Songs We Love: Sunflower Bean, 'I Was A Fool'

Nov 3, 2017

After a year of touring, New York City's Sunflower Bean are back with "I Was a Fool," a glistening and gloomy love song that makes you feel a little bit happy, a little bit sad, and a little bit like you want to dance. Singer and bassist Julia Cumming, who plays in the trio with guitarist Nick Kivlen and drummer Jacob Faber, tells NPR they wanted to capture the heart-sickening dizziness of all-consuming love. "It's confusing," she says, "that's the point."

Kivlen and Cumming trade lachrymose, downcast verses that lift, plunge, and glide along unhurriedly. Languid and bittersweet with nods to '60s psychedelia, it has echoes of Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile's spectacular indie duet, Lotta Sea Lice. "And I feel for you in the darkness / Where I once was standing / Where I once was standing," Cumming sings, longingly. She was inspired by the idea of a character so lost in love that they almost panic. "Emotional quicksand," she says. "You're sinking, but you like it."

Mechanical and precise, Sunflower Bean fine-tuned each element to feel blissful and fresh. To diffuse the nasal tones in his voice, Kivlen recorded into a recycled pay phone that had been rewired into a mic. Instantly, it makes his verses feel lo-fi and distant, a gravelly counterpart to Cumming's crystal-clear soprano. Faber wanted the drums to sound programmed without actually being programmed, so he double-tracked them with a sliver of variation, resulting in a chunky churn that feels lush and driving. When paired with a jangly tambourine, the rhythm feels like it could take off at any moment. Cummings says they were hell-bent on flipping a ballad into something that moved. "Something you could shake your shoulders to," she says. "A melancholy groove."

"I Was A Fool" is out now via Mom + Pop.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.