Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Billie Eilish Portrait100717 Jason Williamson

On the Rise
Billie Eilish

20 September 2017, 23:45
Words by Matthew Kent
Original Photography by Jason Williamson

As she gears up for a return to the UK to play her biggest London headline show to date, we catch up with preternaturally-talented singer/songwriter Billie Eilish to find out just why she loves avocados so much.

BEST FIT: How is everything going? It’s been crazy since you released “Ocean Eyes”, completely non-stop, everyone naming you a one to watch and all the music getting so much love.
Billie Eilish: It’s weird, because I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about it, I don’t think there’s an immediate response that if this happens you have to feel like this. You just take it in however you take in, like this is fucking cool. I don’t know, but it’s been really good.

You said you’ve always been a singer, you started singing and that was that. How have you found the transition of just singing to now doing it as a job?
It’s really weird that you can do something, that you just do because you love it and then have it be the thing that makes your life happen. Music has been part of what I do, I never really started singing, I was always just singing or making noise, always yelling, always listening to music, so music has never really been like a thought like “maybe I should pursue music”, because I’m already doing that. That’s already what I do, so having a job that has always been your job is so cool, it’s pretty surreal too.

Have you ever thought about doing something other than singing?
I was a dancer was a very long time, I should still be a dancer, but I got injured so I’m not. Dancing is what I thought I was really doing to be focusing on. I was dancing eleven hours a week, recitals and all that. “Ocean Eyes” actually happened because of dance. My teacher asked if me and my brother could write a song which they could use for a recital, and I thought that was so fucking cool. “Ocean Eyes” just came out so we could send the link to my teacher, it was done, so we put it out.

I mean dancing is what I thought I’d be doing, I kind of still am, because I dance when I’m on stage and I dance in videos and I want to have dancers eventually. I’m trying to get back into dance without hurting my body any more, but I never really thought about having a job job. A couple of times I decided I wanted to work at Target, but that never happened.

You grew up in a really creative household. How do you think that’s influenced you?
My parents are both actors and my brother writes songs obviously, with me, and he was an actor. I’m always surrounded by creativity and in a way, it makes everything great, but it also means if I make something it has to be good or better than that. You can’t really give yourself that standard, because it’s not fair, if you start writing a song a stop because you don’t like it, you should keep writing the song, because you don’t get to a good song, if you don’t get through the bad songs. They’re really supportive and I feel like that’s so important, because so many people have parents who aren’t supportive or a family that doesn’t care about them, that is so sad to me, because it’s so important to have that.

Billie Eilish by Jason WIlliamson

Would you say you’re a perfectionist?
More of a “I just want it exactly how I want it”, instead of a perfectionist, if it’s not the way I want it I don’t care.

“watch” is a particularly amazing track from you, could you tell us a little more about how that song came into being?
My brother wrote that song and he wrote it a week after “Ocean Eyes” came out. The premise of it is being so stuck with someone and having them not care about you at all, which is so much more common than it should be, and being like you know what I’m going to set your car on fire and I don’t care. I feel like it’s really similar to “I Love It” (Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX), that song is a baller. He would explain it better, but I feel like it’s just like I don’t care, I’m going to light your car on fire and all your shit is mine.

In terms of more general songwriting inspiration, do you find yourself writing about things you’ve been through, or is there a more imagined, storytelling aspect to it?
It’s both, a lot of people think you have to go through something to write about it and that’s so not true. You don’t have to be in love with someone to write a song about being in love with someone. You don’t have to hate someone to write about hating someone. That’s what’s so important and so underrated, because writing songs is like writing a book, it doesn’t have to be your life, you can make it up completely.

“Bellyache” is about killing people, obviously I don’t kill people, so it’s not about my real life. It’s fun to put yourself in a place that you would not be ever and that you don’t ever plan on being or you can put yourself in other people’s shoes. I’ve written songs fro the perspective of someone that I’ve hurt mentally, which is hard, because it hurts, but it gives you a way wider perspective and it’s fun.

Are these more themes that will come through on the album?
Yeah, there’s a lot. I mean most of our songs are fiction or work with hypotheticals, a lot of songs will take some normal song and you can write it in a way that’s a metaphor. Melanie Martinez is particularly good at that, I don’t really listen to a lot of her stuff, but she has a song called “Soap” and the whole song is about drowning in a bathtub, because you’re saying too much and the words are the water and the bubbles. People need to do that more, so we do that a lot.

Are there any other contemporary pop artists that you find inspiring?
I mean I listen to hip-hop and rap, but I still hear pop, because you can’t not. What I like about rap and hip-hop is that you can say a lot, not hip-hop now, but old school rap when they’re actually saying something important and everything rhymes and everything is a callback or reference to something like that.

I think me and my brother write a lot in the way rap is, with rhymes and references, writing about the same thing everything is thinking, but no-one is saying.

Do you think it’s important for your music to have some kind of message?
I think sometimes, but sometimes, if it’s just cool I’ll do that.

What do you want people to take away from the music?
I just want people to feel how they feel. “Ocean Eyes” is about something in my head, that is different to what it’s about in my head. I don’t like calling them “my fans” because that’s so weird, but they are so I don’t know what else to call them. I’ll read things that they think about some of the songs that I’ve never thought about before and that’s actually a really cool idea. It’s almost I don’t want them to know what I think about, because I want them to think whatever they think, so just whatever you think it is that’s what it is.

