Finger Beats On Friendship, French House, & Finding Her Sound
Written by Vocalo Radio on July 28, 2020
After landing a spot on our July “In Rotation”, this young producer is ready to make a name for herself… and have plenty of fun along the way.
When we first heard “You” – a funky little House tune with bouncy vocals and a body-movin’ groove to it – we were enchanted. The track is the latest collab between vocalist Ondine and DJ/producer Natalie Finfer – better known around the Chicago music scene as Finger Beats.
Although born and raised in LA, Finger Beats came to Chicago for college and never looked back. We spoke to her about chosen names and chosen cities, falling in love with French House music, taking a break from the grind, and what it’s like to be a young woman in audio production.
Vocalo: How would you describe your work? Who are some of your musical influences?
Finger Beats: I’d say it’s Lofi and R&B influenced/infused House music. I used to do more Lofi and Hip Hop beats, but I’ve been trying to hone in on more of a House sound these past couple of years. I might try to coin the term “Simp Pop,” but I’m still toying with it.
Kaytranada and Tom Misch are really the two driving influences in my production and passion for music, but I also am really taken by Erykah Badu, Hiatus Kaiyote, D’Angelo, Mura Masa, Matt Martians, Fela Kuti, João Gilberto, Peggy Gou, Monte Booker, and way more.
I’ve got to ask…how did you chose the name Finger Beats?
Hahaha! Well, there are a few reasons. My last name is “Finfer,” but I had a few friends who would call me “Finger,” so it was already a name I was semi-used to. Also, whenever you type my last name on a phone, it gets autocorrected to “Finger.” I thought I might as well beat people to their mistake and just make my name “Finger Beats.” It was a decision I made while trying to upload my first song to SoundCloud and I kinda just stuck with it.
You’re originally from Los Angeles but are now based in Chicago. How did you find yourself making that move? What has been something here in Chicago you’ve loved experiencing?
I came out here to go to college. I love LA a lot but I knew I wanted to get out of the state and experience something new – while still having the ‘city feel’ that I was used to – so Chicago was the perfect fit.
I’ll get roasted for this, but snow has been so cool! I’d go to the snow maybe once or twice each year growing up, but I never had a real winter until I came to Chicago two years ago. I never knew how gorgeous snowfall was; people complain but I think it’s a work of art. Just layer up!
What are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed between the LA/Chicago music scenes?
It’s honestly hard for me to say, because my childhood is in LA and my career is predominantly in Chicago. I never really analyzed the industry out there; I was way more concerned with what my friends and I we’re going to do every weekend rather than how I should make moves as a rising artist.
Though what I have noticed is that in Chicago, people grind from the ground-up to find their place in the industry. Sometimes people move to LA thinking they have this fast pass to success, and it’s extremely naive. I also like how willing people are to network out here. I feel like when you’re in LA it’s more likely you’ll get brushed off because you’re not “somebody” yet. Maybe the people brushing you off are the ones who moved with the wrong intentions in the first place?
You love listening to a global array of music (including French House, which helped inspire “You”). When and why did you start to look outside of the US for music? What types of genres did you grow up listening to?
I don’t know if there was an exact period in time when I started venturing out. My dad would sometimes play Buena Vista Social Club, which really helped me form my love for Cuban music. I also was into some Korean rap for a little bit in high school.
Mostly though, as I started training my ears as a producer, I stopped paying as much attention to the lyrics of songs and more to the production and sound of them. So as I slowly started leaning into more global music around 2016, I never felt the disconnect that most people do when they listen to music in different languages. The language, for me, is the least important part. It’s the tonality and character of the song that catch my attention.
I honestly didn’t listen to that much music growing up with my family; maybe a good ol’ Paul Simon album on a road trip, but that was about it. However, I started taking Hip Hop dance classes at 5 years old. So anything Pop or Hip Hop from 2005-2013 I had on repeat (Timbaland, Timberlake, Britney, Kesha, Björk, etc).
You weave this really infectious, bold, positive personality into your music. Why is this message important to you? And what do you do to help keep that flavor on days where you maybe aren’t feeling super positive?
I do!? YAY!! I’m glad that gets across. I’m a super optimistic, positive, outgoing person, so I try to make my art reflect that in any way I can. Music can be a lot of things, but I want my music to be an uplifting force in someone’s day.
