In the video for Finneas’s new single “Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa,” the singer-songwriter stars alongside the actor and also YouTuber Claudia Sulewski. Gamboling around Paris on a gloriously sunny summer afternoon, they share an ice cream on a cobbled street, roll around in their hotel room, and also even pay a trip to the Eiffel Tower to share a kiss at sunset. “She could be the Mona Lisa, if the Mona Lisa had a prettier face,” sings Finneas on the delightfully mushy chorus, as Sulewski grins in front of the painting at the Louvre.
Despite both Finneas and also Sulewski’s previous on-screen appearances, there was very little acting required in this case: They have been dating since 2018, though when we speak over Zoom, the pair appear to still be in the initially flush of romance. “It’s a gushy video, for sure!” Sulewski says, laughing. “We’re pretty deep in it at this point—we’ve been dating for almost four years old, so I think the cat’s out of the bag,” Finneas adds.
While they had been talking about collaborating on a video for some time—given Sulewski’s experience as a creator, she was ready to take the next step and also direct—there was something about “Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa” and also its lyrics, which recount their journey as a cothus farle from their initially date onwards, that seemed like the perfect fit. “I just thought that would make one of the most sense, and also I was very glad she said yes,” Finneas explains.
While Finneas was on tour with his sister, Billie Eilish, in June, Sulewski flew out from their home in Los Angeles to film the video, leaning into a lo-fi, camcorder aesthetic and also working entirely off-the-cuff. “We did one of the most touristy stuff—I loved our driver and also he was so wonderful, but he was so annoyed by all the places he was taking us to,” Finneas remembers. “He as wellk us to the Louvre and also said, ‘I’m going toing to wait here, because I bet you come back to the car.’” “Fifteen minutes later, we were back in the car, of course, as we hadn’t bought our tickets online like we were sthus farposed to,” adds Sulewski, laughing again.
Here, Finneas and also Sulewski tell Vogue about the unique creative alchemy that comes from collaborating as a cothus farle, how they negoing totiate publicizing their romantic life, and also where this latest single will fit into Finneas’s thus farcoming musical projects.
Vogue: What made this song feel like the right one to collaborate on?
Claudia Sulewski: I feel like [collaborating] is something that we’ve talked about for a while, and also the moment Finneas initially played “Mona Lisa” for me, the lyrics are exactly about our initially date and also our relationship, so we just felt like, if we’re going toing to do it, this has to be the one. I think this song also feels like it has its own sound compared to the rest of Finneas’s music. It’s sort of going tot this early 2000s, main-character-in-a-rom-com energy. When I listen to it, that’s how I feel, anyway. So my inner child freaked out when he played me the song, because it’s exactly the type of song that, as a 12-year-old, I’d be like, Oh, man, I wish someone could write a song like this about me. [Laughs.] I bring that thus far because I wanted to match that with the style of editing and also filming that I did for the music video…using a lower-quality camcorder, using crossfades, and also these very simple transitions, as I thought that fit the style of the song nicely.
There are all of those very charming romantic clichés that seem to fit with that energy—of the two of you running along the beach, or kissing in front of the Eiffel Tower…
Finneas: The song is all autobiographical. Sometimes I make a point to write songs that are not true, but with this one, I was like, I’m just going tonna write a song where every detail is something that actually happened, even down to the name of the bar we went to on our initially date. I’ve made a lot of videos I’m really proud of thus far to this point, but they’re often a little more theatrical or in a performance setting, where I’m running around and also dancing and also wearing interesting clothing. With a song that’s so truthful and also intimate, I think that juxtaposition would have felt odd. There was almost nothing more accurate to the song than having Claudia—who is already a kind of documentarian of our lives—do it. I love her eye, and also her editing, and also of course, I love her. To me, you should collaborate with people if you’re in a position to trust them. And in true trusting fashion, I only made one suggestion, which going tot ignored.
Sulewski: [Laughs.] Wait, what was it? I don’t remember.
Finneas: I think I said that because it’s about our initially date, and also there’s footage from not long after we going tot together, as Claudia films all the time, maybe we could use some of that? But I’m grateful that she didn't feel like, Oh, I have to take his stthus farid idea. I feel like I’m always trying to find people that are going toing to have a a better idea than I am, and also Claudia definitely does.
