Cole Heramb and The Flame Train hope their audience will feel the burn at their Spring Sing performance.
The six-member band will perform at its first Spring Sing on Friday night, presenting “Ssnake Eyess” from Heramb’s latest album “Goodnight, Black Heart,” released in February. Heramb formed the emerging indie rock band in fall to perform live adaptations of his recorded music. The young band’s collaborative dynamic and spontaneous spunk will ignite the Spring Sing atmosphere with a Latin-influenced, rock-funk fusion track, Heramb said.
“Writing with other people on music is definitely a newer experience, but it’s extremely important because I think music is a social, communal activity and part of being human,” he said.
The third-year evolutionary biology and ecology student said he tried out for Spring Sing last year in a duo with a drummer. However, the two did not end up performing in the show. Since then, Heramb has released two albums and formed The Flame Train group, with which he performs his tracks live.
While Heramb used to create his music solely using vocals, a guitar and drums, he said the band's addition of horns and bass brings jazzy undertones and deeper, more resonant sounds. The range of instruments paired with each band member’s interpretation of his music also gives his art a fresh breath from his previous, more acoustic music, he said.
Claire Housley, a second-year economics and international development studies student, joined the band in March as a bassist. She said she quickly transitioned to The Flame Train’s musical aesthetic by learning to play the electric bass guitar, whose low register produces strong reverberations in the music.
Having only performed with her double bass in orchestral concerts prior to joining the band, Housley said the group’s free-flow performance style did not come so naturally to her at first. However, she soon embraced the natural process of freestyle jamming after a few gigs with The Flame Train. Now, she and the band can seamlessly accommodate Heramb’s spontaneous gestures, such as his unexpected crowd engagement – at UCLA's Coastalong Festival, he coaxed the crowd to repeat back simple melodies during their songs.
“The improvisation keeps it really fun because we don’t really know where it’s going, and I don’t think (Heramb) does either,” she said. “It’s exciting because it keeps everyone engaged and invested in the show.”
David Marcus, the band’s guitarist, said “Ssnake Eyess” is a buildup of climactic moments that explode in an improvised outro. The second-year cognitive science student said the song’s deliberate, lyrical verses supported by the ambient dynamics help build the song to a catchy chorus.
“I’m looking forward to the four minutes I’ll be up there playing with the band in that setting with a full-on adrenaline rush and having a great time," Marcus said. "It’s that same feeling that really brings people to the event.”
After releasing "Ssnake Eyess" as a single before "Goodnight, Black Heart," Heramb said he was confident in the song's ability to stand on its own while accurately encapsulating the band's musical spirit. On the song, Heramb said his voice mimics the serpentine movements of a deadly reptile to match his lyrics, which allude to a predatory lover. Like a boa constrictor, he said, she lures her victim into a fabricated trap – yet the victim does not realize the gravity of the situation until it’s too late.
Guitar and drums build up, culminating in the final chorus, in which Heramb sings, “She’s rolling snake eyes, never fake eyes, oh lucky me.” He said the song’s lyrical interpretations are layered with alternative meanings, since the song is also about the protagonist's projection of his own insecurity surrounding the precarious relationship encounter.
Although “Ssnake Eyess” is about a dark confrontation of one’s own demons, Marcus said the song’s fast pace and the band’s energetic performativity creates counterbalance. Paying homage to their band name, The Flame Train members will wear white, dark-wash denim and pinstripe overalls, alluding to train conductor uniforms.
With The Flame Train now on board with him, Heramb said he has gained new perspectives on what is musically possible to create and perform. In his recent songwriting, Heramb said he is taking into account the band's powerful setup and the kind of sounds that would be enjoyable to play at a live show.
“What music is going to be something people are bobbing their heads to?” he said. “‘Ssnake Eyess’ has that element of connectivity in the beat, which was important for me to bring to Spring Sing.”