Lana Del Rey and Billie Eilish Fall in Love
FRIDAY 12:30 PM JAN. 13, 2023 LA
LANA DEL REY: How’s it going, sweet girl?
BILLIE EILISH: Lana, dude. Thank you for thinking of me. I am absolutely stoked out of my fucking mind.
DEL REY: [Laughs]
EILISH: You were my lock screen on the first phone I ever got.
DEL REY: Oh my god.
EILISH: I knew for months before I got my first iPhone that it was going to be that fucking photo of you with the bee on your lip.
DEL REY: You know what’s funny? That bee picture was for Interview Germany.
EILISH: No way. I remember showing everybody. I grew up homeschooled, but we still had…
DEL REY: I’m so fucking jealous of that.
EILISH: It was pretty tight, but we still had talent shows even though we didn’t have a school. I was all up in the talent show singing your stuff.
DEL REY: What?!
EILISH: Dude, come on.
DEL REY: Do we have any footage? [Laughs]
EILISH: Oh yeah. I sang “Brooklyn Baby” at the last one I did. I’d film myself covering your songs and pretend that I was gonna blow up on YouTube from them, and then they’d get two views.
DEL REY: And you did.
EILISH: No I didn’t! [Laughs]
DEL REY: Well, later in life. I remember seeing the first videos of you singing and I said to my managers, “She’s the one.”
EILISH: Oh my god.
DEL REY: I was like, “This is the girl. She isn’t just talented. You can tell she’s kind.” It didn’t feel like you were aspiring to be anything. It’s crazy to have that magical quality.
EILISH: Lana, please. We’re here to talk about you, for the love of god. You’re putting out another album [Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd]. How are you feeling? Are you dreading it? Are you excited? Are you nervous?
DEL REY: All of it, as usual. At first, I was super excited because I started it with Mike Hermosa, a DP and cameraman who, as far as I knew, was not a musician. Every Sunday morning, he’d lie around and play these licks on his guitar. One day, I was like, “Do you think I could record that?” Then I’d sit down and start singing. After five months we went into the studio with the guys I know from Echo Park, like Drew Erickson, Benji, and Zach Dawes. Later, I found out they were composing for all these great people like Weyes Blood and Father John Misty and Pink Floyd. Mike was like, “I’ve never been in a studio, so I don’t really feel like I should be a session player.” And I was like, “I know it’s a lot to go into that ISO booth and play what we have been playing for fun, but just try it.” Then Drew would come in and record these beautiful strings. I would talk about wanting a little bit of a spiritual element and we talked about working with Melodye [Perry] and Pattie [Howard] and a couple of women who had toured with Whitney Houston, which was just unfathomable to me that I could be in the same room with them. So that started building one element of the sound for maybe one-fifth of the album.
DEL REY: For those nine months, I was as comfy as could be. Then, things started leaking and I wasn’t sure how. It brought back all this weird tension of, “I know it’s not about money, but what else are they seeing if they can somehow transcribe all the words in the song?” I started getting nervous about peripheral things, and then I told everyone I wanted to wait until August because I wasn’t feeling ready. Then, as things started to leak, I thought, “You know what? It has been done for a year, so I’ll just move ahead with it.”
DEL REY: I feel differently on different days. It’s all about the process, not so much the results. Now, I feel good about it. The shoot we just had, that was the biggest production I’ve ever been on and it went so well. I was nervous about the interview, because when me and Mel [Ottenberg, Interview’s editor-in-chief] talked about it, I was like, it could only be only Billie or John Waters. When they said you wanted to do it, I was so happy.
EILISH: I can’t believe you even thought of me. But dude, this has been done for a year?
DEL REY: September 2022 was the very last song I wrote. It’s a song called “Margaret,” about Jack Antonoff’s fiance [Margaret Qualley]. I was like, “You know what? I want to write a song for him.” It lands right in the middle of the album. It’s funny, this album felt totally effortless. When I did Norman Fucking Rockwell! it was about world-building, whereas this was straight vibing.