Are there any particular interpretations that come to mind?
Well “Ocean Eyes”. My brother wrote that song and at the time I was going through something with a boy that had dark blue eyes and they looked like the ocean to me. I always thought about oceans when I looked in his eyes, but my brother wrote it and when he sang it for me the first time I thought this is exactly how I’m feeling, how did you do that? It was like he jumped into my head and wrote a song through my thoughts, it was so weird. In his head "Ocean Eyes" meant a bunch of other stuff, which I don’t know specifically, and it means a bunch of other stuff in my head, but I’ve read fan stuff and they’ll think of it as someone crying because it’s an ocean of tears and "you really know how to make me cry” when you cry kind of. I thought that was so cute. I cry a lot, so I understand you.

Billie Eilish by Jason Williamson

How have you found having a such a reactive fanbase online?
It’s so cute, I talk to my fans like they’re people because they are. It’s such an important thing to have a connection with the people who support you, because they are the reason you’re anything and there are some artists who don’t care. You are literally nothing without them, so maybe you should care. When it all started I’d get a couple of DMs about this thing I did and I started talking to them and it’s grow a lot, so it’s harder to keep up with it, but I still like I everything I’m tagged in, I comment and respond to as many DMs as I can possibly.

I love them and I love what’s happened.

Is the image of the project important to you, as well as the sound?
I think it’s the most important to me. I think of myself, in my head, more of a visual artist than anything else, of course music is what I do, I sing and whatever, but everything I do is my idea. All the videos I have are my idea and if somebody else has a little idea which is cool, I’ll use it, of course, but I have a specific thing that I want for each thing that I make and I usually have it when I make it.

So I never don’t know what I want, I always know what I want and how I want it and it makes it easier for some people, but some people hate it because they want to do it. It’s a big part of it and also fashion, because clothing is my thing and Instagram is how I show what I think is cool. I never post about my music, it’s more this is what I was wearing here, look at how weird it is.

In terms of collaborations in the future, do you see yourself designing a fashion line?
Oh yeah, I’ve always dreamed about that and I’ve made clothes myself. My friend and I were trying to work out what I should wear for this event and we found an IKEA bag in my attic, so I made it into a shirt, which is weird because now that’s actually a thing and I didn’t know that at the time. Then I saw it on Instagram and yeah, we did that. I’m working on merch at the moment and I’ve been drawing clothing ideas for years now and I have a whole notebook that’s just filled with it. I wear hoodies backwards and pants inside-out.

I get the inside-out aspect and being able to see the details in the seam, but why the backwards hoodie?
Well, I like to stand with my hands behind my back and wearing a hoodie backwards there’s the pocket and I can put my hands in that. Also, it’s weird and I like weird.

So let’s talk live shows, tonight’s your first London show.
It’s my first show, I’ve done showcases before, but never my own show. It’s normally just industry people. They stand 20 feet ahead of you with just their arms crossed. It’s mad that I grew up in LA and now my first headline show is here in London and it sold like a month and a half ago.

Obviously this is milestone, are there any other big moments that stand out?
I hope I remember everything, because none of this stuff is gonna happen again. When you’re at the start of whatever this is, you’re never back at the beginning, because the beginning is the beginning. Having first experiences is so important and I’ve had a year where I was so distracted by this boy, so this whole year I was sad and it was horrible. I didn’t realise all these amazing things were happening because I was so distracted. It’s hard to not take stuff in when you can, so I’ve been trying to do more and it’s great.

Meeting people that I’ve idolised and they know who I am is so weird and being compared to people that I idolised, like Lorde and I just to love Marina and the Diamonds, Lana Del Rey and Aurora. Now people are like Billie Eilish is similar to Lorde, Lana Del Rey, it so weird, I don’t get it. Since I love hip-hop and rap, I just love music that’s good, I listen to a bunch of stuff, but the fact that some of my favourite artists know who I am blows my mind.

Are there any plans for some collaborations with hip-hop and rap artists?
Yup, we’re working on that and it’s with people who I genuinely love and I’m impressed by, so that’s coming.

Finally: Avocados. That'a handle on Instagram right?
wherearetheavocados: I made that right four years ago, when I was nothing, well still kind of nothing, but I’m not obsessed with avocados. People think Billie must only eat avocados and nothing else, she doesn’t even drink. I used to have a lot of cool usernames, I used to love horses and still do, but I was an equestrian for awhile, so my username once was riderofthewind, which literally sounds like a fart joke, so I changed that. Then it was dead.cow for a long time which is weird because I’m vegan and then it was disasterpiece, like masterpiece, but a disaster, pretty genius right?

Then I made this grilled cheese once, I was in the kitchen and I wanted some avocado, I was home alone, so I just screamed “where are the avocados” and I decided to make that my username and here we are. Now there are fan accounts like billiesavocados, herearetheavocados, therearetheavocados and it’s just this random thing I thought of four years ago.

don't smile at me is out now, Billie Eilish plays a sold out show at Islington O2 Academy 2 on 2 November.
Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next