In folklore, particularly of nomadic cultures, religions and other fundamental mythologies, the wolf is a popular motif often associated with death, destruction and predatory survival. From Ancient Greeks (who associated the snarling beast with Apollo) and Roman mythology, depicting wolves in close company with Mars, the god of war and agriculture, to Norse beliefs, which presented three malevolent, wolf-like figures, the ravenous creature has evolved, sometimes excessively, through time. Based on 10th century tales told to French peasants (the earliest printed version would later surface in the 17th century), the Big Bad Wolf archetype fed the blood thirst for numerous interpretations and remixes in the coming centuries, including the brutal Brothers Grimm reworking which would arise in the 1800s. Despite the commercialization of such a distinctive, colorful character, there remains a sinister connotation characterizing much of modern retellings found in film, TV, literature and music.
The enigmatic Boy Epic, an eclectic, darkly-rugged singer-songwriter signed to Hollywood Records, wraps his teeth around a braying, melodic stomp, establishing his own version of the Big Bad Wolf. “My love will keep you safe from the wolf,” he howls over thick trap beats, prowling the somber fringes and alighting on his own malevolent fusion, on “Trust,” the first of his three-part music video series. In the twisted “Wolf” clip, part two of his devilishly melancholic and psychological thriller, he constructs a deprivation tank in an attempt to revive a former lover’s adoration. “Keep on burning till I feel it,” he murmurs, the production further blurring fact and fiction, leaving you uneasy and haunted. Drawing upon 2016’s Gore Verbinski-directed A Cure for Wellness, a sci-fi horror flick starring Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth, Boy Epic was struck by its eery, and stunning, visuals. “It really influenced where I wanted to,” he tells B-Sides & Badlands. “Obviously, I don’t have millions of dollars to shoot a video, so I had to get creative. I researched homemade deprivation tanks and how to set it up. I made sure it all looked correct and how it would go down if somebody really wanted to do this to somebody.”
Meanwhile, the “Trust” sequence posses a more polished Ocean’s 11 resonance, which “was my first video where I worked with a crew,” he says. “I’ve always done videos myself. These guys I worked with have been on sets of major motion pictures, commercials, TV and so forth. When we were shooting ‘Trust,’ it definitely had a different approach. They’re all different, and there’s a reason for that.”
The final number, “3AM,” lifted from his forthcoming Everyone’s Strange EP, is set to arrive in 2018, and he promises to heave the viewer into a state of unimaginable shock and confusion. “I think ‘what the fuck’ would be the tone [of that one]. It’s kind of like ‘what’s going on? What does this all mean?’ When you get to the ending, you’re gonna be like ‘WHAT?!?’ It happens so quickly, too,” he teases. “I know a lot of people ask ‘what’s the big pay-off going to be?’ It happens in a matter of seconds to where you’re really going to have to watch it over and over again and even go back and watch ‘Trust’ and ‘Wolf’ to figure out what it all means. I did that on purpose. I don’t want to be obvious.”
Below, Boy Epic talks openly about writing his new EP, self-discovery of the subconscious mind, growing up in a broken home and auditioning for film.
Do you often draw inspiration from film for your art?
I draw from cinema not only in writing my video treatments, but also, whenever I go do a song in the studio, I get every bit of my influence from film and my personal experience.
What are some of your favorite films and directors?
That’s a tough question. I have so many. I’m a huge fan of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Michael Mann, Tim Burton. Some of my favorite films would have to be ‘Vanilla Sky,’ ‘Gangs of New York,’ ‘Inception.’
How do “Trust,” “Wolf” and “3AM” weave together?
When I wrote “Trust,” it hit me deep inside a personal experience. I felt once I finished “Trust” in the studio that I didn’t tell the full story. It’s hard to tell a full story in three and a half minutes. So, I wanted to expand on it with “Wolf” and “3AM.” You’ll figure out who my character really is and what everything is about. I didn’t want to make anything too obvious and leave it open for debate. I’m not afraid to come across as a bad guy or crazy, if you want to say that much. It’s so important to drop an act whenever you’re writing for characters. The world isn’t always a happy place.
