Thom Yorke has built a reputation as a forward-thinking artist. Whether it’s with his day job in Radiohead, throwing together avant-jazz electronic pieces in Atoms for Peace, or scoring horror films on his own, Yorke is often a restless mind who keeps searching for diverse sounds and styles.
That search, evidently, brought him to Billie Eilish, the modern-day pop sensation who has turned breathy vocals and minimalistic beats into record industry gold. Back in 2019, Yorke and Eilish apparently ran into each other while backstage at a show, and Yorke was able to extoll the artist to her face.
When Yorke and Eilish met, Yorke gave just about the highest praise an artist can give another artist: “You’re the only one doing anything fucking interesting nowadays,” he said. Hilariously, Eilish’s manager also described Yorke as just as you’d expect – “curmudgeonly, perturbed,” which means that his public and private personas are probably one and the same.
Eilish’s brother and producer, Finneas, told Eilish that Yorke’s comment was “the coolest thing anyone’s ever said to you.” Apparently, Yorke was sat in front of Sam Smith, whose ‘Writings on the Wall’ replaced Radiohead’s ‘Spectre’ as the theme for that Bond film, at the Eilish show.
“That was a fine moment,” Yorke told The Times. “We sat down and whats-his-name, the guy who did the Bond film we didn’t do? He stands behind us and I’m sitting with my daughter, her friends, and my girlfriend, when suddenly everyone goes ‘Saaaam!’ I’m, like, ‘Aaaaargh!’”
This was before Smith announced their preference for gender-neutral pronouns, so Yorke isn’t purposefully misgendering Smith to be snide. During that same interview, he gave another opinion about Eilish, adding: “I like Billie Eilish. She’s doing her own thing. Nobody’s telling her what to do.”
That just might be the nicest thing Thom Yorke has ever said about anybody.