Off Air

We'll be back in the Autumn Term!

Rating: ★★★★½

All the way from Brooklyn, New York, Sunflower Bean have been on the rise out of the underground music scene for quite some time. From the same spot as DIIV, they have since supported the likes of Wolf Alice on their US tour and The Vaccines here in the UK. With their debut album ‘Human Ceremony’ due for release on the 5th February, their show at the Hare and Hounds had been long awaited, just like their record.

Posed onstage in the small venue, it’s fair to say that they don’t look much different to your average twenty-something band, apart from everything about them is cool, effortlessly cool. They’re all ruffled hair and edgy looks, not to mention that vocalist Julia Cumming is the face of Saint Laurent’s recent campaign, it’s no wonder they already appear an idyllic rock group. With a slow building, instrumental chorus of rumbling bass riffs and shimmering drumming ’Somebody Call A Doctor’ sets the initial tone for the show and with the plucky guitars and hazy vocals of bass player Cumming and guitarist Nick Kiveln, they already began to delve into their experimental side.

They’re all a bit awkward, with Cumming stating ‘speaking on stage isn’t my forte.’ whilst Kiveln exclaimed ‘we say different things every night,’ demonstrating how raw and un-staged their shows are. After mentioning that it was only the second date of the tour, one audience member shouted ‘how was Bristol?’ with drummer Jacob Faber piping up to tell the crowd ‘they jumped around a bit more.’ Whilst the crowded still failed to progress from head banging to real movement, during Cumming decided that if the crowd wouldn’t move by themselves, she was going. Striding into the crowd with bass in arms, she began to push and shove into the crowd, still playing, not missing a beat and head banging all together. Returning to the stage, she left a dancing crowd behind her.

‘Wall Watcher’ was the most powerful of all the tracks, the reverb of the guitar and the thickness of the bass heavier in comparison to the other tracks. Faber’s drum rhythms throughout were tight and constant and the energy between the three inevitably leaked into the crowd, to continue the audience’s involvement. Old favourites ‘Tame Impala’ and ‘2013’ were unsurprisingly set highlights. They dedicated the former to the band of the same title, before opening with the pulsing bass riffs, before the track kicked into aggressive drumming and fuzzy guitar scratches. Cumming’s squeal of ‘you always say what’s on your mind,’ again fights against Kiveln’s muffled voice, presenting once again the balance of light and dark, that is ever so present in their sound and onstage interaction with one another. The latter is another track that they took from harmonious to a bounding finish, delivering the melody with friction.

Newest single ‘Easier Said’, took a lighter moment as Cumming’s vocals floated angelically over jangly guitar plucks and a softer bass line than other tracks. The debut album’s title track, ‘Human Ceremony,’ follows a similar sound as Cumming sings “I want you to stay here, I feel so much better on my own.” Kivlen’s added harmonies that intertwine with Cumming’s, add to the floating lines that echo across many of their tracks, but its Kivlen’s vocal chorus, that once again adds to their constant contrasting and balancing act. Everything about the pair is contrasting. Kivlen stands tucked away timidly at the side of the stage, whilst Cumming’s crouches low, cradling her bass and staring at him as if she is ready to pounce. 

They are a band both energising to watch and listen to. The combination of the soaring vocals and the ear piercing squeals, the scratchy guitar riffs, unearthly drumming and deep bass riffs, all amount to the precisely constructed balance of the mellow and the bold. Having toured extensively for the past year or so, Sunflower Bean’s live set certainly proved that it is practice that makes near perfect.