Interview + Photo Diary: Billie Eilish x Laneway 2018.

Currently wearing multiple gold chains and a vegan lolly lei around her neck (we jest that she’s covered in chains), Billie Eilish and I have found a couch in the lobby of her hotel to lounge on - a rare moment for Eilish to relax, having spent her day off exploring New Zealand, and visiting Hobbiton.

After selling out her first ever show here last September, and returning to play Laneway Festival (and sell out another headline show in five minutes), New Zealand has a soft spot for Eilish - and the feeling is mutual.

We spoke with Eilish about her upcoming debut album, her new song ‘When The Party’s Over’, and collecting perfume from fans on tour…

COUP DE MAIN: It’s been such a whirlwind since we last caught up with you in September last year - how have you been keeping yourself grounded throughout this crazy time for you? And congratulations on ‘Ocean Eyes’ just going Gold in the U.S.!
BILLIE EILISH: I don’t even know. I kind of have to not think about it a little bit. I feel like the more I talk and think about all the crazy things that have been happening and process all of them, the more it gets to my head and I don’t take it as it should be taken, do you know what I mean? I don’t want to say more ‘as a fan’ but that’s pretty much what it is. It’s me freaking out about things like playing with some of my favourite artists which is a huge deal and I kind of want to just enjoy it, but you need to just zone into yourself and focus on what you’re doing and what you’re focused on. So when I’m home and not here, when I’m not on tour, I try to just do normal shit.

CDM: What was it like performing ‘When The Party’s Over’ last night for the first time ever?
BILLIE: It’s crazy because we haven’t done that before for anybody at all, except our managers one time, so it’s completely unheard of really. As you saw, I sat down on the front of the stage and made everyone back up a little bit, which meant they were still right in my face and I had phones in my face, but it was a real moment I had with them. It was face-to-face with them and singing something that I’d never sung for anybody that’s also really close to me.

CDM: Was it a deliberate decision to do it right after ‘Party Favor’ in the set?
BILLIE: <laughs> What’s kind of weird is that Finneas [O’Connell] called it that when we wrote it because it’s kind of a sequel to ‘Party Favor’. ‘Party Favor’ is cheerful sounding, it’s still like breaking up with someone--
CDM: It’s in a jolly way though.
BILLIE: Exactly. It’s not really, ‘I’m sad’, you know what I mean? So ‘When The Party’s Over’, I feel like that’s such a sentence. It’s like, ‘I’ll call you when the party’s over,’ you’re on the phone with someone and you can’t hear them, they can’t hear you, it’s loud, they’re mad at you for some reason. I feel like everybody's had that struggle with someone - somebody on the phone yelling for some reason, and you’re just like, ‘You know what? Fucking leave me alone.’ Yesterday, an hour before the show at soundcheck, we decided to play it, we wanted to play something unreleased or whatever and we were like, ‘Where should it go?’ We wanted it before ‘COPYCAT’, and then it happened to be right after ‘Party Favor’, which was just perfect. I realised that as I was singing it.

CDM: I saw a heap of YouTube videos went up of the song already.
BILLIE: I haven’t even looked. I can imagine.

CDM: Was it important to you to be able to perform to your underage fans at the show, especially while on the Laneway circuit, which is all R18 festivals?
BILLIE: Oh my god, it’s like one of the most important things to me, because I couldn’t have gone to Laneway if I wasn’t playing it. I wouldn’t have been allowed to and I get it, I get that there are rules and also there’s alcohol and everything, but I just want to have fun. I had fun and I didn’t drink alcohol or smoke or do anything. The thing is, I play so many shows and I don’t book my shows. I don’t do that, that’s not at all an artist's job to book shows. A booking agency does that, so people are like, ‘Billie, you’re playing a 21 and over show, you’re playing an 18 and over show, you’re playing a 16 and over show, fucking change it, why did you pick that venue?’, and it’s like, ‘I didn't do it!’

CDM: It’s hard, ‘cuz you get the reaction from your fans directly.
BILLIE: I have nothing to do with it, if I could change it I would, I just can’t. It is really annoying and it’s definitely really important for me to play-- if I have to play shows that are over-age, which I like playing, I like playing shows no matter what, but if I have to play those then I love to play extras shows that are under-age. Especially the New Zealand crowd was one of the best crowds I’ve ever had and that was one of the most of fun shows I’ve ever had.

CDM: When are you going to come back to New Zealand to play some bigger shows, so all your fans can come and see you? Your show sold out in 5 minutes - it’s the fastest that venue has ever sold out.
BILLIE: <laughs> Really? That’s so crazy, oh my god. I have no idea when I’m gonna come back. I’m not even gonna think about that.

CDM: You’re basically a regular at this stage though.
BILLIE: It’s really weird seeing you and seeing all the places I went to last time. I’m like, ‘Oh I remember being here the other day,’ this is 14 hours away from my house, in a plane though.

