For the last year, FINNEAS has been primarily focused on writing and producing his sister Billie Eilish’s debut EP, don’t smile at me, which was released on August 11. What most fans may not know is that FINNEAS has been keeping some secrets of his own. While we were thinking he was immersed in Billie land, FINNEAS has kept his very own solo music tucked up that very stylish sleeve of his, and turns out, it’s just as inventive and fresh as his sister’s.
So here’s the dreaded part where you’ll wonder if FINNEAS sounds anything like Billie–people will likely compare the two, and then realize that all that matters in the end is the music itself. Here’s the truth of the matter: FINNEAS would practically kill you with his charm while breaking your heart into tiny little pieces with his lyrics, and Billie would nonchalantly sing you a story about breaking up with a dude via voicemail on his birthday. More importantly, the two uber talented siblings would laugh at you and tell you they don’t care if they sound alike or not, and neither should you.
Today, you are the first to hear the newest single by FINNEAS, “I’m in Love Without You,” a track inspired by the harmonies of The Beatles, drizzled in minimalist production, and poetic lyrics that’ll make you cry for the boyfriend/girlfriend you never even had.
Having grown up in a musical family, FINNEAS learned to play guitar and piano from his parents at just ten years old. After seeing Green Day live in concert, he deftly decided that music would be his chosen career path. “I asked my dad how to play a Jon McLaughlin song so I could impress a girl. It didn’t work…and instead I fell in love with music,” FINNEAS says. He began writing his own songs soon after, having even recruited his friends to play in bands with an assortment of terrible names, and even required them to wear eyeliner like some of his favorite emo bands Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance.
For FINNEAS, writing more songs doesn’t inspire more songs, but instead life does–and certainly love does, as well. Like some type of genius-level Bukowski, the songs seem to come to him easily, on a daily basis, and sometimes even in his dreams. “I’m in Love Without You” is just the first of many songs FINNEAS has written, recorded, and produced for himself in his bedroom studio. The song itself started from twenty layers of harmony that he says was inspired by his time spent singing in the choir as a teen. The “Bohemian Rhapsody” reminiscent harmony sat unfinished for a while–until one day, the idea came to him in an instant on just exactly he should finish it.
FINNEAS took his choral wall of vocals, chopped it up and sampled it, adding in only handclaps and a bass line, which resulted in a magnificent hip-hop groove, undeniably catchy pop vocal topline, with a dash of R&B flare. The song is pretty much uncategorizable, as it’s quite literally an amalgamation of FINNEAS’ musical influences rolled into a giant ball of earworm happiness. Once you add in his sophisticated and poetic lyrics, which are written circularly and reprise-like, you’ll soon see the song has all the parts that would quite easily make it a hit–if not the track you have stuck on repeat until his next release.
FINNEAS brings an intelligence to music that has seemingly been missing for quite some time. While other musicians rely heavily on collaboration with songwriters and producers, it seems FINNEAS can literally do it all, just by locking himself in his bedroom. Take a listen to the track here, and then check out our Q&A with FINNEAS below.
OTW: Tell us something no one knows about “Ocean Eyes,” which you wrote/produced for your sister?
FINNEAS: The bridge is actually the chorus in reverse. Billie was sending her friend a Snapchat and put the reverse filter on while we were working on the song and it sounded SICK, so I took every vocal from the chorus and reversed them and washed them out with reverb to create the bridge. Crashed my computer.
OTW: Your sound (so far) is seemingly very different from your sisters’ “gloom pop” vibes — let’s ask the horrible question of what you think your individual sound is?
FINNEAS: I think “singer songwriter” became a genre because it meant people who write and play their own songs… these days, I think that should include production. Some people will call it pop, some’ll call it indie, the rest’ll call it alternative. I call it “future crooner”
OTW: How is working on your own solo stuff different from collaborating with Billie?
FINNEAS: When I’m working with Billie, whether it’s writing with her or writing a song for her, it’s got to feel authentic and true for her. It’s got to be her story. This is mine.
OTW: There’s also an older pic that your sister posted on Instagram with this caption “I’m in Love Without You” — what’s the story behind that?
FINNEAS: That was right when I first came up with the line. I remember writing it down and showing her and she said, “Ooooh that’s good” – that’s how I know I’ve got something usually.
OTW: Let’s talk about the idea for “I’m in Love Without You” — you said you started off writing the harmony portion and left it for a few months. Where did the idea come from?
FINNEAS: I remember driving once and thinking the line, “I’m in love without you.” I was at the very beginning of a relationship with a person at the time, and I remember thinking about what it would be like to run into an ex, and I remember hoping she was as happy as I was.
OTW: Let’s talk about the production of “I’m in Love Without You” — after the harmony portion sat around for awhile, describe the moment you realized just how you were going to finish the song?
FINNEAS: I recorded that huge choir chorus part months before I wrote and recorded the rest. Then one day in January, I opened up that session again and I felt like immediately knew the whole rest of the song. I sampled my own voice singing the chorus and created the beat for the verses out of it.
OTW: The harmony portion of the song sounds like it may have been inspired by the Beach Boys or Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” — where would you say you pulled that inspiration from?
FINNEAS: Definitely both Beach Boys and Queen, also obsessed with The Beatles harmonies, and I grew up singing in a choir all the time. I’ve always loved choral harmonies and the dissonance they create. It’s straight-up delicious.
OTW: You produce all your own stuff and Billie’s — what other artists have you worked with as a producer? What has been your favorite non-O’connell project?
FINNEAS: I love working with Gabrielle Current– we’ve written a ton of songs together, she’s incredible. I’ve also loved working with WAFIA– we have a couple songs that aren’t out yet; FLAWES– I co-wrote and co-produced “Blank Dice” for them; Alice Kristiansen– I wrote and produced “Lost My Mind.” And I produced EVALYN’s first single “Filthy Rich”– that girl is so dope.
OTW: Let’s talk about young Finneas. When did the music bug bite?
FINNEAS: I went to see Green Day when I was 11 with my friend Ruby. I remember watching them perform and hearing the whole audience sing every line with them and thinking “that’s it”– I’ve thought that every day since.
OTW: What was the name of the first song you ever wrote? How old were you and what was the song about?
FINNEAS: It was a song called “Don’t Forget Me,” and I was 12 when I wrote it. Hopefully, you’ll never hear it, but it wasn’t awful. I’ve written worse songs since.
OTW: You’ve said that you like to start a song with a story concept - Walk us through your songwriting process.
FINNEAS: I’ve written hundreds of songs, and I definitely don’t ascribe to one methodology or another, but I do especially like to decide what the song is gonna be about and have the title in my head before I even sing a note or play a chord.
OTW: What’s next?
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