Ethel Cain's 'Crush' Video Is a Small Town Fantasy

Ethel Cain's 'Crush' Video Is a Small Town Fantasy

Ethel Cain has been renting a converted 19th century church in rural Indiana, which she's shared with others after moving to the 6,238 square-foot space from her native Florida. Having grown up in a Southern Baptist community — and leaving Christianity at age 16, only a few years before coming out as transgender — the small town spot became about personal reclamation and, ultimately, helped inspire her 2021 EP, Inbred.

Cain has since made the decision to move out and relocate to Alabama near the Florida line, where she'll be working on new material in the coming months. Before leaving the church though, she self-directed an "experimental" music video for "Crush," featuring her sister, Salem, and shot entirely on a shaky handheld camera. This follows a bedroom visualizer for the track, released back in March.

"We just ran around our house and the little town we lived in for three days and shot some fun footage that I felt matched the vibe of the song," Cain told PAPER. "The song doesn't take itself too seriously, so I wanted the video to embody that. No glitz, no glam, bad makeup. I felt very sexy and silly running down the road barefoot with half my hair up in curlers. Lil Cuyler and Marlboro Reds forever."

Drenched in slurred autotune and dreamy chilled-out guitar, "Crush" is Cain's version of a love song for a guy who lies about keeping guns in his locker, wears all black, has a daddy on death row and looks like he works with his hands. "Good men die too, so I'd rather be with you," she sings wistfully, making sex in the back of his mom's Mercury somehow sound romantic.

In the video, Cain parades around town on a pickup truck's bed wearing a striped bikini top, short denim shorts and curlers in hair. She chain smokes and sings along to an old speaker with Salem trailing behind on a vintage baby blue bicycle. Cain gradually gets ready — showering and dressing in a white frilly dress with matching pumps — before driving to a graveyard to have a smoke with one of the residents, six feet under.

The song itself sees Cain reflecting on her time attending high school at a Florida community college. "I really had no business at 16 having week-long relationships with random 23-year-old drifter students, but at the time I just thought they were so cool," she said. "You know, the deadbeat stoner skater boys who definitely weren't making it over the county line. It was out of total innocence that I ever envisioned a future with them, but damn it if I didn't daydream about them all the same."

Watch the PAPER premiere of "Crush," above and stream Ethel Cain's Inbred EP, below.

Photo courtesy of Ethel Cain