At the top of this year, Brooklyn-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Emily Wells released her ninth record, Promise, and below is the premiere of the video for "Pack of Nobodies." It's an unconventional and rather moving pop song that incorporates keening Asian-accented strings, pulsing synths, and Wells's huskily cool tones. The video meanwhile features Wells flitting between instruments in an epic space, which is intercut with five pairs of people in five very different relationships. There's a lot of shades of grey and plenty of ambiguity.
Below is the video and, to unpack this story a little more, a conversation between Wells and director Ben Foster.
Ben Foster: What's this song about? Emily Wells: It's kind of a realization that, we will need the ones we love. And just kind of giving into that.
Ben: Hard truth.
Emily: Hard truth. But at the same time, there is a softness to it, because it’s saying, I know that I will be needed as well and just be willing to be needed. So I would say those two sentiments are where this comes from and specifically—as you know, Ben, this was borne out of a complicated relationship with my best friend, but it also grew into—the meeting [between us] grew into all of the relationships we examined through the video as well. And as far as wanting to work with you, I mean, that also allows the song to absolutely grow. You can only speak to this Ben, but I think for you, you were able to grab hold of this experience and it seemed like a true cathartic act of art for you.
Ben: Oh 1000 percent. When I came to this project I was going through a breakup and it was really just the worst. And when you asked me if I would be interested, being that we are friends, but also I am a fan—and when you played me the song—I just loved it and it spoke to a question, a line of questioning, which I will spend the rest of my life asking. How do we take care of each other and what does the word ‘we’ mean? And that was the word that stuck out to me in your song was the word WE. Supposing that question by five different couples, seems to be a fine way to examine the similarities of care, despite differences of social class, race, sexuality. Bare knuckle—how do we take care of each other?
Emily: I’m sitting outside right now [currently 91 degrees in Brooklyn with heat index of 105] and I have full on body chills. Just putting it out there. You really nailed it.
Ben: So we made a feely thing—we brought in Steven. The idea, I believe I came to you, when you said let's do a thing and I posed this very loose idea that we wanted to make a dance video that wasn’t a dance video. And I started watching choreographer after choreographer after choreographer and the one that came up, that man that everyone kept saying, was Steven Hoggett. He is one of the great movement choreographers that we have and is based in naturalism. Finding dance that is based in naturalism is a VERY specific kind of communication. He flipped out when he heard your music and was just game. Everyone who showed up was game. Following that we were searching for mostly real couples—we wanted to be able to unpack some true intimacies. That was part of the joy of the casting process, as well as finding other talented actors who we paired together. It’s five story lines and we build five different worlds and the game became about intermingling them and their difference were their similarities and that was very appealing to build with Ava [cinematographer].
Emily: One of my absolute favorite parts of the process was getting to do the performance in that empty enormous room and, you know, being a solo artist, I solo the work most of the time; and I remember you just screaming and yelling and going around and around—cause they were shooting me all around—and it was the closest thing I have had to a true bandmate in many years. It was really wonderful. I take that with me now into my performance and if I need a little power I think ‘Yah, get it, get it!’
Ben: Anytime you need a really bad backup singing - I’m there for you.
Emily: Oh you are a hype man. Don’t kid yourself—‘Get it! You got it! Go! Go get it, girl!’