“Making it” in America had long been a dream for Australian production and songwriting duo Isaac “Zac” De Boni (pictured at left) and Michael “Finatik” Mule — or FNZ. And while the pair are not new to the rap scene as producers (or even to Los Angeles, where they are now based), 2022 so far has seen the two friends’ years of hard work behind the scenes finally start to pay dividends. Among their credits: co-writing and co-producing with Kendrick Lamar (“Die Hard”), Jack Harlow (“Dua Lipa”) and the now-platinum global smash, “Wait For U” by Future and Drake (featuring Tems), which topped the Billboard Hot 100 last month, and holds steady at No. 3 on the same chart this week.
“We are super excited right now, we have some great people around us at the moment,” says Mule from Perth, where the former DJ was visiting friends and family earlier this month. The 35-year-old says the pandemic and being forced to stay inside turbocharged FNZ’s already strong work ethic, and allowed the pair to flourish and make beats and work on tracks that are all coming out this year.
“We always had a crazy work ethic, but during that time, Zac and I just made so many new ideas,” he says. “We looped into the beat making scene [during the pandemic] big time even though we had been producers before that, but we started to make a lot more beats the last two years and just kind of kept pushing ourselves during that time — now that stuff is coming out, and it’s just been crazy.”
“With COVID, even though it was a crazy time in the world, we just locked in and just went into the studio every day, and it’s all coming to fruition now,” adds De Boni.
Not only have the Grammy-winners now caught the attention of connected rap producers, tastemakers and beatmakers, in 2021, the duo piqued the ears of top industry leaders. They subsequently signed a publishing deal with Pulse in October, thanks to their relentless networking and production work which has not only landed them dozens of placements over the past decade on rap tracks from artists ranging from Kanye West to Logic, but also gave them a co-writing credit on Justin Bieber and The Kid LAROI’s mega-smash “Stay” (FNZ say they worked on the bridge of the song).
“We moved to the U.S. at the end of 2010, and we have been managing ourselves the last few years, says Mule. “The stuff that has come out recently has been from our own networking, knowing producers, knowing artists etc., and having a ‘hustle’ mentality,” the beatmaker adds.
It was that same “hustle” that helped FNZ end up as co-writers and co-producers on “Wait For U.” As Mule explains: “We have a great relationship with ATL Jacob,” referencing the Atlanta-based producer who got Future and Drake to cut verses on it. “He’s an amazing producer. … We sent him the idea, and he just loved it.”
“Zac and I do a lot of digging for samples online,” he further explains about the genesis of “Wait For U” — “and last year when we came across Tems, an amazing Nigerian artist, she had a live version of her song ‘Higher’ and it was just insane. … She was like an angel. So, we were, like, ‘Oh man, we have to sample this.’ She was huge in Nigeria already but she hadn’t really popped off in the U.S. yet. So, we found that song, we sampled it, we did some different things to it and added some more sounds around it, flipped it a bit, then sent it over to ATL Jacob and it wasn’t until a bit later that we found out Future jumped on it, and then Drake.”
The first time the pair heard the finished track was actually on the radio. “It’s a worldwide sound and it’s amazing for that to be recognized everywhere right now,” Mule says of the track that Tems’ vocals grace as the main hook.
So, who is the more musical of the duo? According to Mule, that would be De Boni.
“We both have a way of doing our own things, but Zac is way more musically inclined in terms of playing keys and things like that…but we both do mixing, sampling and producing,” he explains.
Says De Boni: “I might be a bit more on the keyboards, and Mike might be a bit more on the drums or whatever, but I still do drums and he still does keys.”
Regardless, the duo, who work mostly via Ableton, have great chemistry and are close friends in addition to being production partners.
Says Mule: “We met at a party and then it wasn’t until years later that a mutual friend of ours suggested that, since we were both producers, we should work together. So we started working together, and found out we had great chemistry. Then it turned into a best friendship too and we started making beats together.”
For De Boni, producing music has been a lifelong passion that began back in Australia when he first heard tracks that were produced by such names as Timbaland. “I grew up listening to everything. … But I got into production because of Timbaland and Neptunes,” he says. “I was just super intrigued by the way they made music, and the interesting beats they made caught my ear. My brother’s friend gave me a copy of Fruity Loops and that was the beginning of it all.”
And while the duo just finished a visit back down under (their first in years, since they were locked out during the darkest days of the pandemic), they still remain as under-the-radar there as they are in the United States, although that is changing in both countries, thanks to the chart success of “Wait For U.”
“In Perth at least, our name is starting to circulate a bit more,” says Mule. “They are just now starting to get who we are.”
Adds De Boni: “A lot of the stuff we have done before has been cult classics or album cuts or whatever. They may be massive streaming songs, but it’s really been more recently that we have had the chance to hear our stuff on the radio when driving, which has been nice.”
The two producers are especially bullish on the rest of the year, and the tracks they have coming. Although they can’t reveal with whom, they hint at a Ty Dolla $ign collab.
“With our mentality and the way we work, joined with the team at Pulse and what they do, it’s just nonstop,” says Mule. “There’s nothing we can’t not do.”