EILISH: I love that. You can hear it in the music that you’re feeling yourself. It feels like you’re comfortable. You sound like you’re surrounded by good people. I would love to hear, specifically with this album, and also in general, how much of your writing is based on reality or fantasy or other people’s experiences. That was one of my biggest inspirations from you—your storytelling abilities and your ability to write from a character’s point of view. I find it a lot easier to write a song if it’s not about my life and if it’s not true. [Laughs]
DEL REY: Which is funny because they sound like they’re straight from you. Last night, I had a conversation with my friend Jack. Something had happened when he was in New York and he was telling me about it, and we were kind of worried. He was like, “I know you get it because you’ve gone through dot-dot-dot. You’re so brave.” I laughed and I was like, “Brave is the last word I would use to describe myself.” So much of my life is sitting at my metaphorical desk alone and writing. But with this album, the majority of it is my innermost thoughts. Some of the songs are super long and wordy like “Kintsugi” and “Fingertips.” I was almost nervous to send the voice notes to Drew Erickson.
DEL REY: I’d go on a seven-minute rant with a repetitive melody. It would be exactly what I was thinking about, mostly family and whether everything was going to pan out alright in the end. I had been reading so many articles that my father and I followed up on over the last ten years about the discovery of telomeres and the extinction of death and how we’ve always been edging towards this point in science where that would be a possibility. With my dad and my brother and sister all living together, that was on my mind. So much of this album is based on the concerns or hopes in my mind. With past stuff, I would talk about the garden of evil and good and bad, but I really was meeting some characters. Like they used to say, “When girls got to Hollywood, they were fresh off the boat.” I didn’t hear that term until later, but I did meet some people that I thought were really cool who were like, “Do you want to go to the Guns N’ Roses concert?” And I would be like, “Yeah.” Then, somehow I would be sitting in a garden and I would see David Lynch behind a red curtain with a cigarette. Some of the people I was hanging out with, I found out later, were unsavory characters, and so they played a part in the writing.
DEL REY: For instance, when I got to L.A. I was mostly touring. I didn’t know that many people. It took me a long time to figure out where my roots were. I had a lot of random experiences that I wrote about, and at the time, they made me really happy because I was like, “I’m not just watching someone else live their life, I’m living my life,” which was new for me because I’ve always been so shy. I don’t write well when I’m not happy, which is funny because there is a blue tone to the songs. It was like 90 percent reality. I think the storytelling vibe that people get is because I was just in awe of the things that were going on. Coming from a farming town, L.A. was never a possibility. My brother and sister and I always say, every time we drive through a perfectly symmetrical palm tree lane, we feel like we’re on a set. Maybe it was my lens on how heightened everything felt. God, I’m very long-winded. I just recently realized that I talk a lot.
EILISH: [Laughs] I love it. I feel like I’ve never listened harder in my life. I feel like a student.
DEL REY: That makes me so happy. The one good thing about listening to this class is that I’m a trustworthy teacher. If anyone ever wants to learn how to get through a storm and know that all things pass, I can teach that class. [Laughs]
EILISH: Yeah, man. You’ve also been doing this for so long.
DEL REY: I was just thinking about that.
EILISH: I’m really curious, and you can feel free to say fuck off, but you are so romanticized online, specifically different eras of you and your music and your visuals. You were always the coolest of the cool in my world, but I was wondering if having older versions of yourself romanticized later in life might give you this feeling of, “When I was doing that, you guys did not give me that same validation and gratification.”
DEL REY: Yes. I was thinking about this last night actually, if it’s better to be initiated into that club where it’s like, “She’s wonderful,” right away. Once things grew on YouTube, I expected that there was going to be this very niche lane where I knew that I could thrive, but it didn’t really go that way. I quickly shifted right into the middle lane where everyone could see it and could hear the music. As soon as that happened, I knew I was in for it, but I didn’t know to what extent. In the beginning, I was following the mantra: “It’s all about how you feel, not about what other people think.” I had never thought that one day Bruce Springsteen would say something like, “I think she’s one of the most beautiful American songwriters” after Sasha Frere-Jones said, “Change your name, change your face, and try a new career,” and Jon Caramanica was going off about whatever—this was in The New Yorker and New York magazine, and I lived in New York. [Ed. note: The previous quote cannot verifiably be attributed to Sasha Frere-Jones. You can read his 2012 New Yorker piece on Ms. Del Rey here.” All of a sudden, I was walking down the street as I always did, and people would throw elbows at me. I was like, “Oh my god, no way did that actually happen. Someone recognized me and gave me a shove.” Or in San Francisco, I was eating at a bistro and a woman threw a book about feminism at my face. I thought I was completely in for it. I thought that all I could do was just keep touring. So, I toured for nine years and kept my head down. I didn’t think anything could ever get elevated to the point where, for instance, Interview magazine would say, “You’re on the cover.” Even still, it’s like, “Really?”
