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Interview: Sunflower Bean talk musical inspiration, making videos, and puppies

sunflower bean
Sunflower Bean | photo by Rebekah Campbell | courtesy of the artist

“We’ve spent countless hours watching videos of early Sabbath playing live, and I think that has really rubbed off,” Jacob Faber says about the way his Brooklyn psych rock band Sunflower Bean performs. “They have this amazing raw energy that I think can only be achieved by being the bare bones of a rock band: one guitar, one bass, one drummer and vocals. There is something so primal about their performances.”

Jacob is the drummer of the trio, another bare bones rock band also comprised of lead vocalist and bassist Julia Cumming and vocalist/guitarist Nick Kivlen. The group matched together after the guys, who played together since high school, saw Julia play guitar with her band Supercute! and brought her on board.

Since 2013, it’s been the three of them (and their manager, Crista Simiriglia) navigating a hectic multi-country tour schedule, festival circuit and the release of two records: 2015’s Show Me Your Seven Secrets EP and this year’s full-length, Human Ceremony, put out by Fat Possum.

We spoke to Sunflower Bean, who just played NonCOMM last spring, ahead of their October 8th show at The Foundry, about how groups like Television, Suicide, The Velvet Underground and Sabbath have inspired them to be a band (and one that’s this close to adding puppies to their rider).

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Time Capsule: Kurt Vile on channeling blue-collar blues into “Space Forklift”

Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

In Time Capsule, we ask artists to revisit songs they may have forgotten: pieces they wrote, released, and packed away—until now. Each month, we’ll pick one band who will pick one song and tell us the story behind where they were and what they were thinking when they wrote it.

It’s not news that Kurt Vile used to drive a forklift for a living; a lot of his work is influenced by a blue-collar attitude — from folky fingerpicking to his gravely voice and lyrics. In this city, to gain any respect, you better have worked a dead-end job shoveling shit, fixing radiators, or some day in, day out task that propels you to dream of something better — and deserve it when you get it.

Kurt spent two years handling a mini tractor, rising its giant prongs up and down, over and over, 9 to 5, between lunch and dinner. He lived in Boston at the time. Then, he quit and moved home.

Which is how “Space Forklift” came about. Continue reading →

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Time Capsule: Miriam Devora of Queen of Jeans discusses the evolution of “Moody”

Queen of Jeans | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com
Queen of Jeans | Photo by Cameron Pollack for WXPN | cameronpollackphotography.com

In Time Capsule, we ask artists to revisit songs they may have forgotten: pieces they wrote, released, and packed away—until now. Each month, we’ll pick one band who will pick one song and tell us the story behind where they were and what they were thinking when they wrote it.

Last January, Queen of Jeans was born. I remember because around that time the long-standing Passyunk Avenue King of Jeans sign was rumored to be in danger of coming down. At first, I saw Queen of Jeans to be social media’s answer to the handful of people distraught about losing this icon—which featured a shirtless man in Springsteen-tight jeans, kissing a lady who’s passionately crouched down in front of him. But that was something different—a collaboration between street artist Kid Hazo and general Philly-loving t-shirt designers of South Fellini.

And at the same time that these jokers putting up signs insinuating that maybe it was time for ladies to rule the hood, a group of them were already working on it.

Queen of Jeans is also the name that songwriter Miriam Devora gave her then-brand-new project which included guitarist Matheson Glass, bassist Nina Scotto and drummer Patrick Wall. And yes, the group is from South Philly, but they’ve got a sweet and sour ‘60s surf style that couldn’t sound further removed from that part of town with its wiz-covered potholes, hoagie shops and sexed-up Greaser signage.

In this month’s edition of Time Capsule we spoke with Miriam, lead singer, guitarist and original conspirator behind Queen of Jeans.

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Time Capsule: Justin Pittney of Residuels reflects on his commute in “The Castle”

Residuels
Residuels | Photo by Kelly Kurteson | courtesy of the artist

In Time Capsule, we ask artists to revisit songs they may have forgotten: pieces they wrote, released, and packed away—until now. Each month, we’ll pick one band who will pick one song and tell us the story behind where they were and what they were thinking when they wrote it.

If you took the Market-Frankford El from Fishtown to Center City day after day, morning and evening, you’d probably consider the most scenic thing about it to be the people of SEPTA dosing off in the seat next to you. When Residuels’ front man Justin Pittney took that daily commute to his day job as an Art Director, he noticed something beautiful.

“There was a point in the day—early in the morning—where the Delaware River looks really pretty,” he told us. “And there was an old prison in Camden that I always looked at. I would always fixate on it. To me, it looked like a castle in the middle of all this weird, industrial shit.”

So one of those mornings, he wrote a song about it in his head. Continue reading →

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Time Capsule: Brian Langan of Langor channels seasonal sadness on “Set Me Free for Christmas”

Langor | Photo by Cassie Rose Kobeski-Schlittler | courtesy of the artist
Langor | Photo by Cassie Rose Kobeski-Schlittler | courtesy of the artist

In Time Capsule, we ask artists to revisit songs they may have forgotten: pieces they wrote, released, and packed away—until now. Each month, we’ll pick one band who will pick one song and tell us the story behind where they were and what they were thinking when they wrote it.

