Feature: Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams Unpacks the Passion, Raw Fervor, & “Heavy Witch Rock” of ‘Tomorrow’s Fire’

Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius
Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius
Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams takes us track-by-track through the heated passion and raw fervor of her third album ‘Tomorrow’s Fire,’ a spirited, smoldering indie rock record reflecting on what it means to be alive and pursuing something meaningful in a seemingly meaningless world.
for fans of Julien Baker, Angie McMahon, Gordi, Laura Stevenson, Faye Webster
“When a Plant Is Dying” – Squirrel Flower




So much of being a musician is relying on the hope of tomorrow and the warmth of tomorrow to guide you forward.

There must be more to life than being on time,” Squirrel Flower’s Ella Williams muses in a moment of intimate inner reckoning, her charged voice aching with unrelenting intensity. “These days it takes a sunrise to remember you’re alive.” Surrounded by a heavy thicket of overdriven guitars and thunderous drums, Williams is both the weight and the relief: A warm beacon of unfiltered humanity, heated passion, and raw fervor, she breaks herself down only to build herself back up again, taking her audience with her on a rollercoaster of upheaval and empowerment, wreckage and redemption.

Such is the smoldering seduction of Tomorrow’s Fire: Williams’ breathtakingly beautiful third studio album as Squirrel Flower sees her at her loudest and her most vulnerable, spilling her guts through whispers and shouts as she reflects on what it means to be alive, pursuing something meaningful in a seemingly meaningless world.

Through soaring highs and visceral lows, she asks questions without answers, confronting herself – and every box she’s ever ticked – in the process.

Tomorrow​’​s Fire - Squirrel Flower
Tomorrow​’​s Fire – Squirrel Flower
There must be more to life
Than being on time
These days it takes a sunrise
To remember you’re alive
When a plant is dying
Throws down seeds for growing
I’m not saying i’m dying
But i’m throwing seeds for growing
I’m not dying
But I’m throwing them to the wind
I’m throwing them to the wind
Throwing them to the wind
– “When a Plant Is Dying,” Squirrel Flower

Released October 13, 2023 via Polyvinyl, Tomorrow’s Fire is as heartrending as it is hard-hitting; the follow-up to 2021’s intimate and raw sophomore album Planet (i) and 2022’s Planet EP is, to put it bluntly, Squirrel Flower like we’ve never heard her before. Like Dylan in ’65, Ella Williams has gone electric – injecting new colors and contours to an artistry Atwood Magazine previously described as a “transportive, haunting experience.”

SQUIRREL FLOWER BRINGS HER “RED STORM CLOUD” TO LIFE ON STIRRING SOPHOMORE ALBUM ‘PLANET (I)’

:: INTERVIEW ::



Whereas Williams called her last LP “a refuge, an act of self-healing, and a musical reflection of Squirrel Flower’s worlds,” Tomorrow’s Fire came about more organically and spontaneously.

“The vision and the story of the record was revealed to me as I wrote the songs,” she tells Atwood Magazine. “I didn’t set out to make a record that sounded like this or had specific content matter; as I wrote the songs, they showed me what the album was going to be, which is a very beautiful truth of the creative process. The record is very influenced by my experiences living in the American Midwest and trying to forge a life for myself as an artist.”

“I had so much more confidence in myself as an artist and producer coming into this record, and I think that comes through in the music. Every element of this record has my touch on it.”

Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius
Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius



Williams describes Tomorrow’s Fire as “heavy witch rock” – she even changed most of her social media and artist pages to describe herself as such.

That shift in sound from the softer, lighter indie folk of her last records, she says, was deliberate – a natural evolution dictated, if not demanded, by the songs she was writing.

“As I wrote the songs, I knew they needed to be loud,” she explains. “They just felt different from my past songs, and I wanted to let them be unrestrained. I really wanted to capture the narratives of the songs sonically. In a sense it’s an evolution forward, but it also is very inspired by my past music, specifically my 2016 EP contact sports, when I played loud distorted guitar for the first time and found it very empowering.”

The album’s name Tomorrow’s Fire comes from the title of a book Williams’ great-grandfather wrote, which itself was inspired by a poem by the 13th Century French poet, Rutebeuf. The line reads, tomorrow’s hopes provide my dinner, tomorrow’s fire must warm tonight.

“I read the book my great-grandfather wrote, which was about a traveling poet and musician in the Middle Ages following his craft through life, letting his craft lead him, and that really resonated with me,” she says. “So much of being a musician is relying on the hope of tomorrow and the warmth of tomorrow to guide you forward.”

Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius
Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius



Thus, Tomorrow’s Fire serves as a sort of kindling for all with a twinkle in their eyes and a fire in their hearts – a source of solace, sanctuary, and resolve pushing us forever forward, onward and (hopefully) upward. Highlights abound throughout this spirited album, starting with opening track “i don’t use a trashcan,” which itself is a re-recording (she calls it a “reimagining”) of the first ever Squirrel Flower song.

