FINNEAS' latest music video opens with a series of familiar taps and swooshes: he's texting someone, furiously. The camera revolves around the twenty-one year old producer and songwriter, a monochromatic canvas for his rich single "Break My Heart Again." Composed almost entirely of actual texts between himself and an ex-girlfriend, the song is raw and startlingly honest. You may not have heard FINNEAS in this capacity before, but you've definitely heard his work. If you haven't, we'd like to know what rock you've been living under.
A multi-instrumentalist to round out his already innumerable skills, FINNEAS is perhaps best known for working with his sister Billie Eilish. "The coolest thing about [learning an instrument] is that a lot of instruments are pretty similar to each other, so once you play one of them, you can play most others. It's a bit like learning the romance languages," he says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. He's recently moved out of his parent's place, where he spent the majority of the last two years producing Eilish's astonishing debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? in his tiny bedroom studio. Despite the close quarters, it's pretty clear that sibling rivalry doesn't exist in the Eilish/O'Connell world. Of course creative differences are inevitable, but the fix seems easy: "[It's about] whoever cares more," he tells me bluntly. "I think there are issues that I don't care so much about and I'm like, 'sure, you win.' And then there are issues that I care about more and I win, you know what I mean?"
His early influences include Imogen Heap and The Killers, and his parents raised him on a solid diet of Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. That said, FINNEAS is anything but pretentious about his tastes. "At the risk of people being like, 'that's not jazz!'" he says cautiously before continuing: "the artists I think of as jazz artists are Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett...I listened to a lot of contemporary Michael Bublé growing up, I just think he has a really beautiful voice. But Nat King Cole for me is like, the dude." Refusing to be defined by genre, he marries his love of jazz with elements of modern production, and effortlessly walks a fine line between electronic and acoustic. A layered, heavy vocal plays a large role in much of his material. He likes this because of its humanity: "If vocal support can be the core element of the production, I'm always going to choose it, because it's the most human element and the most unique...nobody else is going to sound like I do."
Much of the time, as a producer, FINNEAS acts as a mirror for the artist with whom he collaborates. On his own, he is engaging, forthcoming and wickedly intelligent. He's got a convivial humour, and is humble when speaking on his earlier forays into production, noting that the first time he used production software, "[it] was really terrible. But it was fun, even being bad. That's how you get good at things." With material often airing on the side of intensely personal, heartfelt ballads, FINNEAS' latest single is slightly unexpected. It's called "Claudia," after his current girlfriend. It's sexy, a little dark and dangerous. He's conscious of steering away from signatures, and "Claudia" certainly achieves that. "I'm not arrogant enough to think that I don't [have a signature], but it's a conscious goal of mine to not have one...people are always going to know that I'm doing Billie's stuff. But I don't want other artists to think they sound anything like Billie."
This is, he says, especially important for the upcoming chapter of his career, as he begins to collaborate with other artists and expand his production catalogue. He regularly plays songs for his friends that he has produced for another artist, hoping to catch them unawares. "I'll just be lying. Flat out," he laughs. "My friend really likes to say 'I always know when it's you!'...I love to sneak up on people in that way. And the thing is, I just love music. So if I'm working with an artist I love, I don't want to make them sound like me. On the contrary, I want to sound like their best record." Ladies and gentlemen, pop music is in good hands.