Finneas Reveals Everyday Sounds Hidden in “Bury a Friend” and “Bad Guy”

By | February 14, 2020

-Welcome to the show
and thanks for talking with me. -Thanks for having me. -For those who don’t know, you
are a songwriter, a performer, a producer as well. And you’ve worked with
Selena Gomez, Camila Cabello, Halsey, and most famously,
I think, is probably your number-one collaborator
is Billie Eilish, your sister. -That’s right.
[ Cheers and applause ] -When did you guys first realize that you would be good working
together, you and Billie? -Well, I always knew she had
an incredibly beautiful voice. But I didn’t want to force her
into child labor. So I kind of waited
until she wanted to. You know? -How much older are you
than Billie? -Four years.
-Four years. And you saw it
when you were a kid. You were like,
“Oh, she’s got something.” -Her voice was always so much
better than mine. And it’s just like one of those
where you’re like, “Oh, yeah. That’s just the way it is, huh?” [ Laughter ] And then when she seemed
interested in recording, I was like, “Well, let’s try
some stuff out.” -And what did you do? You just put something — Like, where did you perform
and what did you put out? -Well, the first couple things
we did just lived on
the website SoundCloud. -Oh, yeah. -We did one song that hopefully
people don’t know very well because we’re not
super pumped on it. And then we did another one
that, hopefully, people also don’t know
very well. -You don’t have to
say the names. -And the third one we did
was “Ocean Eyes,” which people heard.
[ Cheers and applause ] -And how many people — When did you realize,
“Oh, we got something here”? -Well, we put it out
because we had no schedule. We weren’t on a label
or anything. We just put it out one night
and then went to bed and then woke up
the next morning and it had like 1,000 plays
and we were like, “I don’t know 1,000 people.
Do you know 1,000 people?” But it was really — Looking back, it was so gradual
in terms of that. But that was what made it
so fun. You know what I mean? I always feel kind of bad
for someone who wakes up with like 10 million views on
their yodeling in a Walmart. [ Laughter ] -Yeah, yeah, I understand
what you’re saying. -It just seems like
it goes so fast that you don’t get time
to appreciate little — Like, a thousand’s a ton. If you had 1,000 people
in your house, you’d be like, “Please, leave.” [ Laughter ]
-This is true. But look at what
you end up doing. Your debut album, “When We Fall
Asleep, Where Do We Go?” debuted at number one, has been streamed
over 15 billion times worldwide. [ Cheers and applause ] 15 billion times. But the way you put a song
together is very interesting. I was asking you about this. You told me that you would
record different sounds and Billie would record
different sounds. And you’d go, “Hey, can we use
this in the song?” -Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, because computers
and everything have gotten so much cheaper
and more accessible, I feel like a lot of music
producers have the same toolbox. And I think, like,
to me, as a producer, I always want something
to set my stuff apart. And so I’ll walk around with
just an iPhone will work, but sometimes I’ll bring
a little mobile recorder. And if I hear an interesting
sound, I’ll just record it, and then later I’ll listen
through them and I’ll go like, “I wonder how I can use that.” So, like, there’s a song of
Billie’s called “Bury a Friend.” And we both have Invisalign,
dental teeth straighteners. And she was at the dentist,
and they were grinding down — They put these attachments
on your teeth, and they were grinding down of
hers with that horrible, like — Like, whatever ASMR is,
it’s the opposite of that. The most unpleasant —
[ Laughter ] -Oh, yeah. -Like…
[ Mimics drill ] Like, that sound.
-Yeah. It’s in your head. -She came home from
one of those appointments and was like, “I recorded it,”
and I was like, “Great.” And we put it right in
“Bury a Friend.” -Let me show you guys. So, here’s the sound
that Billie recorded. This is the drill. Ready? [ Drill whirring ] -When it’s in your brain,
that kind of feeling. -Just playing that really hurt
my head. It hurt my teeth.
Alright, so that was that. And this is “Bury a Friend,” and
you can see if you can hear it. ♪ -Calling security,
keepin’ my head held down ♪ [ Drill whirs ] ♪ Bury the hatchet ♪ -Wow.
-Just a little textural thing. [ Cheers and applause ] -Wow, that’s awesome. Now, I have one here,
that says “crosswalk.” What is “crosswalk”? -So, we’ve toured Australia
a couple times, which is really beautiful,
and in Sydney and Melbourne, when you stand at a street light
and you press the button to cross the street, which — Here’s my poll
that I’m conducting. Do you think those buttons — -First of all,
you’re not conducting a poll. -I’m conducting a poll. You’re the first person
that I’m polling. Do you think the buttons —
-I’m sorry, I’m busy right now. -Yeah, sorry.
[ Laughter ] -Do you think the buttons on
street corners do anything or do you think
they’re just for us? -They’re just for us. It’s almost like the door close
in the elevator. That doesn’t do anything.
-Right, absolutely. -It’s not attached to anything.
Press it as much as you want. And then eventually
the door will close. -The superintendent’s like,
“Yeah, I put those — I count them every day to see
how many idiots there are.” [ Laughter ]
Anyway. -But I do press the button
all the time. -Oh, yeah, me too.
You press it over and over. So, when you’re on a street
corner in Australia, you press the button,
and when the walk sign turns on, you hear this rhythmic sound that I love
and that Billie loved. And so we recorded it,
and it sounds like this. [ Rapid tapping ] It’s got, like, a groove. ♪ -Feels like
the white-winged dove ♪ ♪ Sings a song,
sounds like she’s singing ♪ ♪ Ooh, baby, ooh-ooh ♪ -Perfect.
-Wait. That’s bizarre. Wait. That happens in Australia? -That’s just every time you
cross a street in Australia, you hear that.
-Wow. Alright. So then you use that
for the song “Bad Guy.” -Yeah, the thing people think
are high hats in “Bad Guy”
is actually just that. ♪ -Duh ♪ [ Rapid tapping ] -Here’s the —
[ Cheers and applause ] -Wow. Wow! -Here’s the bonus round, is that
we then went back to Australia after the album came out. And we brought our dad
for the first time. The first couple tours,
we couldn’t, like, bring our — We just didn’t have
enough crew to bring ’cause we have our dad
on our crew, and we brought our dad with us, and we were bringing him
around Australia. It was his first time. And he goes, “Check out
these crosswalk sounds.” He goes,
“How cool are these sounds?” And I was like, “Yep. Yep.” And I was like,
“Check this out.” I played him “Bad Guy”
and he was like, “Wha?” -And you go —
-Yeah, it was great. It was a good revelation
for Pops. -You’re like, “Duh.” [ Laughter ] Come on.
-That’s why he has a show.

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