The sounds of Squirrel Flower are ones you immediately fall in love with. Her previously released material is a collection of captivating “ambient-folk” inspired by the surrounding landscape - cornfields with no hills, no water and big sky.
The Grey Estates: How did Squirrel Flower come to be?
Ella of Squirrel Flower: During high school, I became pretty active in the Boston folk scene. I released an album when i was 16 and played shows at places like Club Passim (where Joni Mitchell+ Bob Dylan got their starts) and at my high school, which was progressive and gave ample opportunities for students to share arts and music. Towards the end of high school, I got reallllly bored of traditional, acoustic folk and got more into the Boston underground scene (which hosts a bunch of really sweet experimental acts). Then, I went to college in Iowa. I picked up electric guitar, bought a loop pedal, and started experimenting with sound art and putting effects on my voice. I started writing songs inspired by Iowa, attempting to mimic the feeling of simultaneous claustrophobia and weightlessness I get when I’m here (the sky is huge. It really feels like you could just fall off the earth sometimes). I took the spring semester of my first year off to record the album and go on tour. Now I’m back in Iowa, continuing the process of documenting the landscape and my time here through sound and music. When I made my album, Early Winter Songs From Middle America, I didn’t want to use my name (Ella Williams is a super common name, it also seemed boring to me). The name Squirrel Flower was sort of an alter ego I created for myself when I was a young'n. It was this adventurous alter persona, who was equal parts me and someone completely different. It just seemed fitting for this project. It has nothing to do with squirrels or flowers. I really like the way the two words sound when said together.
TGE: Explain a little bit about Early Winter Songs - some background and how the recording process or creative process developed?
SF: I took a sound art class last fall semester and started experimenting with field recordings. I made this project that was a self-portrait through sound where I recorded places on campus that were meaningful to me and spliced them to create different sonic environments. I was pretty homesick and made this project so that my friends from home could hear what I heard every day (somehow that seemed like being closer together). This got me thinking, and I wanted to do a similar thing but with more traditional music, so I started putting together songs that (both melodically and lyrically) gave insight into my daily life in Iowa, and how I felt being here. Thus, Early Winter Songs came together. There’s even a track (I Won’t Walk Inside) where I used one of the field recordings from my sound art project, put distortion on it, and recorded some a cappella voice parts over it.
TGE: Pick a track and give your insight to it.
SF: “I Don’t Use A Trash Can.” Whenever I play this song live, I always get a few laughs because of the comical lyrics. When I wrote it, I really wasn’t trying to be funny. While my room was pretty darn messy, I wrote the song about holding onto intangible things, and being too stubborn to let go of certain feelings, memories, people that I needed to let go of(sometimes people I held onto by keeping inanimate objects that reminded me of them). It’s also my favorite song to play live– I loop my voice 4 times usually, building layers of harmony each time. It’s really fun.
TGE: What’s next for you?
SF: Hard question!! I am currently in college (really busy), but i’m trying to force myself to write every day. I’m starting to research some record labels to release my next full-length (Early Winter Songs was self-released, and it was a tricky process), and I’ll probably go on another tour next summer. If anything, my music is becoming more experimental and electronic-based. I am getting an academic degree, but I always say that academics are just a hobby of mine, and that music is really the only thing I can imagine myself doing every day for the rest of my life.