Two years ago, someone was dumb enough to break up with the great Brian Langan of Langor, Needle Points, and a handful of other local rock bands, The Swims included.

And it was Christmas. What a terrible thing.

But instead of huddling in his cold (but cozy!) Brandywine street apartment alone, or crying, or drinking too much, he wrote a song.

Full disclosure: I’m a little biased here. As former manager of Brian’s band Needle Points (which, to him, meant I was supposed to bring him orange juice when he was hungover), I have a personal tie with this supremely talented human being. But anyway, listen to this song—rightfully called “Set me Free for Christmas”—and be your own judge about how talented he is, even when he’s sad sacking about some silly girl who didn’t deserve him in the first place. Continue reading →

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Time Capsule: Wesley Bunch of Suburban Living on “Club Kids”

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

When Wesley Bunch moved to Philly to start a new chapter of his old band, Suburban Living, there were some things he left back in Virginia Beach, where he’d conceptualized the band three years prior. At the time, he had two releases under the Suburban Living name—one, a five-track EP called Cooper’s Dream, and another A/B side LP, 2013’s Always Eyes.

“There was a C-side of that LP,” he admits, “A digital download, a bonus track that’s literally not even on the album art of the pressing.”

He never listened to it, totally forgot about it until his new drummer, Mike Cammarata, brought it up during an early practice. “We were kind of at the point where we were working on new stuff but that wasn’t fully developed and I didn’t have any demos to present to the band to practice,” he says about the night. “And then Mike was like, ‘Yo, what about that song ‘Club Kids?’ I was listening to that 7” online and I like that song.’ And I was like, are you fucking kidding me? No, we are not doing that.”

But they did. And contrary to Wesley’s opinion—which was that it sounded entirely out of character for Suburban Living 2.0—it worked with the new lineup, specifically Mike’s drums.

In this new feature for The Key, we’re asking artists to revisit songs they may have forgotten: pieces they wrote, released, and packed away—until now. Each month, we’ll pick one band who will pick one song and tell us the story behind where they were and what they were thinking when they wrote it.

This month I asked my friend and DJ partner Wesley Bunch to kick it off, and we talked about a lesser-known track of his called “Club Kids” off of 2013’s Always Eyes. Read all about it below. Continue reading →

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No Points For Nostalgia: Austin’s Levitation Festival brought us some muddy surprises

Levitation Fest | Photo by NIkki Volpicelli
Levitation Fest | Photo by NIkki Volpicelli

One word that would neatly describe this year’s Levitation Festival: muddy. Very very muddy, and the rain that dropped down on Carson Creek Ranch — a usually dusty plane within view of the Austin-Bergstrom airport — called for some set up changes. The Levitation Amphitheatre had to be moved from its spot on the Colorado riverside to higher ground, so that it wouldn’t sink its artists into the currents. Because of this, it lacked the 360 degree visual display that’s usually projected onto the river at the annual gathering – formerly known as Austin Psych Fest – but didn’t lack in any other capacity. Continue reading →

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Philly artists Creepoid, Nothing, Jeff Zeigler and Mary Lattimore descend on Austin Psych Fest

Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler
Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler | photo courtesy of the artist

Tonight, Jeff Zeigler and Mary Lattimore are setting up shop at the Alamo Ritz in Austin to play their live soundtrack of Philippe Garrel’s 1968 avant-garde film, Le Revélatéur. This will be an intimate gig compared to the next of the weekend, when they’ll switch gears to play for hundreds at Austin Psych Fest’s Levitation festival at Carson Creek Ranch.

“In terms of performing at Levitation, as per usual we’re going into our set with little or no real formal preparation as it’s all improvised, so I guess the plan is to have no real plan. We may discuss the overall arc and vibe but beyond that it’ll be fairly loose,” Jeff writes.

May 8th thru the 10th marks the 8th annual festival, which was rebranded this year as “Levitation” to celebrate the first-ever reunion show from the 13th Floor Elevators, who will close out the festival Sunday night. Continue reading →

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The Return of The Tough Shits: Hear a new song, catch them at Repo Records this Saturday

The Tough Shits | Photo by Nikki Volpicelli
The Tough Shits | Photo by Grey Haas | courtesy of the artist

The Tough Shits recently played a show at Beautiful World Syndicate, a record shop just down the street from the bar we’re meeting at. It wasn’t was very publicized, and lots of their longtime fans could’ve missed it if they didn’t catch the Facebook note the group posted eight hours before showtime. There was no setlist because they never make setlists, and there were mistakes because they admittedly always make mistakes.

That show has helped the Philly band – who are quietly emerging from the several-year hiatus that immediately following the release of their self-titled debut – devise a plan for this weekend’s Record Store Day showcase at Repo.

“This time John will realize what’s wrong with his guitar after the first song instead of six songs in. I will remember all of the words…” singer/guitarist Mark Banfill begins. Continue reading →