Model by Day, Rocker by Night

SAINT LAURENT MODEL BY DAY, SUNFLOWER BEAN BAND MEMBER BY NIGHT, MODEL/MUSICIAN JULIA CUMMING IS ONE TO WATCH.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY HEDI SLIMANE DURING THE FITTING IN SEPTEMBER 2014 IN PARIS

INTERVIEW BY GABRIEL RUAS SANTOS-ROCHA

Despite having just graduated from high school, model Julia Cumming already has two seasons as a Saint Laurent exclusive under her belt. As if that wasn’t already a success story on its own, her Brooklyn-based band, Sunflower Bean, is a beacon of hope for old-fashioned rock-’n’-roll. Music has always come naturally to Cumming (her parents met in a band and her father taught her how to play bass), which is likely why Hedi Slimane was prompted to tear her away from the stages of Brooklyn to walk in his Paris runway shows. “It has been pretty amazing working with Saint Laurent,” Julia reported. “Hedi Slimane’s interest in supporting musicians who are starting out is really cool, and brings a different kind of genuine energy into the world of fashion.”

We talked with Cumming about rock in the digital era, her perceptive views regarding the state of the music industry—and why she might like to travel back in time to the mid ‘70s.

What’s your band’s creative process like? Do you start writing new songs while you’re touring or is there a special time for that?
“For me and Nick and Jacob, playing is our favorite thing in the world to do. So we play together every day—rehearsing and writing when we find parts we want to expand on. Nick usually brings in some riffs and we all work with them, turning it into a collaborative thing.”

The internet has been a great vehicle for your music. Do you intend to move into more traditional formats in the future? Shall we expect an “album”? Maybe even Vinyl?
“The Internet is a gift and a curse (I could talk for years about that), but there is something really special about a physical release. We intend to release our first EP in the beginning 2015, hopefully on vinyl.”

As a young artist in the music scene, how do you view the industry today?
“The music industry has changed so much in the age of online piracy, and I think it’s trying to figure out how to survive in a world where it’s almost impossible to profit off of record sales. It just means that if you’re trying to be a musician now. you really have to do it for the love of it, because the days of huge advances and tour buses are just gone. But everything moves in cycles, and you have to be thankful and excited for the moment you’re in. As long as I’m surviving and making art that I’m excited about, it’s all good.”

Did you have an idea of what the music industry would be like—how was your perception different from the reality of the job?
“Everything seems more glamorous than it is. The music industry is a business, and a business is a business is a business!”

The video clip for “2013” was shot entirely with iPhones—we’re interested in the concept!
“My friend Kyle Hiedacavage is a totally amazing artist who I’ve always admired, and we basically sent him the song and he came back to us with the concept for the video. He wanted to shoot it all on iPhone cameras, which was perfect because we had no budget. I bought a fog machine for 100 bucks, and we just went for it. I think Kyle’s interpretation was spot on. It captures the moment, the year, how we were feeling at the time, all while kind of speculating about the future.”

The thought behind “2013”, of science expanding life and changing things at a fast pace, is a bit daunting. Would you want to be able to extend your life to be 1,000 years old?
“I don’t think I would want to extend my life to be 1,ooo years old. I guess it depends on what the quality of life would be like. It’s also nice that you have this kind of short moment where you are alive, you know? It forces you to make the most of it, and to take chances.”

One of our favorite Sunflower Bean tracks is, “I want you to give me enough time.” We’re curious to know what it’s about!
“This song means something different to me than it does to my bandmates. I feel like it’s talking about audience members in Brooklyn that go to shows and make up their minds really quickly about bands without really listening long enough to form opinions.”

 Does music influence your sense of style, fashion-wise? What is the connection between the two, in your opinion?
“I’ve always loved glam rock… Acts like Gary Glitter and T-Rex have been my favorite since I was a little kid. I used to have a tape with Alice Cooper music videos that I watched over and over again until it broke. So those images are burned into my brain and have affected my whole life—my style included. I love going a little overboard and trying to find where elegance and over-the-top meet, especially on stage. I feel centered when I’m wearing an outfit that I love and one that represents myself.”

Is there a period in fashion that you’re more interested in?
“I don’t know if I could name just one period, but I obviously love the early-mid seventies. I used to say that if I could exist at any time I would like to be 16 in 1973, living in London.”

How did modeling come about for you? Had it always been a desire of yours?
“I think modeling is a kind of performance and a form of expression in a way. When I became interested in clothes as an early teenager, fashion imagery started to mean more to me. But I never really thought it was something I could end up actually being involved in.”

Can you compare the experiences of being on stage performing with your band versus walking in runway shows?
“Playing in a band on stage and walking in a runway show are very different. Fashion and music are definitely intertwined, but an art form like rock-’n’-roll offers total freedom, asking you to dress up the parts of you that are ugly and weird and you put them on display.”

Judging by the different avenues that you’ve pursued throughout the years, it seems that you’re not afraid to try new things.
“I love to try new things. You only get one chance in this world (at least until we find out if we can live to be 1,000). I just really enjoy making art and want to try to explore it all the ways I can.”

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Interview originally published on CR Fashionbook on Nov, 17th 2014