“I revisited this song on tour,” Williams explains. “I started playing it live as a way to ground myself while on the road, and it felt like reconnecting with a deep version of myself. Starting the record with this song felt like a nod to the past, an homage to my past self while also launching forward the future of Squirrel Flower.”




That future is one marked by heavy, sludgy indie rock songs like “Full Time Job” and “Alley Light,” the latter of which blends raw passion and pain into an unfiltered, intimate, and brutally honest fever dream.

In “When a Plant Is Dying” – whose soul-searching second verse was mentioned in the beginning of this article – Williams reflects “on the desperation that comes with living as an artist and pushing up against a world where that’s a challenging thing to be.” There are moments of gentle warmth – Williams likens the lush, enchanting reverie “Almost Pulled Away” to an “enveloping velvet hug” – and moments of blithe, dreamy, carefree revelry, as on “Intheskatepark.”

“I wrote [‘Intheskatepark’] in 2019 on a little toy synthesizer. To me, this song is everlasting summer — even as things change, seasons, feelings, relationships, you can still try and feel the perfect lightness of summer, of a new crush, of a pop riff. It’s best listened to while biking around in the sunshine,” Williams smiles. “I didn’t think it could exist as a ‘squirrel flower’ song, but then i realized, f**k it! My music can be expansive. I didn’t want to box myself in in any way, so I decided to record this song and put it on the record.”

Boom. Even Ella Williams can’t put Squirrel Flower in a box – and she is Squirrel Flower!

I told you, I’ve never been in love
At least before I met you
Your hands melt mine
Like a hot day
I almost pulled away
You’re coming to me
Like a vision, like a ghost
Like a car in smoke
Tangled under the moon, casting spells
Orange peel, bitter on my hands
Lover am I crazy to be leaving?
How do people go day to day
When everything is sparkling?
How could I ever think of leaving?
My roots have grown
So I leave out the back of the party
Won’t say goodbye to anyone
I’ve had my fun, I’m done




“The soundscapes that we constructed in ‘Almost Pulled Away’ and ‘Canyon’ are personal favorites,” Williams says of her own personal highlights. “I’m incredibly proud of how those songs sound and the way we built them.” Williams’ favorite lyric also comes from a line in “Canyon”: “Reach my hand, steal your cell phone, throw it into the canyon, I know when a thousand years go by, shifting rocks, different sky, will it be there still on track? GPS tryin’ to get back.”

On my own and on the road
And nothing else I’ll ever know
Reach my hand, steal your cell phone
Throw it into the canyon, I know
When a thousand years go by
Shifting rocks, different sky
Will it be there still on track?
GPS tryin to get back?
Tell me once, yeah
Tell me twice, tell me again
How you want me tonight
Throw me into the canyon tonight




Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius
Squirrel Flower © Alexa Viscius



Putting out Tomorrow’s Fire came as a massive cathartic release for Williams, who had never put out anything of this magnitude before.

“I want listeners to take whatever they need from it,” she shares. “My job is to make the music – in the process of releasing it, I literally release my hold on it. It’s floating in the world now and I have no ability or desire to guide peoples’ reactions to it.”

“Making this record has been the best musical and creative experience of my life – the process of uncovering, excavating, and producing the songs – and I feel like if it changes someone’s state of being in any way, I’ve done my job!”

Intimate and intense, vulnerable and unfiltered, Tomorrow’s Fire is sure to light a spark in all who listen. Squirrel Flower is unleashed like never before on her third LP, and the result is one of the most powerful and moving releases of the year. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Squirrel Flower’s Tomorrow’s Fire with Atwood Magazine as Ella Williams takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her latest album!

— —

:: stream/purchase Tomorrow’s Fire here ::
:: connect with Squirrel Flower here ::
Stream: ‘Tomorrow’s Fire’ – Squirrel Flower



:: Inside Tomorrow’s Fire ::

Tomorrow​’​s Fire - Squirrel Flower

— —

i don’t use a trash can

This is the oldest squirrel flower song that exists. i wrote it in a dingy practice space in the basement of my dorm in Iowa in 2014. It was on my first ep, ‘early winter songs from middle america.’ when i played it live, at my first ever shows, a little DIY 18 year old, I did a 4 part loop with my voice, creating the layers that are now in this version. This song’s everything to me. It’s about the feeling of seeing a concert that changes you, makes you feel like you’re floating, stops time, stops everything, just cradles you in the moment. It’s about accumulating trinkets and branches and notes and flowers and never throwing them out, because they’re too precious.
This is the album opener because it’s an homage to myself. An homage to the real squirrel flower heads who’ve been listening since 2015. A wink to the past before diving into the future.



