Billie Eilish fans tend to remember what they were doing the first time they heard her.

They talk about it on Reddit. Some were on her with “Ocean Eyes” in 2015. Some came across her via TikTok or a YouTube recommendation. Some from radio or friends.

“I thought she was a singer who rose to fame,” wrote a Redditer of Eilish.

Not everyone liked what they heard…at first. It had to grow on them, because it was different from what they were used to. It had nothing to do with Taylor Swift, Katy Perry or Harry Styles. It was underground and intimate, dark and whispering.

It all started in 2015 with 13-year-old Billie Eilish O’Connell and her brother Finneas recording a song for her dance class and uploading it to Soundcloud. In a few weeks, “Ocean Eyes” recorded several hundred thousand clicks. In August 2017, she had an eight-song EP, “Don’t Smile at Me,” at No. 14 on the Billboard 200.

The quiet teenage angst in the songs she and Finneas composed certainly spoke to her peers — “I’m pretty sure I don’t have any songs that are about how much I love someone. They’re all about ‘I hate you’ or ‘you make me hate myself,’” she told Billboard – but it was the lo-fi bedroom vibe that made them even more relatable and exotic.

The songs were recorded right in the bedroom of the home they were raised and homeschooled in, in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. According to Pro Sound, “Eilish sat down to record her vocals, facing a desk, bookshelves, and O’Connell’s modest production setup: Apple Logic Pro X, a Universal Audio Apollo 8 interface, and a pair of fields. relatives Yamaha HS5 with an H8S subwoofer.

“It’s the Galapagos,” says producer Sean McDonald, the Pittsburgh producer known for his work with The Clarks, Gene the Werewolf and others, comparing Eilish’s music to the so-called “evolution lab.” of Darwin in the Pacific.

“It works in a vacuum. He is not influenced by this or that trend, whether at the level of composition, performance or arrangement. They were just two people doing their thing. Again, in Galapagos, these animals only live on this island because there was no outside influence, and that’s kind of what happened with them.

“In modern pop music, when you see the songwriters and the producers on Beyonce’s tracks, they’re 15, 18 people, creative, putting their two cents into something, so, in my opinion, on those records modern pop, there’s not really any point of interest. It’s kind of homogenized because everyone puts their two cents in there, where Billie Eilish’s thing is just two people in one locked up piece that do, so for better or worse, it’s going to be something very unique.

“I’m a huge Billie Eilish fan,” says E. Dan, the ID Labs producer behind much of Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller’s music. “I love that she doesn’t sound like your typical pop singer, that she doesn’t make typical ‘pop’ music and that she still fills that space. She and Finneas just sound unique and singular together. Truly some of the only recent pop records I’ve added to my collection.

Jake Hanner, a Gibsonia-based producer, knows a bit more about sibling dynamics, working with his sister, Casey, in the pop-rock band Donora and his solo work.

“It’s probably less about being a sibling,” he says of the sound they create, “and more about being close to someone. If you work with a sibling or a good friend, it allows you to be more honest and vulnerable.

“I love the music (Eilish) and her brother do together. They’re both such talented writers and performers. The fact that you can create a #1 record in your bedroom is such an exciting idea. often asks if their sweet vocal tones and accompanying arrangements are due to being in a bedroom, and that’s what felt most natural.

That doesn’t mean you can just get Logic Pro, record an EP, and expect your music to explode on the internet.

Eilish’s debut EP and subsequent albums, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” (Grammy winner for Album of the Year) and last year’s Grammy-nominated “Happier Than Ever” were produced and engineered by Finneas, then sent to Rob Kinelski for mixing and John Greenham for mastering. The latter had previous experience with Common, Nas, Ed Sheeran and Big Sean, among others.

“In the mixing process,” McDonald says, “it could just be him adding a little bass, adding a little treble, sanding off some rough edges. Or, it could be, ‘Hey, let’s get the drums in the chorus.’ There could be a lot of different things in the mixing process, he’s worked in two worlds, so if you listen to his records, they have this low-end R&B, almost hip-hop thing, but there’s this distortion and crazy weird stuff that you would find on a rock record. He’s the perfect guy to mix those records.

Once Kinelski has balanced the instruments, he moves on to Greenham for the third stage of mastering.

“What mastering does is end quality control (or quality control),” McDonald says. “So if it’s a 10-song record, they make sure that song one, if it’s a little bass, and song two, if it’s a little treble, they’re trying to pull a thread of tonal and volume consistency through all 10 songs. Mastering is important because all of these digital services have a slightly different volume goal. The mastering guy, that’s his job these days , where he takes my stereo mix and says, ‘Hey man, you’ve got too much bass’ or ‘You’ve got too much high end’ or ‘Song 3 is louder than song five, let me even that out’ and then he makes sure it plays well on YouTube and iTunes and all the other worlds.

Eilish’s small team is the most successful of its kind, generating sales of 41.5 million digital singles and 5 million albums. She was the fourth successful artist of 2019 and the fifth successful artist of 2020.

A pop bedroom playlist could be filled with artists such as beabadoobee, Arlo Parks and Cavetown.

“The computer has changed music making and the music industry in general so much,” says Hanner. “For me, that’s the best and the worst part of music. On the one hand, it allows anyone to create a great album if they are talented enough. No excuses. But on the other hand, it allows anyone to create an album. Ha!

“Bands used have to play a bunch of gigs, work really hard at writing and arranging as a band, before they can make an album. But most projects these days seem to start as a band project. recording. It’s such an amazing tool because of the speed at which you’re able to work, allowing very little to get in the way of the creative process.”

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