Setting The Tone: Billie Eilish @ Laneway Melbourne

How do artists pick a setlist? Is it preconceived, or just about how they’re feeling on the day? Are there some songs that are unmovable, or is everything up for grabs? To find out we spoke to Los Angeles pop phenom Billie Eilish ahead of her set at Melbourne Laneway, which included songs from her debut EP Don’t Smile At Me and a song “everyone in the fucking world knows”.

Is there a lot of planning that goes into the setlist for you?
I think it’s all about dynamics really. Because I do have a lot of songs on the slower side, which I still love, but it’s so much more fun to play songs you can jump to and dance to. I really like moshing and I really like going to shows where you can mosh. I want people to have fun at my shows so it’s kinda [fun] separating the bigs and the lows in my setlist.

Is there a particular song you always open with?
I open with ‘Bellyache’ on this whole run. ‘Bellyache’ is the man.

Why that song in particular?
This is for the Laneway tour, obviously. But directly after this I fly to London. It’s a 24-hour flight. I fly to London and then I go on my tour which is obviously the same setlist, it’s the same tour. And the tour is called, “Where’s My Mind?”, which is a line from ‘Bellyache’ … ‘Bellyache’ is the theme of the tour. It has the insane asylum feel to it. I guess I just want people to go crazy, and the song is crazy.

Do you ever change the setlist depending on how you feel on the day?
I take some songs out sometimes, because I’m just like, “Fuck this song.” [Laughs] I mean, yesterday [at Laneway Adelaide] there were a lot of technical difficulties, so we didn’t do some songs because the computer was like, “Nope! Can’t do it.” But it depends.

Are there songs you’d never take out of the setlist?
I would never take out ‘COPYCAT’ ever. I love that song.

What song always gets the best response?
I think ‘COPYCAT’. People have a lot of fun with ‘COPYCAT’. Also ‘My Boy’ and ‘Ocean Eyes’ is the big one. That song when it turns on people go crazy, but the most fun is ‘COPYCAT’.

How long have you been copying ‘Hotline Bling’ for?
I did it the whole last tour. And I wasn’t going to do it again, but then i was like, “I’ll do it again.”

When did you start covering it?
Years ago. Basically when I learned how to play the ukulele well I literally made up the chords … [Brother/producer] Finneas came in and he’s like, “This is sick!” And I was like, “No, it’s not.” I remember at the time I couldn’t sing the chorus because it was way too high for me – I sing it every show now.

How does it go down with the crowd?
It’s cool because everyone in the fucking world knows ‘Hotline Bling’, so they always sing along which is sick.

How different is planning a festival show to a club date?
It’s not worse or better, it’s just different. One of the hardest things [about festivals] is that not everyone there came to see you. They’re just there. Maybe they were waiting for the next person after you, maybe they were just there for the person before you, or they don’t know anybody.

I’ve been to a lot of festivals, and I know that I’ve ended up in crowds going, “Who is this? I don’t want to be there. This is horrible.” So when you’re playing a festival you have to accept that…

It’s almost about proving them wrong or just letting it go and thinking, “Okay, I’m just going to have fun.” I’m really lucky to have the amount of supporters that come see me at these festivals. That’s really sick.

Listen to Billie Eilish on Apple Music here

Setlist: Billie Eilish @ Laneway Melbourne

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