Full Time Job

Full time job is me screaming into the void about how fucking hard it can be to live and survive in a city as an artist. This is the first song we recorded in the studio. I wasn’t even sure about including it on the demo list and my co-producer Alex was like ‘dude this song is sick! we need to record this.’ We tracked the whole thing in a few hours.



Alley Light

This song is a story that is my own but in twisted ways. A lot of my songs are like that though, not exactly autobiographical but still true. I think because of the nature of my music, people assume my songs are like diary entries. They’re not.
This song actually came out of a jam session I had with my siblings. I wrote the guitar riff, and after that I spent some time on my own fleshing it out in my little home recording setup, and the song was born!



Almost Pulled Away

I wrote this on my late grandfather’s classical nylon string guitar, the tone of that guitar is love, it’s warmth, memory to me. I’m obsessed with putting fuzz on nylon string guitar, the act of taking a classical instrument and fucking it up. Sounds like an enveloping velvet hug to me. There’s a ‘hands melt’ reference in there (love to reference myself). I wanted to make a song about what it feels like to be in love, the dark fucked up mystery to it, the magnetism of it.



Stick

This song is about being pissed off, not wanting to compromise, being tired of being told to compromise. Tired of being let down. Just being at the end of ur fuckin rope. Wanted to capture that feeling of being trapped in the cycle of arguing with someone, and then just letting it all release into an explosion in the second half of the song. I loved the experience of laying down the vocal take for this song. I really had to lean into my power and let it all out.

When a Plant Is Dying

This is the only song we tracked live in the studio. I knew from the beginning that this song needed to be performed live. The energy in the room was unbelievable. I was buzzing.
This song was really inspired by jam sessions in this warehouse in Chicago where my former partner and my sibling lived. It was this kinda skater warehouse apartment, and the only neighbor was a professional BDSM dungeon, so we could get as loud as we wanted at any hour of the day and night. For two years it was a really important place for me, for musical experimentation and release, for hours long jam sessions, supporting each other through hard times with music.



Intheskatepark

I wrote this on a tiny toy synth/drum machine the summer before covid happened. It was a very lo-fi little electronic song that I thought would only exist on my secret electronic SoundCloud.
It’s crush music, summer music, biking and drinking blasting music with all your friends, feeling carefree. I didn’t think it could exist as a ‘squirrel flower’ song, but then i realized, f**k it! My music can be expansive. I didn’t want to box myself in in any way, so I decided to record this song and put it on the record.



Canyon 

I wanted this song to sound like rocks were falling from cliffs, breaking apart, echoing. Inspired by Ry Cooder’s guitar, the paris, texas soundtrack, I improvised that slide intro in my living room for the demo and learned it note for note for the recording.
‘Steal your cell phone, throw it into the canyon, i know/When a thousand years go by/shifting rocks, different sky/will it be there, still on track?/GPS tryin to get back?’ is one of my favorite lines i’ve ever written. My little sibling Nate is a welder/steelworker and I had them take a field recording of some metal grinding. It’s in there, pretty loudly, intertwined with the guitars.

What Kind of Dream Is This?

I wrote this song while at an artist’s residency on the top of a massive mountain in california, in a strange gray area between the southern sierras and the sequoia national forest. It was the first song I wrote ‘for’ the album. I’d come out of a really painful period of music-related burnout, just completing a very long tour and just feeling like I didn’t know my place in music.
I had a dream of this incredible scene, many stars and moons in the sky at dawn with these huge amazing blimps flying by, I remember feeling full of magic, hope, weightlessness.
I was smoking and playing guitar on the porch of this residency, literally alone on the top on a mountain. The song tumbled out, it felt like breath. I finally felt like I reconnected with the magic of music. I spent the day making the demo, layering voice upon voice drenched in effects, like the mountain, like the canyons.



Finally Rain

I started this song when a couple things happened. I was visiting my parents in MA and there was a severe drought. My mom grows most of her own food and works on a farm in the summer (she’s a teacher during the year), but everything in my mom’s garden was dead. Then there was a massive chemical spill in the town next to where my partner at the time grew up. When that huge spill in Ohio happened in february, all I could think of was this song. That it happens all the time. That most of the time it doesn’t make the news. They tell us it’s fine and to move on, but they don’t drink the water.
And so how can I be expected to grow up, to get a job, to lighten up, to take it easy, when this is the reality of the world? When the idea of ‘future’ is tenuous?
The last verse is an homage to my relationship with my family and my best friends. ‘We won’t grow up.’ It’s the realization and the fear that the earth has an expiration date, but it’s also a promise that we’ll never lose our wonder, our spark, our childlike joy while we’re still here.

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:: stream/purchase Tomorrow’s Fire here ::
:: connect with Squirrel Flower here ::



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Tomorrow​’​s Fire - Squirrel Flower

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? © Alexa Viscius

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