Some time ago, Vérité, the recording alter-ego of musician Kelsey Byrne, was in the midst of writing her forthcoming debut album, and was striving to be more vulnerable and candid in her songwriting. On a train to upstate New York to visit her parents where she grew up, she started taking lyrics down on her iPhone—and that went on to become “When You’re Gone,” the second single off Somewhere In Between, due out June 23.
“I remember having a conscious thought: ‘I want to be more open,’” she explained. “A song can be exactly how I feel.” The title, Somewhere In Between, is ostensibly a reference to this dilemma: Byrne described herself as “used to veiling things,” but on the record, she wanted to lift that shroud. At the same time, she’s still a fully independent artist, working with Kobalt label services to release her debut full-length, which she wrote and executive produced in an effort to maintain a distinct voice and sound.
“When You’re Gone,” the video premieres exclusively on W, is a step in that direction. It’s filled to the brim with drum tracks and features a heavy synth drop two-thirds of the way through. And from the very first lines, Byrne makes explicit references to her mental health struggles and the escapist ways of coping that only temporarily ease the pain.
“We take these different things to make the depression better or make you feel better or switch the mood, and they never work,” she said. (That includes but isn’t limited to sex, ice cream, and retail therapy.) “When this thing goes, you’re still left with yourself,” she added.
The video takes the opposite tack to that intimacy. Intensely stylized, creepy and eerie and a little gruesome, it was filmed during a day at a manor in Kent, in the English countryside just outside London. In the video, Vérité sits at the head of a long banquet table laden with cakes, tarts, and fruit (all real) surrounded by an eclectic mix of strangers. (The words “cult dinner party” came to her as she was listening back to “When You’re Gone”; the treatment for the video emerged from there.)
Photos: Vérité, a Pop Star in the Making, Is Just Biding Her Time
Photo by Bon Duke. Styled by Sarah Zendejas. Acne Studios jacket, $1,850, and jeans, $280, acnestudios.com; Jennifer Fisher brass choker, $1,475, jenniferfisherjewelry.com. Hair by Michael Silva for Oribe at The Wall Group, makeup by Allie Smith at Sarah Laird. Produced by Biel Parklee. Photography Assistant: Colin Walker.
Photo by Bon Duke. Styled by Sarah Zendejas. Alexander Wang pullover, $750, and earrings, $295, similar styles at Alexander Wang, New York, 212.977.9683. Hair by Michael Silva for Oribe at The Wall Group, makeup by Allie Smith at Sarah Laird. Produced by Biel Parklee. Photography Assistant: Colin Walker.
Photo by Bon Duke. Styled by Sarah Zendejas. Isabel Marant top, $925, Isabel Marant, San Francisco, 415.781.0113; Jennifer Fisher brass choker, $1,570, jenniferfisherjewelry.com. Hair by Michael Silva for Oribe at The Wall Group, makeup by Allie Smith at Sarah Laird. Produced by Biel Parklee. Photography Assistant: Colin Walker.
It’s a little Victorian in feel: Butlers wheel carts through the dining room as Vérité, clad in a high-collared gown, holds court over the dinner, with a little sci-fi thrown, too—each guest is plugged into a power circuit that seems to short-circuit periodically. It nods to the Kingsman movies and the “dingy, smoggy, hazy” aesthetic of old horror films, she explained, with the unsettling air of the grand ballroom in The Shining where Jack Nicholson toils away at his typewriter, slowly losing his mind.
“I wasn’t looking to interpret the song word-for-word, or even fully,” Byrne explained. “The two are detached in a way.” Until the end, that is, when song and video dovetail. Then, Vérité unplugs from the circuit. Everyone around her shorts out, and she’s left with herself.
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