"What If I Died" Dives Into the Highs and Lows of Willis Earl Beal's "DIE"

The short film, directed by Dan Buyanovsky, works off of a disconcerting song from Beal's latest album, 'ALMS.'

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Oct 5 2018, 6:56pm

It's been almost nine months since Noisey last spoke with Willis Earl Beal. In that time, he's released (as Nobody) ALMS, an often disconcertingly beautiful record that carries on—sonically, at least—where the sprawling Circle, Turn, Sun & Moon drifted off. Lyrically, it's one of the most emotionally candid and, as a result, disturbing records that Beal has ever composed. "These are Ambient Pop Love songs that are also Prayers to the Universe," Beal wrote of the record on Bandcamp, belying some of the existential horror at the record's core.

"DIE," one of the album's most difficult songs, now has a short film alongside it. Written and directed by erstwhile Noisey contributor Dan Buyanovsky, "What If I Died" explores the terrifying highs and lows of a partnership on the brink. It stars Julee Song and Adam Budron as unnamed lovers, attempting to work out the flaws in their relationship, descending into violence and falling into bed.

"Willis is an incredible artist," Buyanovsky wrote in an email to Noisey. "We first worked together when he released Nobody Knows. I wanted to film him doing an a cappella performance, and without prompting he arrived wanting to perform the exact song I’d had in mind. We were in sync, but he was nervous. So he kept the mask on and delivered the performance in one flawless take."

"A few years later he released ALMS, an album of melancholy love songs. When I heard 'Die,' I wanted to explore the idea further—what it feels like when you’re in the throws of the worst nights. When all the familiarity you have with someone reaches a tipping point of contempt."

Willis responded with an email of his own:

I am told that life is short.
In my experience,
everything is so fleeting,
so I cling to what seems
real.
For me, the only thing that
seems real is my relationship,
but the vulnerability is like
a dark hole in which I could
be lost forever.
These are the stakes.
My love sacrifice removes
Identity and I become
formless.
I am Nobody.

Watch the video for "What If I Died" at the top of the page, and catch Willis Earl Beal on tour across North America with Cat Power this winter.

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