Turnip King)—to talk about this video, growing older, and their favorite emoji.
HAZEL: How did you all get together?
NICK KIVIEN: Jake and I went to the same high school, but we didn’t know each other until our last year there, when we started playing together in the band Turnip King.
JULIA CUMMING: Supercute! and Turnip King played a show together, and the Turnip King guitarist, Lucia, and I became good friends. I had been looking for a band to play bass in because Supercute! wasn’t doing as much, and it turned out Jake and Nick were looking for a bass player for Sunflower Bean.
When did you all know that you wanted to make music?
NICK: I’ve been playing the guitar since I was eight.
JAKE FABER: I took saxophone lessons starting in the fourth grade, then I started to play drums. But it wasn’t until [Nick and I] formed Turnip King that I was like, I want to do this—a lot.
JULIA: I started playing guitar when I was 11 or 12. I didn’t know I wanted to keep doing it until Supercute! started and music became an important part of my life.
How would you describe Sunflower Bean’s sound?
NICK: If the Velvet Underground happened in [the year] 20,100.
Who are your big musical influences?
JAKE: The Velvet Underground.
JULIA: Black Sabbath.
NICK: Pink Floyd.
Tell me about this song, “2013.”
NICK: Well, my friend Harry is an all-around genius. One time when he was drunk, he told me that in the future he was going to revolutionize technology to make us live hundreds of years. He kept repeating that, but the number kept getting higher and higher. He was like, “You’re going to live to be 100,” then “What if I told you that you were going to live to be 1,000? It’s gonna happen.” So the song came from that. We’re obsessed with technology and the end of the world.
JULIA: The song is looking toward the future, but by calling it “2013” and by shooting the whole video on an iPhone, we’re marking it in time, in a way. The song and the video already are nostalgic, because it’s 2014!
Was 2013 a particularly significant year for any of you?
NICK: I turned 18! I turn 19 in three months. That’s dark.
Do you all feel that way? That getting older is a dark subject?
JULIA: Most people our age make peace with [getting older], but some people don’t. Time is a really funny thing. Sometimes I feel OK and I’m excited [to get older]. I feel like being youthful is sort of intense.
I feel like, depending on who you are, “you’re going to live a thousand years” could be taken as either a curse or a gift.
NICK: It’s definitely a curse. People living to 80 is why our economy is destroyed.
JULIA: That’s such a dark thing to say!
I love all of the iPhone imagery and emoji in the video, also all of the selfie-taking. I feel like for people our age, there’s a lot of backlash against using your iPhone a lot, taking selfies, etc. Was this video in any way a response to that?
NICK: The guy who made the video, Kyle Hiedacavage, is obsessed with both self-parody and technology. He’s 22 and he knows what kids are supposed to like in the modern age, and he embraces and embodies all of it. He genuinely loves it.
JULIA: When [Kyle] heard the song, he knew it all had to be shot on an iPhone. We shot it on all different generations—iPhone 4, iPhone 5, etc.—to give it different textures. That wasn’t even on purpose, it was just that all the iPhones kept dying. [Laughs] There was no budget for the video. I had just bought a fog machine, and we took it to our friend Eddy’s house in Jersey. Eddy’s dad made chili. It was really DIY.
What’s your stance on selfies?
JAKE: I like taking selfies.
NICK: That’s what life is now.
What’s your favorite emoji?
JULIA: Oh my god, there’s so many that are good. The eggplant is too expressive—sometimes it’s too much…
NICK: I like Snoopy.
JULIA: That’s not an emoji! [Laughs] That’s a Facebook emoji.
NICK: I have a burger emoji sticker on the back of my phone.
JULIA: You know the three yellow stars that are sparkles? That one is really good.
What’s in the future for Sunflower Bean?
JULIA: We’re going to keep recording, keep playing shows, and get signed! ♦