EILISH: No way.
DEL REY: When things shift radically in your life you have to almost want to have a radical perspective shift. You can’t force it, but if you stay calm, all of a sudden, it comes. I know that the process I went through is not the process a lot of people went through. Everyone gets their fair share of think pieces, but there were definitely some 60-page articles about me being the face of feminine submission and the pro-domestic whatever. That was quite tough, because at the time, I was just trying to figure things out. Now, you hear a lot of singer-songwriters and rappers talking about how things really are in their lives, and a lot of it is super messy. And everyone’s like, “The storytelling is amazing, and I love that they’re baring it all.” I always felt with me that there was some catch-22 and I wasn’t sure what it was for a long time. Then, I cracked the code and realized they were tapping into the fact that there was something a little weird and different going on with me, but I didn’t really know that. And so it actually was a blessing because I got to figure out what they were tuning into—what they said was so dark—that I didn’t see. I was like, “What are they seeing in this shadow side that I’m not seeing?” That opened a door for me to think about the way everything had gone from when I was little up until now. And so, that was a very shrouded gift.
EILISH: It’s so fascinating to hear you talk about that. I relate to so much of it. And also, this was all happening to you in such a different time.
DEL REY: The era was definitely different. I remember talking to friends at that time where they were like, “Are you afraid to make one misstep?” I was like, “Yeah, I do feel like one wrong step could ruin everything.” That’s why I was very tentative and didn’t talk too much. Whereas now, people have all these brand deals and things where it doesn’t really matter if something goes wrong, because there’s always the next thing.
EILISH: But also, they don’t ever let anything go. You literally can’t make a single mistake ever. No matter what you do to redeem yourself, it doesn’t matter. They decide that’s who you are and that you deserve death.
DEL REY: Right. I think that also, people are being a lot more careful with what they say. I remember my first big interview with Rolling Stone for Ultraviolence. He asked me about the song “Sad Girl.” Where it goes: [sings] “I’m a sad girl, I’m a sad girl, I’m a sad girl.” He said, “At 29, don’t you feel uncomfortable calling yourself a girl?” I was like, “You mean instead of?” And he said, “Well, a woman. I mean, you’re like 30.” I was really caught off guard because I wanted to talk about how I mixed my own album with this guy Robert Orton. Then, I said, “Well, what about that Jennifer Lopez song [‘Girls’] or the Beyoncé song ‘Girls Run the World’? I think she’s older than me.” And he was like, “That’s different. That’s a fun song.” I don’t feel like those kinds of questions get asked anymore. For me, it was trial by fire. It’s definitely a different era now.
EILISH: I have trouble remembering this when I feel very hated and disliked.
DEL REY: Which is such a crazy concept to me with you, but yes.
EILISH: Well, you should know that in my eyes, you could do no wrong. But I have this inevitable feeling of, “Oh, everyone hates me.” With the world of TikTok and social media, there is a level where it’s kind of true, because there are these videos. I’m lying in bed last night, and I go on TikTok because I’m falling asleep, and I just want to be mindless for a second, watch some funny videos.
DEL REY: Totally.
EILISH: I keep scrolling and I’m thinking, “Billie, put your phone away. You’re getting tired.” Then I swipe to the next one and it’s a video with millions of likes and it’s something about how I’m a horrible person. And all these comments are like, “I’m so glad that you guys are seeing through her.” And I’m like, “Damn.”
DEL REY: That is so hard for me to fathom. You know what I think? It’s always the nice ones. [Laughs] I feel you’re almost—I don’t know what the word is, not impermeable, but it’s almost like there’s a shield around you. I think that’s because you have revealed so much that there is nothing to say about you. With me, if people feel like there’s a veneer, there’s so much to reflect off of that. I’ve never read anything crazy about you until, of course, anytime dating comes into the picture, that’s whenever things get crazy for me, but then it goes away. But I always felt like there’s just such a warmth there between you and your family. It just made me feel like you’ve got that shield.
EILISH: I do. It’s really true. You need to shut up about me because you’re being too serious. [Laughs]
DEL REY: I’m going to stop.
