It had been less than 24 hours in LA and I was already kicking off the day’s activities by signing a waiver. In order to join the Billie Eilish Experience, I’d need to complete a waiver with Spotify to reserve my attendance. The waiver asked commonplace things, like if I had any sensitivity to lights or sound. Then it got a little more unusual – was I okay with sudden and extreme changes in temperature? What about fog, smoke and uneven floors? Depictions of spiders and other insects? Any allergies to live animals?
I was filled with equal amounts of confusion and excitement as I began to visualize the strange and immersive environment I was signing up for. At this point, I hadn’t even considered myself a fan of Billie Eilish yet, but I knew I admired her creativity and talent. ‘Ocean Eyes’ had caught my attention in 2016 so I was familiar with her name when a friend asked if I wanted to attend the release party of her newest album, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ Offer accepted, I completed the waiver, sent it back over and received the address for the next day’s event.
From the time we arrived until we left, it was a once in a lifetime experience – including the energy of Billie’s fanbase to the artist herself was intoxicating, genuine and utterly heartwarming. Hundreds of dedicated fans kept a tight line around the block all day, making it clear there wasn’t anywhere else they’d rather be. A larger than life white statue of Billie created by Takashi Murakami welcomed attendees, serving as the first piece of the exhibition to come. Soon after, screams and cries erupted from everyone around us, signaling Billie’s arrival and turning the once still environment into a frenzy.
The premise of the release party was that there were 14 rooms, one for each track of the new album. Billie experiences a neurological condition called synthesia, where information meant to stimulate one of your senses stimulates several of them at once. For example, Billie has said in interviews that her music corresponds to certain colors, textures, days of the week, numbers and shapes. This album release party would be her way of inviting fans into her world with each detail curated by Billie herself.
One of my favorite singles, ‘Bad Guy’ was the first room to explore – this was basically a dirt race track with remote control cars for each attendee.
My friend and I masterfully manuevered our little corvette with care, noticing several spikes sticking out of the dirt along the path. A placard next to the site read:
Touch: Chunky, solid, hard
The next room, ‘Xanny’, featured a completely bright, white room with instructions at the door to remove your shoes. Upon entering, a fluffy white rug covers the entire floor as a steady fog fills the room while a projector light beams through it. We took a seat on the floor and laid down as the song began to play, rubbing our hands against the soft textures as the bass rumbled beneath our backs.
Color: White/light grey/smoky
Touch: Rough, smoky
‘All Good Girls Go to Hell’, was the third and smallest room of all, featuring a metal grate floor and projection mapped flames covering the walls. I could barely last 1 minute before I was covered in sweat.
‘8’ was up next and it absolutely didn’t disappoint – this room was completely filled with playpens of adorable PUPPIES and plush, purple flooring! Each cutie was ready to be adopted, courtesy of local Los Angeles Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue. After spending way too long playing with the pups, we eventually had to move onto the next room.
The next room was filled from floor to ceiling with hand written notes from Billie’s fans about their love and appreciation for her music. There were about 10 desks filling the room, and each was covered in art supplies and materials for attendees to write their own notes of love and appreciation for the exhibition. Unfortunately, I didn’t grab the name of this room.
Next was ‘Bury A Friend’, where you had to crawl underneath a large bed as seen from the Bury A Friend video. With the bed being about 10 feet high, it felt like a real Alice in Wonderland situation. You’re given a flashlight before starting the crawl, and upon emerging from the pitch darkness of the bed, you enter another completely dark room. Using the flashlight, we were able to read lyrics from the song written on the walls as we navigated our way around. This was an overall creepy cool vibe, and I loved this installation the most.
‘You Should See Me in a Crown’ is a huge hit of Billie’s and a fan favorite video. The crown featured in the video was on display in a glass case, and a large projector showing spiders spinning webs. Once your eyes adjusted to the projections, the images became so disturbing that I noticed people, myself included, brushing at their clothes and hair.
‘Listen Before I Go’ was the installation I loved the most – this was the most beautiful room of the exhibition, again featuring floor to ceiling projections to entrance the eye. Giant white clouds covered the walls as a vibrant, hazy sun set over a calming ocean. The floor was made up of hundreds of white pillows and white woven blankets, making it a very chill spot that was hard to leave. If I could’ve grabbed a puppy from 8 and brought it to Listen Before I Go, I would’ve signed a lease right there.
Thank you so much to Billie for sharing her artistic expressions in order to make this experience possible. The innovation behind this event is not only an inspiration from an album release standpoint, but in the way that it centers art and music, the essential connectors for so many.