On days where I’m not feeling good, I usually just play the piano or find some melancholic samples and then build a track out of that. Or I just don’t make music that day. I have to remember sometimes that I have to take care of myself if I want my art to be any good. I feel like a lot of self-made creatives feel an obligation to grind day-in and day-out to be the best, but…I don’t know man, I get run down sometimes. It’s important to allow yourself to recharge.
It’s super cool that “You” is a collaboration between two amazing women. How did you and Ondine link up?
Right! My friend showed me her music and I immediately DM’d her on Instagram to meet up. We ended up linking in October 2019 and had a really fun session. Since then we’ve made a lot of songs together and have become really good friends.
Most of the music we’ve made have been up more her alley, aesthetically, but “You” was the first track we made that was more House influenced, so we agreed that I’d be the one to officially release it.
She’s so talented though. I’ve never heard such intuitive, thoughtful, beautiful lyrics like the ones she writes. She’s gonna be a legend one day. Not to mention she’s the kindest, goofiest person ever. Stream Ondine perioddddd.
The track is all about the unwanted lust of a toxic person, which is not something I feel we often hear about in music. Why was this something you two wanted to talk about?
I don’t think either of us went in with an intent to specifically cover a somewhat universal conflict. Also, I always let her do the talking. She could write a song about cows and it would be fire; I trust her vision unconditionally so I don’t put much say into the lyrics.
She was writing during our session and midway though started laughing, telling me about this boy her friends dragged her for seeing, but how she didn’t really care cause she didn’t have much invested in it anyways. I said to continue to run with it and she did. The beat has a sultry, funky vibe to it, so the lyrics, I think, are pretty fitting.
“You” is full of funk (those cowbells are so addictive) that you’ve said was inspired by Lewis Ofman and Polo & Pan. In the case of this tune, how did the creation process go? Was this a fast song to come together? Did it take more time? Did the beat/lyrics come first or happen together?
Making this song was insane. We usually move pretty swiftly in our sessions, but like 95% of this song was made in under four hours. The other 5% was just mixing on my part.
We didn’t know what music we wanted to make that day, so I just started showing her Lewis and Polo & Pan and we were both vibing super hard. It’s not the type of stuff that us two usually make together, but we wanted to keep that momentum of inspiration moving, so we went with a more Funk/House oriented song. I started producing from scratch then and there, and she started writing from scratch as well.
It just flowed really quickly and seamlessly. We were kinda just like, oh, woah, the song is like…done. One time we spent 6+ hours on a 30 second intro, so the quickness of this song was a breath of fresh air for the both of us.
Was this song a quarantine creation? How have you been dealing with (perhaps) reduced studio time? Or do you normally create from home?
It was not! We recorded this back in January when she was visiting Chicago and crashing at my place (she moved back to New York this year). I have my own little home studio in my bedroom, so production-wise I’m not missing out on much.
What is hard, though, is not being able to really have people over to record. My roommates and I are nannies and we have to take social distancing super seriously, so I haven’t had anyone over to make music in a long time.
It’s also easier for me to produce when the artist is there in the room with me. I really don’t like sending beats out and waiting for vocal stems to be sent back. The best songs are made when you can feed off each other’s energy in the same room, so I’m super bummed I haven’t been able to have people over and won’t be able to for a while.
What are some lessons you’ve learned, over the past few years, that you could offer to young women who have an interest in being a DJ and producer?
Don’t be intimidated by anyone else in the room. They don’t know what you can and can’t do. Keep your confidence close and be the most genuine, authentic version of you that you can be. People are gonna see that and naturally gravitate towards you, no matter how experienced or inexperienced you might be.
Also, don’t stress if you’re the only girl in the room. Sure it can be weird at times, but from my experience the majority of men in audio have been nothing but kind to me. Don’t take any BS though; don’t let anyone undermine you knowledge or talent.
What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any other projects or songs?
I have a couple songs I’m working on, but right now I’m kind of in study mode. I’m re-listening to the greats and trying to figure out how to make my sound timeless and barrier breaking, not just fun to dance to. I’ve also been reaching out to a lot of people about working, so maybe expect some producer credits soon!!
Finger Beats has put together a playlist of exactly 10 songs that capture who she is. Check it out here:
Interviewed and edited for clarity by Shelby Kluver
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