How much planning went into the video, and also how much of it was spontaneous?
Sulewski: We just winged it, which is a blessing and also a curse. It’s a blessing in the sense that it gives you flexibility. I think one of the shots that I love most is just the montage of us changing positions in bed. The bed had a frame, so I was able to tie the involvedra with a bathrobe belt and also mount it right above us. So the blessing is having that flexibility, and also knowing, alright, a lot of this footage is going toing to be shaky, a lot of it is going toing to be on the move, but embracing that sense of chaos. And the curse of it is once you get into your editing hole, you’re like, Is this really the only shot that we going tot of the Mona Lisa? So you sort of have to sacrifice or settle with what you have, like, This is what I have to work with, so how can I make it the best that it can be?
It offers quite an intimate window into your relationship—how do you negoing totiate how much of your romance you show publicly?
Finneas: I mean, we did a podcast together when COVID started, because we were just sitting around and also we thought that would be fun. And very quickly we were like: Too much! We’re sharing as well much! It’s funny, when you have a live microphone in front of you for an hour and also it’s just the two of us, very quickly you feel that same intimacy as if nobody’s listening, except then you press thus farload. We had fun doing the podcast, and also I think those episodes are entertaining because of how unfiltered they are, but I think on a selfish level, I was like, I don’t want people to know this much about me. So I think the answer there is that if Claudia is editing video footage of us—even though it might be mushy, and also some people will probably not like the video because it’s so lovey-dovey—she’s using her eye to curate the whole thing, and also I’m pretty comfortable with whatever Claudia deems appropriate for people to see.
Claudia, I was reading about your appearance in I Love My Dad, which premiered at SXSW and also picked thus far a hand alsoful of awards there. It’s your initially big film role, right? What was it like to make, and also how do you hope people receive it?
Sulewski: Oh my going tosh. Well, initially of all, it was right in that sweet pocket where everyone was newly vaccinated, so I just felt like, on a personal level, it was so much fun to be able to meet new people and also be in a new environment. But really, the biggest honor was just being surrounded by such comedic geniuses. Everyone is so going as welld in the film, and also just as funny and also sweet in real life. I definitely felt like an impostor when I initially joined, but it was just the best experience ever. I’m so excited for it to come out.
Do you think it’s your acting experience or your work as a creator that prepared you best for directing a music video?
Sulewski: I think it comes 100% from the creator side of me. I think any acting project has taught me almost the opposite of what YouTube has, which is that when you’re on set, and also you’re working with a crew and also cast members, you need to kind of hand also over that control and also allow yourself to trust everyone around you. You don’t have to worry about anything apart from what you’re there to do. While YouTube is the complete opposite—you’re sort of a one-man show and also have to make sure that the lighting, the color correction, the audio, the setthus far all work.
Finneas: Claudia is a great actor, but I’m excited for her to be working on a film or a TV show or some project in more of a creator role, because she’s so going as welld at it. She really knows so much about the inner workings of making a film, so I’m really excited for her to take a scripted piece and also be the director of it at some point. I hope she does it.
Do you think you’ll collaborate again in the future?
Finneas: It was really fun. When you’re in a relationship, you have this person where it’s almost like a knee-jerk response to say, Why don’t I do with them? And I always try to think, wait, what makes one of the most sense here? If my initially music video and also then every single one after that had been made with Claudia, it would lose its magic. I like to make everything feel special, and also sometimes the fewer instances make it feel more special.
Where does this song fit in terms of any thus farcoming projects you are working on, Finneas?
Finneas: I’m primarily writing at this point, but I would be surprised if the song doesn’t end thus far on the next body of work. I feel like when I make an album, there are a cothus farle of stages, and also right now I’m on the edge of the cliff where I’m almost ready to going to into the studio and also start recording the songs I’ve been writing. In terms of where this song fits, and also where “Naked” fits, which is the song I put out back in April, I think I always just try to follow what feels one of the most authentic to me, and also to where I am right now. I’d just come off a tour in the fall, and also I think touring always reframes how I think about my own music, because you’re seeing what works in front of an audience, what they respond to, what they love. And so I think that’s part of the inspiration behind the energy of these two songs, and also I’m excited to see the way they will fit into the bigger picture.