xml:space="preserve">
In the Sunflower Bean song "2013," a haunting Julia Cumming sings, "Won't you tell me what's on your mind? / In the year 2013."

In the Sunflower Bean song "2013," a haunting Julia Cumming sings, "Won't you tell me what's on your mind? / In the year 2013."

Occupying the minds of many indie-rock musicians in Brooklyn, N.Y., that year — and still today — was a specific brand of droning, fuzzy shoegaze, devoid of classic rock hallmarks like guitar solos. Cumming was 17 that year, and she, Jacob Faber and Nick Kivlen, bored by the Brooklyn status quo, became Sunflower Bean. (The trio plays Metro Gallery on Thursday with Shark Week.)

Advertisement

The band soon captivated listeners and stood out among its peers with a style at once fresh and classic by making old-fashioned psychedelic-tinged rock music that wasn't afraid to embrace a little cheesiness.

"A lot of stuff that's been going on in Brooklyn for a long time was a lot of kind of shoegaze and noise and kind of 'look down at your shoes, play really loud dissonant stuff,' which can be really, really good," Cumming, now 20, said during a phone interview recently. "[But] we kind of wanted to play a little with this idea of bringing a certain kind of cliché back."

Self-described "slop-pop" band Diet Cig stumbled into the world by virtue of a lighter and boredom.

"Human Ceremony," Sunflower Bean's debut album, came out in February on Fat Possum Records. The band experimented with techniques that didn't appear on their earlier EPs, such as singing harmonies. Cumming said they also made an effort "not to sound necessarily like one thing."

"I think the album has a lot of ups and downs and highs and lows dynamically, and I think it's an interesting record," Cumming said. "I think it's the beginning of us getting more involved with being in the studio."

Though cautious to disavow other musical genres, Cumming makes it clear that elements of traditional rock 'n' roll occupy a mythic space to the band members, all of whom grew up with parents with musical inclinations (though none were professional musicians). Classic rock elements, and the ways they can be manipulated, interest Cumming, who studied singing and classical music at a New York City performing arts high school.

"There's kind of a reason that we love these things, too, and you can kind of work with them in a way," she said.

Over the past two years, Sunflower Bean has earned a reputation as a force of a live act, playing more shows in New York than any other band in 2014 and being crowned that year's "hardest-working band" in the city by Oh My Rockness. The band's youth, energy and relentless gigging -- and their warm reception in New York -- recall the famous Kim Gordon quote, "People pay money to see others believe in themselves."

Cumming credits the frenetic and unpredictable nature of guitar music with keeping the live act interesting.

"It was just because we wanted to play. We didn't really know any better," Cumming said. "Guitar music can seem so [expletive] old because it's almost the same elements. ... I understand people being skeptical about it, but I also think there's a lot of excitement in seeing a band and seeing something that has the opportunity for improvisation, and even for failure."

Last year, the punk band Titus Andronicus -- which plays the Ottobar in Baltimore on Tuesday -- released its fourth album, "The Most Lamentable Tragedy."

When Cumming called from Los Angeles for this interview, Sunflower Bean had sold out The Echo the night before, and fans who chanted every word to every song filled the crowd. Though Cumming insists the band's popularity continues to surprise her, "it's nice to see people still care so much about rock music at all," she said.

"People were so involved and excited, and I was almost crying onstage. I was blown away," she said. "We're still kind of blown away. You never know when that's gonna happen."

Cumming estimates that approximately 30 percent of their live set is improvised material. Sunflower Bean has also been working out a few new songs live, and when the band members find a respite from touring, they'll work on more material.

"With art in general, it's really easy to overthink it," she said. "You just gotta go out there in the world and figure it out."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement