Everybody loves Billie Eilish. Her debut album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ got a whopping five stars from NME, for one, and has since gone on to break all kinds of chart records both here and in her native America. It’s set to be a once-in-a-generation release.
Those who’ve been following Billie since her breakthrough a couple years ago and subsequent early live shows will know that it’s a bit more of a team effort than is let on. ‘Ocean Eyes’, the song that set her career in motion back in 2016, was in fact penned by her older brother Finneas O’Connell for a previous band he was in. Since, the pair have worked together on every release by Billie, with Finneas producing and co-writing the album with his sister and becoming a part of her touring band.
As they ready themselves for Coachella, and Finneas prepares to release new solo material, we caught up with the 21-year-old to talk about recording in his home studio, which song on the album is about global warming and what comes next.
People are poring over the album. Are there any secrets or Easter Eggs that are yet to be found?
“We made this as a self-aware album: it knows it’s an album and it references other songs. The listeners are always engaged and excited, and it’s a lot of fun being part of the conspiracy culture. A friend of mine told they read one which said that ‘All Good Girls Go To Hell’ is all about climate change, and they actually got that one right!”
Are there any fan theories that have been really off the mark?
“Many of them put so much meaning into it. Not that they’re off the mark, it’s more like they think about it more than we do. That’s wonderful. I stopped telling people what lyrics meant to them when I saw them tattoo it on them, because it clearly meant much more to them than it ever did to me.”
How does it make you feel knowing people have tattoos of your lyrics?
“Nervous! When I think about albums I liked when I was 15 and now when I’m 21, so I really hope they don’t think that’s a stupid line and regret it in a couple of years.”
The production on the track ‘Xanny’ feels particularly forward-thinking, especially at the chorus. Was that a deliberate decision?
“I wanted it to feel jarring. It was a calculated imitation of inexperienced music production, I got obsessed in the last year without Soundcloud rap which is made quite carelessly- in a positive way. It has a raw, new age feel and I wanted this to feel like its tearing the song in half.”
There are few samples from The Office in ‘My Strange Addiction’, why did you decide to put that in and was that hard to clear?
“Billie had come in and said that song reminded her of an episode of The Office. The name of the character in that episode was Billie so I threw in a quote. Our label was so unhappy when I told them they had to try to clear it. It was a huge pain to clear and I didn’t think it would make into the final cut”.
You recorded the album in your bedroom, but you’ve moved out of the family home now. Will you go back there to record?
“We might. Since we finished the album we haven’t sat down to make much music. I don’t particularly like recording studios, they tend to be lifeless and without any natural light, so I wanted to record wherever we lived. We just don’t want to be bound to a studio to who we’d have to pay untold sums to. I think the only thing that might bring us back to the bedroom is that our mom lives in that house. Having your mom come in with delicious food, telling you she loves your music is a priceless confidence boost.”
Where there any tracks that were hard to finish or get the production right on?
“‘All Good Girls Go To Hell’ or ‘When The Party’s Over’ were both quite hard. We went into it thinking we know what it’s supposed to sound like and there’s always a danger to going into things with preconceived notions . But ‘Bury A Friend’ and ‘My Strange Addiction’ were joyous.”
How different is the writing process when working with others compared to working with Billie?
“When we are making a song for Billie I want it to resonate and speak the truth with her and want it to be a piece of fabric she can wear. We beat ourselves over things but with other artists you can rely on making them happy and forget about whether the music speaks to you. The amount of times I’ve been told something by artists I’m working with, which I’m sure they haven’t told even their significant other or families, is shocking.”
You put out your latest single ‘Claudia’ a couple of months ago, what have you got coming up next?
“I want to put out a lot of songs in succession this summer, with the first coming out in the first week of May. You need a large following willing to wait for a full album in today’s climate and singles help do that. I’ve also been opening for Billie a lot the past year and playing my songs live which informs what kind of songs I want to make.”
Can you tell us about these songs?
“There’s a new song coming out in May called ‘I Lost A Friend’ which I started writing after beginning therapy last year. It might be the only song I’ve put out under my own name that doesn’t have to do with a girl. This one is based around a therapy breakthrough, and writing this song was a big part of processing my emotions.”
Has there ever been a song you were really uncomfortable with sharing or putting out?
“Yeah, all my favourite ones. All the songs that we aren’t completely sure about, are the ones you need to put out. Like ‘Claudia’ was not lyrically dangerous but calling it that after we’d dated for a very short period was quite dangerous in itself!”