Hitmakers: Finn Keane on Charli XCX's Speed Drive

Hitmakers: Finn Keane on Charli XCX's Speed Drive

Charli XCX is battling for No.1 with her new album Brat. Here, we revisit our Hitmakers feature on her recent Top 10 single Speed Drive.

Barbie: The Movie was a sensation at the box office last summer and its star-studded soundtrack album was no different. Here, songwriter and producer Finn Keane, better known as Easyfun, talks teaming up with Charli XCX on one of its breakout tracks, the frenetic Top 10 hit Speed Drive…


Charli and I had just been working on her new record, and it had been really fun. It must have been early spring [2023] and she texted me saying, ‘I’d love to do another couple of days with you.’ 

We were going to write for her album again, but the night before the session she called me up and said, ‘Mark Ronson just called me.’ That happens if you’re Charli XCX, I guess. She said, ‘He wants us to try a few things for the Barbie soundtrack, maybe the car chase sequence? It looks like it’s going to be a really exciting film, are you up for doing it with me?’ I said, ‘Of course! That sounds amazing.’

The next day, we met up at her boyfriend’s [The 1975’s George Daniel] studio and tried out ideas. We immediately knew it was going to be about Barbie and driving, so it had to be high-octane. Charli had been shown bits of the film by Greta [Gerwig, director] and Mark, and described it to me, but it wasn’t like we were working to picture or anything. I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be like until I saw it at the cinema, which was a funny process but a good buzz. I liked it.

I knew a few other names who were working on the soundtrack, but I didn’t know any of the music other than hearing about this slightly tongue-in-cheek Lizzo song [Pink]. That explains why Speed Drive has this slightly flippant, tongue-in-cheek quality to it, because one of the big successes of the film is its sense of humour. It made sense to write a song that was quite fun, so we really leaned into that.

We had the idea of starting with that synth, but having aggressive bass sounds underneath. Charli wanted to try something a bit like Cobrastyle by Robyn, but I didn’t have anything ready, so she said she was going to make some lunch. I started a beat and she’d shout over, ‘Oh, I like that,’ or, ‘Oh, I don’t like that,’ and we made a few sounds in five or 10 minutes. I think it was just the riff, the bass and that drum beat. 

Immediately after I finished lunch, she put all of that down. She did a couple of parts on the mic, wrote the verses and the hook, and then we finished the chorus lyrics together. It was a super-quick process and it made sense for it to be just under two minutes long – a whirlwind of a track. Imagine it with a full bridge and long outro – it wouldn’t be a Speed Drive anymore. 

Usually, Charli does a mumble track over a beat without any lyrics. On the [interpolation of Mickey by Toni Basil], she was playing around with it and said, “What do you think about this? Should it be like, ‘Ah Barbie, you’re so fine?”’ We knew we wanted to namecheck Barbie and that felt silly, light and fun, so we followed the idea, knowing that it was going to be the hook. 

It was a frenetic environment working on Speed Drive and I accidentally spilt coffee all over her boyfriend’s chair, so I’m very sorry about that and I just want to say that all the proceeds of the song are going towards getting George a new studio chair!

Charli is such a fantastic writer: if you give her three or four sounds with energy and vibe, she can completely flesh it out – it’s like a superpower. I first met her around 2016 when she was working with AG Cook, one of my best friends and collaborators, and I was working in the studio next door. Very casually, we had a session and did a song called 3am (Pull Up). 

I was excited and inspired by how quickly she worked and that she was throwing out all of these melodic ideas. We were very much on the same page. We didn’t even have to talk about it, it was just instinctive. She comes up with the most simple thing on one note, but then she’ll add a few rhythmic details that make it catchy. I’m always blown away by that with her and I think she completely nailed that on this one. 

The other thing about Charli is she likes things that can both feel cute and sweet, but also chaotic. I’ve always connected with that as well, and I love that side of the music we make together – that something can feel poppy and hopefully immediate, but also have a tough, hard edge. 

The Barbenheimer TikTok trend was fun to watch, I think that helped spur on the song. But my favourite videos were people who would post pictures of their speeding tickets and be like, “Fuck you Charli, this is your fault!” I thought that was really funny! 

The whole Barbie experience was a cultural phenomenon in a way that felt like the ’90s, where everyone was watching the same movie and talking about the same thing at the same time. We haven’t had a blockbuster like that in so many years. Obviously, the song is just a small part of it, but I feel very privileged to have been involved. It’s been exciting to have a song that is known globally – particularly in the US – that has been great for me. And I’m very grateful to Charli for bringing me in. I’m a mega fan of hers anyway and I can’t wait for people to hear more of the stuff we’ve been working on together.

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