In talking about your videos, you often allude to bending fact and fiction. What real parts of yourself are present in this story?
I guess you could say the overall message is something (whether we admit it or not) that happens to all of us. At some point in our lives, if we’re lucky enough to either fall in love or meet someone we think is the right person for us, there’s a self struggle within. Having a low self-esteem is very present.
You’ve described “Wolf” as being a self-discovery of the subconscious mind and consumption of self-hate. How have you dealt with both in your life?
To some degree, we all have bad thoughts that are really hard to control. In today’s world, it’s hard to always stay positive, especially about yourself and with how social media works and how people are with each other. It’s hard to stay confident on a daily basis. With these videos, I wanted to show my character struggling with that. Is he good enough for love? Or is he good enough for this person he thinks he wants to be with? On top of that, is she even real? That’s another mind-fuck. I can say…I have not experienced the ending to the story. That would definitely be beyond crazy.
In what ways have you struggled with trusting yourself and trusting others?
I’ve definitely dealt with those hardships. I gotta say that at the end of the day, you have to trust yourself. You can not put all your eggs in one basket with other people. You just can’t do it. You’ll fail. You have to trust yourself and love yourself. It’s a journey throughout life trying to figure out who you are before you can fully give yourself to someone else.
This series is so raw and cerebral. Do you have a long history of exploring humanity and digging far below the surface?
I haven’t always had a fascination with it, no. Doing music and working in this industry has really tested my abilities to know myself. These past few years, I’ve really touched base with who I really am. It’s really made me think on a deeper level and how powerful the subconscious can be.
In an interview, you mentioned how this video series could act as your resume if you ever had the chance to audition for movies. Have you been able to audition yet?
I haven’t done it yet. I got a lot going on with music right now. Once I get in a comfortable position where I can take some time away from music, that is definitely going to be the next thing to do. I’m not one to really take a break and do nothing. I have a hard time taking a vacation, too. [laughs] There’s so much I want to accomplish. I’ve already written a TV pilot, and I’m currently writing a full feature film. Where those go, I don’t know. If anything, those projects will better my skills as a writer and actor and director.
As a kid, you bounced from your father’s and your mother’s. How did growing up in a broken household impact you and how you viewed relationships?
It made me have a deeper appreciation for relationships and the care for relationships. It made me look at a relationship as a special thing. You have to be careful with it…with someone’s heart. I saw and felt a lot of hurt. I was raised by three women, so my love and respect for women is deep.
Did that feed directly into your music?
It definitely helped me beyond the level of where darkness in life stems.
Why do you feel a responsibility to talk about dark feelings?
We live in such a…I see the way people talk on social media these days. It feels like everybody is putting up this front all the time. It’s such a materialistic world to where it’s hard to figure out who people really are. There are a lot of people with repressed feelings. I have a responsibility to be myself. I look at some artists or films or songs that make me go “what do they really mean? What’s the point? Where’s the deeper meaning?”
That’s slowly losing it’s place in the world. If people give my music a chance, they might realize that “hey, this still exists.” I’m not saying there aren’t other artists doing what I’m doing, because there are, absolutely. They are touching base with their inner realness. I want to be who I am, and hopefully, someone can relate to that. It might help them in the process, too.
What then led you to this dark, brooding noir style of pop music?
It stemmed from my love of film and the kinds of films I love most. When I was growing up, I never watched Disney films. My dad would always take me to see these Rated R movies. I remember watching ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino,’ all these dark films. I’ve gotta thank him for that, because that really molded me into who I am, musically.
Rumor has it, you have an album in the works, in addition to this EP, Everyone’s Strange.
Right now, I’m releasing singles, and each EP is going to have a story behind it. “Kanye’s in My Head” was my introduction into the world of the different feelings and personalities when I’m writing. Once “Trust,” “Wolf” and “3AM” are done, that’s it for the EP. That’s the story. Next year, I’ve already got the four songs that are going to be one the next EP, and I’m working on the story for those. After that, I’m going to be considering piecing it all together for an album, with new songs, of course. I’m going to have a video for every song I put out, too. They’re all going to look very film-like.