The new single from Ella Williams’ latest album as Squirrel Flower, Planet (i) (June 25, Polyvinyl), isn’t new at all to the true Paste heads out there: “Flames and Flat Tires,” out now alongside its music video, was one of two (then-)unreleased Planet (i) tracks that Williams performed during her January 2021 Paste Studio on the Road: Boston session. Like everything we’ve heard from Planet (i) so far, “Flames and Flat Tires” finds the rock singer/songwriter turning her insides out, addressing universal threats with sage wisdom and fearless vulnerability.
While previous singles “Hurt a Fly” and “I’ll Go Running” dealt with “gaslighting, narcissistic soft-boy type shit” and “the darker side of being an artist,” respectively, “Flames and Flat Tires” cuts closest to the core of Planet (i), reckoning with a world in ruin on figurative and literal levels alike. Over darkly evocative guitars, Williams uses a banged-up car as a symbol for herself (“Busted engine or busted lung”), falling apart on its way to the finish line. The world around that road is broken, too, beset by “drought” and “firestorms”—”Trying to recall how the rain felt on my skin / And scream to anyone who’ll listen!” she repeats as the song crescendos, clinging to a time before climate catastrophe loomed at the edges of all our everyday disasters.
“I wrote ‘Flames & Flat Tires’ on my second day of quarantine in Bristol, England ahead of recording,” Williams recalls in a statement. “It was late August, hot, I was staying in a place that opened onto a party street, and every night I stayed up listening to the sounds of the revelers and the birds squawking and screaming until 6 a.m., then all day watched people hanging laundry in their backyards through my kitchen window. This was one of those tunes that just falls out.”
The track’s accompanying visual, directed by Lua Borges, stars a confident Williams, who moves through the liminal spaces where cars live, drive and die. Warm and fuzzy visuals contrast with cold, calming ones, with Williams the one constant through it all. As she walks (and rides) among the sunsets, streets and scrap metal, you get the sense that everything you’re seeing has surrendered to atrophy, yet Williams stands strong, more than once singing directly into the camera, unflinching. She’s not the car—she’s in the driver’s seat.
Borges explains of the video in a statement:
This video is encased by the imagery of broken parts and abandonment. Objects that have become useless. Physical matter that looks so small inside our world. It gives life to an internal feeling of self-doubt and uncertainty, which the song approaches so intently. But “Flames & Flat Tires ” is also about fighting to overcome that, and staying present fully. In a way, everything that gets discarded needs to immediately use its strength of survival. Even when things get broken down they continue to exist forever. They are also fighting to survive. Metal scraps constantly battling the rust from taking over, or plastic waste that can challenge the most powerful decomposers. It’s the law of nature: everyone wants to survive. The most powerful instinct.
Watch the “Flames and Flat Tires” video and Squirrel Flower’s Paste session performance of the track below, and find her fall tour dates with Soccer Mommy further down.
Squirrel Flower Tour Dates:
25 – Rough Trade Instagram Livestream
26 – Chicago, IL @ Sleeping Village (early and late) – RECORD RELEASE SHOW
15 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse $
16 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle $
17 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar $
18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer $
19 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club $
21 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel $
22 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club $
23 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club $
25 – Montreal, QC @ Fairmount Theatre $
26 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre $
28 – Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop $
29 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall $
01 – Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom $
($ = supporting Soccer Mommy)