Speaking via Zoom from the States, Squirrel Flower (also known as Ella Williiams) is tired but doesn’t appear so. Obligatory technical difficulties aside, we speak about the concepts behind her music videos, being mistaken for an influencer and how being on tour influenced her second album, ‘planet (i)’.
Ella’s last album ‘I Was Born Swimming’ was introspective and hypnotic, while her recent single ‘Hurt a fly’ is a grungy and intense track. “I wanted to put myself in the perspective of somebody else. I wanted to write from someone else's perspective,” Ella says.
She adds that her intention was to “make fun” of the person as she wrote the single through their eyes. “The song is definitely, really sarcastic. It's just from the perspective of the person who has been an asshole and is trying to skirt around it; just classic soft boy behaviour.”
“I think it is sort of empowering to write from that perspective and embody a person who is harming you. And especially making it a really loud rock song. It's definitely angry... If you put yourself in the person's shoes, they can't upset you anymore. So there's definitely a bit of headstrong in it. And I guess resentment as well.”
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Making the video, Ella wanted to “lean into” performance art, especially as she studied art at university. “I did a lot of performance and video art. I wanted to sort of play around with that, again, in one of my music videos. So I had this idea to put myself in this bubble. In my mind, it was a red bubble. I would just be doing choreography in it, and trying to get out of it. And we ended up doing it with a clear bubble.
“I think the idea behind the bubble was just this idea of feeling trapped. And I also really liked the way it looked like a spaceship, like an alien egg kind of thing - especially the one scene in the beginning where I'm moving my arm up and waking up and I feel like it looks like I've just landed on a planet and I'm like hatching out of this space egg, which I really liked.”
One day, while practising the choreography one day in a public park - in the bubble - while her parents were helping to film it (they were filming it so Ella could look back and see “what was working and what wasn't” and edit and alter the moves), someone filmed it from across the park and thought she was doing it for “a social media viral video or something”. They submitted the video to an influencer meme page and it got millions of views. Ella says: ”I'm completely anonymous, but I thought that was really funny, because I am not an influencer by any means.”
“It felt really bad at first like I first saw it because somebody sent it to me and was like, ‘Is this you?’ I kind of freaked out to be honest, I had never experienced that sort of Internet fame before, but I was also anonymous.”
The negative comments on the post were hurtful at first. Ella says: “It was just really jarring and I felt kind of violated honestly, because I was just in my hometown practising a thing in a park for art and this woman was just being a voyeur and filming it for her to get likes…” Although Ella “very quickly” stopped being upset about it.
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Natural disasters while on tour helped inspire the second album. ”The first song I wrote for the album was ‘Desert Wildflowers’. I wrote it after I got back from a tour over the summer in 2019. And I had seen a lot of kind of intense climate sh*t happen. I saw a lot of floods and droughts, because I was going all over the country and I just saw a lot of different things that really stuck with me pertaining to weather and the natural elements,” Ella explains.
“I was feeling really scared about it. I wrote that song as a way to face that fear and sort of affirm to myself. I think a lot of my songs are me trying to affirm things to myself and give myself advice. ‘Desert Wildflowers’ was that. It was me saying,’I'm not scared of the storm, I'm not scared of the flood’. But I was!”
“I was trying to tell myself that I wasn't. So that started off the whole album. And then I just kept writing songs that were about the terror and majesty of nature and the elements. And you tried to use that as a metaphor for just life - my internal self and what I experience and think about and go through on a personal, intimate level day to day really.”
New record planet (i) feels more focused, more streamlined than her previous work. The pandemic gave her time to work on her music too. “With ‘I Was Born Swimming’, I had a bunch of random songs that I'd written while being in school and while working. I love that album and I'm proud of that album, but I hadn't given any of the songs the same sort of attention”.
When Ella was writing this album, she was listening to “a tonne” of traditional country music and American folk music which you can hear in her new material. ‘Planet (i)’ is stirring and Ella explores her emotions throughout the record.
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‘planet (i)’ is out on June 25th.
Words: Narza Ahmed // @NarzraA
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