Musician Ella Williams, who records and performs under the name Squirrel Flower, spent the year prior to the pandemic recovering from a series of concussions, which required her to adopt protocols that ended up serving her well in the COVID era.
I had to process through self-isolation, not going out and socializing, not being on screen and not reading. When the pandemic hit, I was like, OK, I know how to do it, Williams said by phone from her new home in Chicago. “I knew how to deal with that kind of thing, and I went out on tours with a concussion, which creates this strange dichotomy between being in the world and being alone at the same time, which I think is kind of like walking around [amid] Corona virus disease.”
Williams’ poster’s existence almost completely coincided with the coronavirus. The musician released her first PVC appearance, the interior swimming was bornin January 2020, followed a year later with planet (i), an external recording shaped by climate change and mired in natural disasters. (The album’s title refers to a fictional planet to which humanity will withdraw after the destruction of the Earth.)
The planet The EP, as of February, marks a comparative return to intimacy, which is reflected both in the musician’s lyrics (“Your Love Is a Disaster” unfolds like a romantic appeal to someone unfit to return the favor) and in the soundtrack, which finds Williams retreating to Lowest pasture in previous versions.
“I really wanted to show off that raw, handmade music, which is kind of like the stuff I made in my bedroom when I started recording as Squirrel Flower, when there wasn’t any input from other people,” said Williams, who visits the Rumba Café. To attend a concert on Monday, May 16th. “I did my first EP when I was 18, and I’m a completely different person now at 25. People grow and change, and your music grows with that, especially when you’re working with other people, where there are all these outside perspectives. It was nice that I remind myself of what I felt as a kid making music for myself and myself.”
In fact, music has been an intimate part of Williams’ life since his early years growing up in Boston. Her father is a professional bass player, and her grandmother and grandfather were singer and founder of a medieval band, respectively, so she grew up amid constant mixing of gigs. “[My dad] “He would pick me up at school after teaching lessons all day, then take me to choir rehearsal, then drive to the party and my mom would pick me up after the choir,” Williams said. “So I grew up really immersed in this way of life that I had to be a working musician and then we used to play music together all the time too. I started picking up instruments at the age of 4 or 5 and then I started writing songs when I was a kid.”
Beginning in high school, Williams became a regular on Boston’s open mic scene and, soon after, the DIY scene, leading her to begin experimenting with more outside sounds, immersing her vocals in a family of ambient noises—a path she continued to explore after moving to New York. Iowa to attend school at Grinnell College.
“I think the thing that really affected my first EP was attending a sound arts class in college. There was one project where I collected all these voices from the area where I lived, because it was so different from Boston in every way, and I wanted to connect that difference with my friends and family Back home,” Williams said. “And I thought sound would be a great way to do that, sort of create a self-portrait with sound. And from there I came up with the idea of painting a self-portrait with songs. And that was the birth of a squirrel flower.”
Williams’ attraction towards more avant-garde song structures should come as no surprise, given her family’s deep connection to Black Mountain College, an experimental liberal arts school in North Carolina that has served as an incubator for dozens of influential outside artists. After Black Mountain College dissolved in 1957, a few of the artists who lived and worked there, including composer and musician John Cage, moved to Upstate New York and founded Gate Hill Cooperative, where Williams’ grandfather lived for a while, and where Grandma still lives.
“In my initial vocal art class, I remember learning about people like David Tudor and John Cage and being like, ‘Oh my God, these are the people who would watch my dad when he was a kid,'” Williams said with a laugh. . “So, yes, there are a lot of mythical artistic sentiments—not necessarily in my upbringing, but in my parents and grandparents—that definitely influenced me.”