EILISH: Also, you should know that any time you ever felt like any part of the world was against you, nobody else thought that. Because I find myself thinking everybody hates me when really, that’s such a tiny sliver of reality.
DEL REY: It can definitely limit your beliefs in terms of what the future holds. It’s like, “Is the way people talk about me going to change the way people relate to me every day?” Because every day is still so normal for me. I mean, there are things that are not normal, but I wanted to have the same encounters and be able to observe people in a coffee shop the way anyone would. If your circumstances are negative, of course you have to accept that, but it’s so important to not focus on a negative situation that you don’t really have anything to do with. It’s a ride that you’re on, and you have to just keep on tuning in to what you want.
DEL REY: Sometimes what I wanted was to move and be in the Midwest, and that clashed with what people thought was right. I had to dig really deep into my gut and be like, “Do you really want to do this? Do you want to make a career change?” Because I love to sing, but it’s been, like, 16 years or something. I felt like I had made this deal with the press, that because I hadn’t given very much information, I was entitled to a certain amount of privacy. But what was interesting is that it had the complete opposite effect. But it was so important for me to maintain this feeling that I could still go rogue, and I could still fucking have my ear to the streets and be at the same clubs as all my friends on the East Side.
EILISH: Getting back to your music, I want to know about the album artwork. I want to know about where you were and what was going on and how you thought of the title.
DEL REY: Mike Hermosa and I, the first song we wrote was, “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.” I was spending a lot of time in Long Beach and I had read that there was a tunnel sealed up under the Jergins [Trust] Building. All of the mosaic ceilings were still perfectly preserved, but no one could get in. I had also been listening to a lot of Harry Nilsson. He has this song called “Don’t Forget Me.” That sentiment plus this man-made tunnel that was sealed up but was so beautiful, I liked the idea of putting them together. I knew right off the bat that that was going to be the title. The artwork is by Neil Krug, who’s done a lot of my covers. My original cover was nude, then I thought about it, and I was like, maybe not right now, because there are some other things I want to do where I feel like that could get in the way. For each shot, we were really specific about the idea and the mood. He took 65 shots in a row and we used every single one of them, because I told him I didn’t want him to just shoot, shoot, shoot, I wanted to take my time and think about what I wanted to express in my face.
EILISH: They’re so beautiful. I don’t know which one is the cover, but I saw a bunch of the shots.
DEL REY: That’s the other thing. At first, the title was definitely going to be Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, and then I fucking panicked and I went to Neil’s house and said, “I know this is fucked up, but I’ve changed the title. It’s going to now be called, ‘Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd Pearl Watch Me on Ring a Bell Psycho Lifeguard.’” He was like, “What the fuck?” I was like, “I’m not telling anyone. Just mock it up.” He mocked it up, but we realized that maybe it was a bit much to have six titles in one. Then, he was like, “This is reminding me of a format that I’ve always wanted to play with. What if we just used one title, but then we filled the rest of the page with everyone who’s featured and everyone who engineered it?” He mocked that up on the portrait shot and I was like, “You did it.” That was a really psychotic day because I was like, “Am I willing to literally burn everything down to the ground by having some strange, nonsensical title?” But that’s a really good lesson because even with the nude photo, it was like, I might not have used it, but there’s definitely something there. The idea behind it was, instead of being exposed for things that weren’t true, I wanted to reveal something about myself that I actually thought was beautiful, but in the end, I got nervous about doing that because I was like, “Is this an artistic inspiration that came to me or is this a reaction to something I feel is critical about me?” I never liked to do anything in response to something that’s fear-based or based on what people think about me. I don’t know if that’ll ever come out, but if it did, I would just want to make sure it came out when I thought it was super fun and not because I had to show something to people. That part of the process was a little tumultuous, because I was feeling open, but then I closed down again and wanted to play it safe. But the good thing is that the songs are so wordy that if you listen to them carefully, they’re revealing in the same way the photo would’ve been. I was like, “Okay, I’ll let the songs do the talking for now.”
EILISH: Yeah, man. You really paved the way for everyone. People have been trying to look and sound like you since you first started. I talk about this with Finneas [Eilish’s brother]. You changed the way the music industry hears and sees music, and you changed the way people sing.
DEL REY: [Laughs] That’s amazing because you do that.
EILISH: It’s because of you, dude.
