How would you feel about revisiting songs or even things you journaled, thought or ranted about 21 years ago? Personally, I think it’s best not to even contemplate visit 15-year-old me’s thoughts. However, that’s exactly what brilliantly named Los Angeles rock band Flammable Animal (try saying that three times) are doing with their recently released debut EP that transports us back to our formative music days of the 1990s.
The roots of Flammable Animal first formed way back in 1999, when Jamie Jones-Rodgers (vocals, bass, synth and songwriter) and her old roommate moved to LA from Pittsburgh to join a band. They started writing their own music and played a few shows as a duet, then recorded most of an EP but parted ways before it could be released. However, some of those original songs have been re-recorded and resurrected with Flammable Animal’s first official EP launch Songs To Shut The Door, which was released in August.
The result is something retro sounding, with a very 90s and even 80s feel to it. The EP is a little dark and raw, gritty and grungey, yet absolutely rocky and catchy.
As Jamie tells us: “Two songs from it have been re-recorded for Songs to Shut the Door as homage to the generation of the band and what I was going through back then. It was time to finish what I had started so many times before while playing in other bands as a bass player. No matter who the players were, we never seemed to get to the actual recording process before someone left the band, went missing (artists do that sometimes), etc… I decided to hire an engineer and do the rest myself. I knew it would be more challenging but it would be finished. Behold, a new ‘band’ was born.”
The new iteration of Flammable Animal sees Jamie joined by Dan Yost (guitar) and Alex Skander (drums), along with an engineer and occasional studio drummer. As Jamie adds: “We’ve been fortunate that, by chance, we all get along, work and write really well together. Songs to Shut the Door began with the sole intention of being a pre-production demo for a full-length album that was supposed to be recorded in LA.
“After finishing about seven scratch tracks for the demo, I decided to make it a two-part EP project. It made sense since there was a distinct divide in the vibe of the tracks I had created. I’m hoping the band is able to come together next year to record the second EP, Songs To Open A Window.”
The EP kicks off in rocky fashion with a lively intro to You Don’t Know Me, which drops into Jamie’s engaging opening vocals. The vocals intensify and flow into a big catchy chorus “You don’t know me at all, And you won’t see me smile again, And you will never have to say you love me when you don’t mean it, You don’t know me at all, You won’t see me smile again, And you will never have to say you love me.”
A cool little guitar solo bridges between the chorus and a second verse containing the awesome vocals “Impossible to do without the girl that made you break my heart but she’s in someone else’s bed, Overwhelmed, you’re overcome, I’m not that naïve or that dumb to let you back into my life so you can fuck it up again.” The vocals again build up into another singalong chorus, which ends with lively guitars and a cool solo to bring the track to an upbeat ending.
That’s followed by I Need To Be Alone, which opens up with palm-muted guitars that continue under the opening lines “You can achieve your idea of perfection, But you still need quite a bit of correction, It’s not my job to give you an erection, I hope they take you out, Natural selection.” That flows into higher-pitched vocals “‘Cause I need to be alone now, But I don’t wanna be alone now.”
The song suddenly picks up pace, sounding somewhat Placebo-like, with fast-paced guitars and drums, under drawn-out synth notes and faster vocals. Give it a listen here:
The final 90s written track, Fun Boy opens up with cool guitar chords that drop into Jamie’s engaging vocals over palm-muted guitars. A laid-back solo intersects two verses, the second of which opens with the line “Starting again, Remember way back when, You were so much fun boy, Everybody’s faded fuck boy.” Then impressive high-pitched vocals take over, check it out here:
Interestingly, the first three tracks are the only ones to contain explicit lyrics, which potentially tells you something about youth vs. maturity. Either way, our first taste of new Flammable Animal is the delicious Get Out, which opens up with Jamie’s laid-back vocals supported by stabs of guitar. It picks up pace with the line “But I’m holding on to sorrow, Don’t wanna see tomorrow, But I’m holding on and holding out for more” as synths join the guitars and drums.
The EP concludes with two things that are very 90s. Firstly, a song that has two names… and secondly, a hidden track, which I used to love on CDs I bought way back when (I’m thinking Nirvana Nevermind, for example). Love it. That final track is You Don’t Have Time / Nice To Know You.
On the EP, Jamie told us: “The reception has been favourable, especially since we are unable to tour to promote the EP. It was important for me to re-record the older songs as they sounded when they were written, which I feel we accomplished. I’ve gotten comments from people saying they identify with the lyrics. We all go through hard times, bad breakups… typical human life stuff. I’d be remised to say I enjoy playing the first three songs I wrote as a kid twenty years later, but I understand some people have a genuine connection to them. I don’t want to be an artist who refuses to play material for people who appreciate and support the band.
“I think setting expectations can be dangerous and lead to disappointment. That said, I suppose people could expect to hear a little retro feel from us on this project. Most of the tracks were recorded in one or two takes with minimal editing. The production is good and not overdone. I asked Dan to bear with me during production as I kept some bad notes and flat vocals because I just like it sometimes. Your ears aren’t always expecting to hear that. Yes, there’s also a valid reason for that.
“I believe we achieved a sound that’s still gritty, yet polished, with fewer tracks and less effects. It’s intentionally reminiscent of some 80’s and 90’s sounds, but it’s definitely different. It’s interesting for me to release an introductory EP as a ‘new artist’ using several songs I wrote in 1999. I thought it would be a good way to connect the dots from the past to the present since there are people who remember my band from years ago and also a lot of new listeners. I’m lucky to have support through the magic of the internet and social media. The reach has been impressive and exciting. I’m ecstatic people are giving us positive feedback.”
The Flammable Animal sound has been shaped by many different artists and bands that they decline to name, other than Jamie listing Depeche Mode as her favourite band.
But on what inspires them to write music, Jamie explains: “I write what I hear in my head. I’m not a technically trained musician. I don’t read music anymore, and I barely know notes. As far as the subject matter, I mostly write about myself. For this project, it would seem I only wrote about other people. Or, did I?
“These songs recount some dark situations in my life. It’s pretty obvious to take the literal meaning of the lyrics without delving deeper. I tend to write with duality. It’s most interesting to me when listeners share their opinions of song meaning or what it means to them. I’m fascinated by the interpretations.”
There’s plenty to come from Flammable Animal, and we’re fairly certain we won’t have to wait another 21 years for their second EP! They are currently writing the material for Songs To Open A Window, have merch in development, you can grab their CDs – which, let’s face it, is the best way to listen to a 90s throwback EP – on their website, and Jamie is part of several other side projects.
But, as she tells us: “Each project we do will sound like us but most likely have a totally different vibe from the former release. There will not be another throwback project in the future. The next batch of music from is going to be a little darker, sexier and more aggressive. That said, there are still a few ballads on the upcoming EP. Don’t worry. There is no shortage of sad songs for the diehard fans, but it should be a more modern representation of what the band sounds like. Things tend to evolve organically in the studio with us. I can’t say what the end result will be, but I look forward to creating more music and moving forward.”