Emo Earworms of Yesteryear: Flyleaf

As much as we love new music here at BANSHEE, we also can’t help but get nostalgic every now and then. The music we listened to when we were teenagers in the early- to mid-aughts has had a massive impact on us as adults, including, of course, the creation of this website in the first place. Since we never got the chance to write about some of those bands we loved back in the day, we’re taking advantage now. First up is Flyleaf, the Lacey Sturm-fronted emo band whose self-titled debut album was a jam when it was released in 2005.

I can feel you all around me
Thickening the air I’m breathing
Holding on to what I’m feeling
Savoring this heart that’s healing
My hands float up above me
And you whisper you love me
And I begin to fade
Into our secret place— “All Around Me”

I have to admit: after this album, I never listened to Flyleaf again. But in 2005, when I was 15 and self-harming and dealing with a lot of trauma, their self-titled album was the balm my soul needed. To take you back, 2005 was a year that a ton of really good music was released, including The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan, Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, Gorillaz’s Demon Days, Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods, Missy Elliott’s The Cookbook, Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois, and Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, just to name a few. I think Flyleaf sort of slipped through the cracks that fall, especially as more female-fronted rock bands started to make their way to the forefront of the emo scene.

I don’t think I actually knew who Flyleaf were when I saw their album on the “new releases” rack at my semi-local Best Buy. I may have seen their name floating around Livejournal, but I honestly can’t recall. That being said, I remember picking up that CD at Best Buy as if it were yesterday. I also remember hearing “I’m So Sick” for the first time, absolutely loving Sturm’s vocals — especially how hard she screams.

I’m also certain that I picked up the CD exclusively because of the cover art: an emo boy floating through the air above a dead field, held aloft by two black birds and puppet strings. That was the aesthetic in 2005. The cracked Photoshop texture and weird flame backing the band name also drew me in, as did the tracklisting.

This 11-track record clocks in at just over 30 minutes of emo rock, with tracks like “I’m So Sick”, “All Around Me”, and “So I Thought” most accurately showcasing Flyleaf’s sound. The lyrical content mostly covers heartbreak in its various forms, especially romantic — Sturm also screams about death from time to time, though the angelic imagery she invokes presents a better vision for the afterlife than most bands did at the time.

In preparation for this column, I listened to the album for the first time in over a decade and found that it was as enjoyable as I remembered — there’s definitely nostalgia imbued in the sound, but it’s also a pretty solid record overall.

I also discovered that Flyleaf has four additional studio albums and that Sturm left the band before the release of New Horizons in 2012. Kristen May took her place as lead vocalist, then left the band in 2016. Wikipedia says the band has been on hiatus for the past two years, which came as a shock simply because I haven’t listened to them in ages. I’m not sure when Flyleaf fell off my regular playlists as a teen, but I know it was well before I graduated high school in 2008; their second album, Memento Mori, came out in 2009. Some part of me vaguely remembers the album artwork, so I may have downloaded it in college, but if I did, it didn’t leave much of an impression.

If you want to take a little trip back to 2005 today and listen to Flyleaf, I suggest the three tracks listed above, as well as “Fully Alive”. They’ll give you a firm enough grasp on this record to decide whether or not you want to commit to all 11 tracks. If you listen on Spotify, the re-release also has acoustic versions of several of these songs.

Stay tuned for another Emo Earworms of Yesteryear in August! This column will update on the first Friday of each month and feature throwbacks to some of the best emo bands of the aughts. Have a suggestion for a band you want to see? Let us know in the comments below!

Samantha Puc

Samantha Puc is a freelance writer, editor, and social media manager whose work has appeared all over the web; she collects it at her portfolio site, theverbalthing.com. Samantha lives in Rhode Island with her spouse and three cats. She likes Shakespeare, space babes, bikes, and dismantling the patriarchy. She also likes vegan food.

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