DEL REY: The only thing that matters is that I like it and that you and people in your world like it, because for me, it’s about separating the wheat from the shaft. Tapping in with good people and letting that be your North Star. Actually, the text you sent me out of the blue—I don’t even know how you got my number—was on one of the craziest days where I was sitting in front of the Burbank Airport watching the planes take off, which I had never done before. I was sitting on the side of the road because that day I had to make a really important decision. I was feeling really nervous about it, because I’m always the kind of person who doubles back on my important decisions. Then, you literally texted me saying something like, “I love you, and without you, I wouldn’t have been able to do certain things.” I texted my friend Anne, and I was like, “I made the right decision because Billie texted me.” I thought I needed to hear something completely different from someone else, and I got this awesome synchronicity that let me know I was in the right place at the right time.
DEL REY: I will also say, in terms of everyone who’s paved the way for me, the way Cat Power delivered her songs in the ’90s and in the early 2000s, and even now—we’ve toured together and I’ve told her so many times, “I should be opening for you.” I was a high soprano, which you can kind of tell in the way that I talk, but her low tones, I would practice them the way she sang that song where she’s like, [sings] “Bay-be-doll.” I was like, “Oh my gosh, I could sing like that.” I realized I had a low register too. And when I learned that she played a big concert in New York with her back turned to the audience, that was when I realized I might have a chance. Then, I watched this documentary when I was 20 called The Devil and Daniel Johnston with my boyfriend at the time, Artie Levine, and seeing that Daniel was super different and he had a bit of a cult following, I realized there might be a chance here. I definitely had my muses, but it was so much later on in life because I didn’t move to New York until I was 18, and that was when I first heard anything other than Eminem, country, and NPR. All of a sudden, I got a fucking crash course in music.
EILISH: Everything you’re saying is blowing my mind out of my skull. You will never understand how much of an impact that you have had on me in my life.
DEL REY: I definitely won’t, I can promise you that. But you know what? If it did anything for you, how amazing is that? Because you actually like what you do.
EILISH: God, dude. Okay, well, I have to go, but I just want to say that I am always going to ride and die for you. I’m so excited about this album. I’m telling you right now, you’re the coolest of the cool.
DEL REY: That is hilarious.
EILISH: Well, you need to shut the fuck up and listen.
DEL REY: Here’s the thing. It’s good to know that the coolest of the cool can still be so messy because it’s like—
EILISH: It doesn’t matter.
DEL REY: There’s no competition. Your life is your art. I just feel lucky that you said yes, because I couldn’t see it any other way.
EILISH: Thank you for thinking of me at all.
DEL REY: It’ll be such a blessing to look back on when this prodigious girl—woman—reminded me of the fact that there are so many ways to look at things, and that it’s all a matter of perspective. The only thing that matters is that the people that you’re obsessed with, like the way I am with you, love your stuff too. It’s such a beautiful place to start creating from. Thank you for that.
EILISH: Thank you. Oh my god.
DEL REY: Our little flattery interview, but honestly, that’s how it is. It was always you.
Hair: Evanie Frausto using Bumble and Bumble at Streeters
Makeup: Etienne Ortega using Givenchy Beauty at The Only Agency
Manicure: Yoko Sakakura using Opi at A-Frame Agency
Set Design: Brittany Porter
Production Direction: Alexandra Weiss and Paige Viti
Production: Carlota Ruiz De Velasco, Malcolm Duncan, And Fabien Colas
Creative Direction Consultant: Jack Vhay
Models: Alana Champion at Img NY, Dallas Sessoms at Next L.A. Men, Charlie Hill-Grant, Max Oppenheim, and Speedy
Casting: Calvin Wilson at Establishment Casting
Styling (On Models): Alia Penner
Prop Production: Mara Weinstein
Tailor: M’lynn Hass
Photography Assistants: David Lopez and Andrew Goeser
Fashion Assistants: Charlie Burke, Hayley Francise, and Auguste Wong
Hair Assistants: Marin Mullen, Desi Houghton, Sophia Flores, and Lydia Ouelette
Makeup Assistants: Freddy Castro and Yvette Evora
Prop Production Assistants:
Vehicles: Anthony Chiusano Buhay, Elliot Ashton, Kirsten Johnsen, Hwy, and Era Pictures Cars
Special Thanks: Palace Costume and Outlaw Archive