BENEE (pronounced Benny) is a 19-year-old musician from Auckland, New Zealand.
She rose to public eye after her song “Soaked” climbed Spotify’s Viral Charts in 2018 and would later become certified gold in Australia and New Zealand. Recently she released her debut EP “FIRE ON MARZZ” which features 6 songs including past singles “Soaked“, “Evil Spider” and “Want You Back“. Bleached got the opportunity to interview the rising star:
Formerly your stage name was “Bene”, why did you choose it and why did you decide to add another “e” make it “BENEE” now? What does it mean to you?
I chose the name as it’s a nickname of mine! I had to add the E for a couple reasons, mainly because someone else had Bene and it kinda complicated things, but also so that people instantly know how to pronounce it.
How were you first introduced to music? I’ve always loved music…growing up I was always surrounded by people and family who loved music. Mum sings & dad used to play the clarinet, and at an early age they got me learning the saxophone and guitar.
Did you always know it was something you wanted to do or at what point in your life did you realize? It was actually not until last year when I realised that I wanted to fully pursue music as a career. I had released a couple of songs on SoundCloud, and that got me into contact with my producer Josh Fountain. After releasing Tough Guy, I kinda had this crazy realisation that music was what I loved to do, and I could really give it a shot.
How did signing to Republic Records come about?
It was after I had released Soaked! They showed interest & it came round to flying to New York and meeting with the team. For me, I kinda instantly clicked with them and their system. I felt that they best understood by BENEE vision, and now I’m part of the team!
How would you describe your sound?
I don’t so much like the idea of putting it into one genre and pop is so broad, so I’d say maybe a mix of alternative R&B with some indie elements.
What artists have inspired it? What do you bring to the table that sets you apart from them, makes you unique?
I listen quite widely. Bands and artists like Radiohead, King Krule, Groove Armada & James Blake have all influenced my work. I think with my own music, I like the idea of mixing a bunch of genres and different sounds to create a fresh piece that’s different to what I listen to, so I guess that makes my music unique.
Would you like to branch out and try something new at some point or do you feel like this is the kind of music that you are supposed to be making?
I want my music to constantly be changing. I don’t at all want it to be the same.
Some people compare you to Billie Eilish, from the sound to the lyrics, to the clothes. Does this bother you? What would you say makes you two similar? And different?
I think with this kinda comparison & others I get to young female artists, the real reason why people are comparing us is because we are both new to the scene and young girls. I wouldn’t say my music or style are like hers, though I respect her as an artist and love her work! I’ve gotten a lot of this with Lorde too because we’re also both young gals from NZ. I think people should respect our differences and kinda keep all of our art seperate because we’re all doin’ different things, and it kinda takes away from us when people say that we’re just like each other.
Why is your debut EP called “FIRE ON MARZZ”? Why did you choose “Glitter” to be the focus track of the EP?
I chose the name because I wanted something that would stand out visually, I wanted it to really pop! It doesn’t link to any of the tracks but that’s also another reason why I chose it. I chose Glitter as the focus track as I feel like it does a good job at kinda tying with the art, and it’s the most playful kinda bouncy song in the EP.
If you had to choose one song off the EP, which one would you choose and why?
Want Me Back! This song to me is the most personal song I’ve ever released. Lyrically, it’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever allowed myself to really be with my songwriting & I think that because of this it makes this song mean so much to me.
You released a song titled “Tough Guy” back in 2017, how do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist from that song comparing it to the tracks on the EP and why? Did you consider having the song on the EP?
I think Tough Guy is kinda a lil friend doin it’s own lil thing! I didn’t think of popping it on the EP just because I kinda like that it sits in its own lil bubble. I feel like now as an artist, I’ve really developed my sound a lot more compared to when I wrote Tough Guy. I think the music I’m making now is a lot more experimental.
How would you describe your creative process?
I love to write! So I always have lyrics & melody ideas on my notes and recorded on Logic! I take these into the studio and show Josh what I got, then play him songs I’ve been listening to lately. I’ll kinda point out different sounds that I wanna incorporate into my work, and we’ll kinda bounce ideas off one another whilst he’s creating a beat. I’ll also continue with my lyric writing, then it’ll kinda just be a session of bouncing ideas off each other and creating something that works.
Do you feel like Auckland shaped you in any way creatively?
100%! Growing up in Auckland with my parents being creatives and kinda being around all their friends as a kid definitely shaped me and what I’m like creatively now. I’ve always been encouraged to be creative and kinda think differently, so “faw shaw” NZ has definitely shaped me in that way!
You mentioned in an interview with “The New Zealand Herald” that you have dyslexia, what advice would you give to any other artists that struggle with writing but want to do it for a living?
I think with songwriting, compared to story writing and stuff that I’d have to do in school, it’s a lot easier for me. I think because with creating songs I don’t have to be grammatically correct in the studio and I don’t have to make sentences that make any sense, it gives me this really great sense of freedom! I think that music is dyslexia friendly! It’s allowed me to write and not feel the pressure of making mistakes, so for other artists out there that struggle with writing but wanna make music, I reckon just go for it! Have fun with it & don’t feel like ya have to stick to the system. Create words that aren’t spelt correctly like “mwaaa“.
What has been your favorite thing of going on your first tour? And the worst?
The worst would have to be the jet lag & flying! But the best was just being in ever country and just performing in cool venues out of NZ!
What would say it’s the biggest thing you wish to accomplish as an artist?
I just wanna be able to make music for ma whole life!
What can we expect from you the rest of 2019?
More music, more shows, visuals & fun content!