Boy Epic wants to be the first artist to submit music videos to the Sundance Film Festival. His latest effort to that effect, “Trust,” was released June 8 on Playboy’s website.
The provocative pop musician/filmmaker grew up in Frisco and lives in North Dallas.
Since bursting onto the scene three years ago, Boy Epic has had success with “Scars,” an homage to Suicide Squad that has more than 2 million views; "50 Shades," inspired by 50 Shades of Grey, which has more than 11 million views; and the sexually charged video for "Dirty Mind,” which has nearly 4 million views.
Michael Hafford of Playboy described the latter as featuring “nearly as much nudity as we do in our magazine.”
“Once I’d done some soul searching, I made the connection between my love for movies and my love for music, and that’s when it all started to come together for me," Boy Epic says.
As a child, he was surrounded by music and film. His mother introduced him to Depeche Mode and U2, and his father was a professional bowler who also played drums in rock bands.
“When I was young, I’d hang around with my father and his friends at the bowling alleys and the bar — all these old-school rock-and-roll dudes," he says.
The two of them would also watch movies together frequently.
“We weren’t watching Disney movies or cartoons — it was all these intense dramas, a lot of Martin Scorsese," he says. "I think seeing those movies at such a young age made my mind the way it is now and led me to write all these very dark songs I’ve come up with over the years.”
After getting a guitar for Christmas as a young boy, he taught himself how to play A Great Big World's "Say Something" and Christina Perri's "Human" and quickly expanded into writing songs of his own.
Boy Epic's latest song and video, “Trust,” builds on his noir aesthetic with a script that includes murder and pills. And so far, the response indicates Sundance isn’t a pipe dream. Boy Epic directed the video, and in the two weeks since its release, it has already been watched 765,000 times.
The video was filmed in Los Angeles. Some of his early videos were shot in Hawaii and Laguna Beach because he needed a beach setting, but every other Boy Epic video has been filmed in Dallas.
The jittery "Trust" video starts off with a sinister whistle reminiscent of a horror flick. Then the music, with lyrics that speak to topics like world domination and substance abuse, kicks in.
Boy Epic describes the depiction of addiction in the video as “a metaphor, if you will, for all things that break trust in people’s lives in whatever capacity that may be. It remains open for the viewer’s relatability.” The beat is undergirded by synths and stomping percussion.
“I’m fan of big drums,” Boy Epic says. “They bring a certain intensity to a song that is just undeniable. Whenever I get the chance to use big drums in a song, it’s all or nothing.”
For the track, Boy Epic collaborated with several people, including Cut Down Trees, a musician who has played a significant role in his foray into film. In 2014, they worked together on a trilogy of short films.
“The beat in particular was the first thing Jason Evigan, Cut Down Trees and myself established when working on ‘Trust,’” Boy Epic says. “After that, it all came together.”
The melody of “Trust,” on the other hand, is quite delicate and pretty. But Boy Epic’s key changes infuse the work with spookiness, recalling Kanye West’s “BLKKK SKKKN HEAD” — but with brighter vocals that blend Depeche Mode, the Knife and Frank Sinatra.
The release date for “Trust” coincided with West’s birthday. Was it a nod to the rapper’s influence? And what about the wolves mentioned in the last verse of “Trust?”
“I wrote ‘Trust’ before Kanye’s ‘Wolves’ came out,” Boy Epic says. “It was just a happy coincidence. And yes, I have a deep respect for Kanye West. He’s a musical genius.”
The contrast evident in “Trust” is intentional, according to Boy Epic.
“As serious as the lyrics may be, the tone of the music is not,” he says. “I felt it to be important to leave the emotion of the song open-ended as well. I never want to tell people how to feel when listening to my music.”
This spontaneity and open-endedness carried through the video shoot.
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“Going into the filming process, I knew what I wanted and what I needed to get, but the magic that surfaced were those little detailed shots that were unplanned,” he says. “That’s the best part for me when directing. For example, me breaking the mirror was never in the treatment. It was a spur-of-the-moment idea, and ultimately it helped explain the story a little more.”
With each video that Boy Epic releases — inseparable from its corresponding track, much like Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade — he is working toward putting out a full-length. He’s calling the project the Boy Epic Chronicles.
When asked where he sees himself in a year, Boy Epic says ‘“touring the world,” but he acknowledges he has plenty left to learn.
“Filming ‘Trust’ was one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had in my career so far,” he says. “I remember wrapping on set after a long day and just thinking to myself, ‘Man ... I wanna start filming the next one.’”