CDM: And how have you been enjoying collecting fans’ perfumes so far?
BILLIE: It’s the most genius thing I’ve ever done. It came to my mind because I’ve always had a really strong sense of smell because that’s the way I remember things. I have a lot of auditory processing disorders and issues with that. It’s really hard for me to learn for a lot of reasons, but because my brain doesn’t process things the same as other people’s brains, so it’s a lot slower for me and I have certain different techniques which I have to use to listen - which is weird to say and it sounds like I’m just not listening, but it’s really my brain actually not hearing any of it. So with smells, that’s always been the thing - I smell this and I’ve been able to follow it around a room. When I was little I would flare my nostrils and go all the way around someone's house and find an apple, and that’s what I was smelling. So especially, you know how you smell something and it smells like this person I know, or this place I went? For me it’s like that except all the time I’m like, ‘Wow, this smells like April in 2011 when I was here,’ and then people are like, ‘What the fuck?!’

CDM: I did a psychology paper and apparently smells get routed through a part of your brain [the olfactory bulb] which is closely connected to the parts of the brain that handle memory and emotion.
BILLIE: That’s crazy. I tweeted that, that’s the reason I did it. I just said, ‘Can you guys bring your perfumes?’, just because the last tour I did, I remember everyone smelled so good and they had their own smells. I remember somebody months after that was wearing one of the perfumes that one of them told me they were wearing. So it felt like, ‘Wow, that smells like that moment and the way I felt,’ so I wanted to have people to bring the memories that I can keep forever. Which is sick.

CDM: I can’t wait for you to go home and have a room of perfumes that you can go around smelling.
BILLIE: Right, I have so many, I’m so excited!

CDM: I’ve seen you loving a lot of people's fan-art of you. If people are coming to a show of yours, what’s the best way for them to get you their art?
BILLIE: Oohhh. Normally I’ll be there after the shows, at festivals it’s a little bit different because that can’t really happen unless there’s a whole thing, like a meet and greet or whatever. If it’s like that just give it to me, and if there’s a meet and greet at a normal show or a side-show or whatever, wait for me at the end and give it to me because I’d love to talk to you about it. If I don’t do a meet and greet or you have to leave, honestly, any of the security guards, or my Mom will be there, my brother, my tour manager will be there. Just anyone, find someone. If there’s an adult wearing a Billie Eilish shirt just tell them, ‘Can you please give this to Billie,' and I’ll find them and I’ll take it.

CDM: One of the venue staff at the Auckland show was like, ‘I found a piece of lost property on the ground,’ and she showed me a Justin Bieber CD. I was like, ‘No, that’s definitely a gift for Billie!’
BILLIE: That was for sure, for me.
CDM: I was like, ‘Please make sure she gets this.’
BILLIE: I got it!
CDM: It was the Christmas album - amazing.

CDM: How has your album recording been going?
BILLIE: At the moment we’re kind of just writing everything, getting it out of our bodies basically. We’re on tour, we’re so busy right now, you can’t really make an album on tour at all. I can’t even take a nap. It’s busy busy busy, so just kind of writing whenever I can. Obviously we had a couple months to chill after the last tour before this one, so we were just writing a lot and coming up with ideas. So far it’s pretty cool and I’m actually really excited to see what comes out of me, because I was so young when this all started and I’m still young now. You know how different you were at 13, and then 16? That’s a huge difference and I feel like I’ve been seen by the world for that whole time and that’s terrifying and I’m gonna keep being seen or so I think, whatever. It’s kind of exciting to see what changes happen to me, how my voice changes, and how my mind changes about certain things and certain people and certain styles of music. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out the other side.

CDM: When is your song with Khalid coming out?
BILLIE: Ummm, <laughs> at some point in the next couple months...

CDM: If you were to make your very own Camp Flog Gnaw, who would you want to play the festival and why?
BILLIE: Oh wow, I’m so down for that. I’m literally gonna read a list off right now. Dude, wow! That would be so sick. I would say, Moses Sumney, I’m in love with just his everything. I don’t even care if he doesn’t know I exist or whatever my name is, I don’t care at all, he is the most talented human being I’ve ever seen. So, Brockhampton, probably Syd, Jesse Rutherford, The Neighbourhood, this girl Mahalia she’s sick, Tekno, this kid who actually opened for me last night, Hans. There’s this girl Clairo that works with him and is really cool. Go Yayo, he’s this rapper. Spooky Black/Corbin, Xavier Omär, BobbyRaps, Ski Mask The Slump God, XXXTentacion, Tyler, The Creator--

CDM: Do you love your Tyler, The Creator x Converse shoes?
BILLIE: They’re so sick, I love the yellow ones. He’s such a genius, good lord. There would be a lot more artists but those are the ones I’m thinking of.

CDM: What’s your favourite Moses Sumney song and why?
BILLIE: Wow, that’s a hard question. My favourite album, which is his main project, is ‘Aromanticism’. Oh my god, ‘Quarrel’ is amazing. The main things I like is I’m pretty sure he produces all his own stuff and it starts with this crazy stacked vocal harmony and then it goes into this kind of super low-key ‘oooh’, and it has this one noise that I’m so obsessed with and I have no idea what it is, it’s kind of just, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch.” It’s like a squeaky sound? It’s sick, oh my god… just everything in that song. Also in ‘Lonely World’ and the song that’s in the intro to that right before that song which is called ‘Stoicism’, the melodies in that song are unbelievable along with ‘Indulge Me’ which is actually the first song I ever heard from him where I was like, ‘What the fuck is this, this is amazing?!’ ‘Plastic’ is amazing, just the whole album. Just my favourite freaking artist. I literally sat backstage in awe the whole time, my mouth was wide open.

+ Billie was kind enough to make a photo diary of her time in New Zealand for us - check it out below…