INTERVIEW: Benee

From proclaiming that she is an evil spider to delivering psychedelic synths and dreamy storylines about the afterlife, Benee has created a bold and memorable debut EP that certifies her hype status. ‘Life On Marzz’ is one of those rare debut collections that captures her personality, vulnerability and emotions with such ease. The New Zealand singer-songwriter sky-rocketed up the charts after Triple J picked up her hype single ‘Soaked’. And from then on, everyone wanted to hear it. With it’s groovy melody and easy vibe, it’s not hard to see why everyone fell in love with this song but Benee admits that she didn’t really expect anything from it. “It was a song that we finished and I was happy with it but I didn’t really have any expectations for it. We released it as low key track and did not expect it to become my biggest hit, but here we are” she laughs in reflection on it’s success. 

To celebrate the release of ‘Life On Marzz’ she will be returning to Australia in November for a string of headline East Coast shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. 

I recently chatted to Benee about the metaphorical visualisation of being an “Eviil Spider”, the psychedelic and vivid dream she had that inspired the storyline of ‘Afterlife’ and explored the feeling she want the crowd to walk away feeling from her upcoming Australian shows. Check out the chat HERE;

TB: Your debut EP ‘Life On Marzz’ is out now. So with a lot hype behind you thanks to the breakthrough success of ‘Soaked’, did you feel any pressure to live up to people’s expectations or really make sure that this was going to be the best representation of who you wanted to be as an artist for listeners? 

B: When it came to choosing songs and the imagery, I really was trying to think of how I could create this visual representation of who I wanted to be as an artist. I think I managed to do that by choosing songs that were all very different to me and had a diversity sonically. The EP artwork was really important to me because I wanted it to be an explosion of colour and craziness. I wanted to be like “Yo, what’s up everyone, I’m Benee and this is my EP”.

TB: I mean, you definitely successfully did that. Who actually did the artwork for the EP?

B: It was a guy called Ricardo Cavalo! I’ve actually been a fan of his work for a few years and when it came to choosing the artwork I instantly thought of his signature flames he does. And then then when I came up with the name ‘Fire On Marzz’, I was like it would be the perfect fit but I didn’t actually think he would do it. But then I found out he said yes and I died, it was the coolest thing ever *laughs*!

TB: What was it about the symbolism of being an ‘Evil Spider’ that related with you about being sneaky and wanting someone who was already in a relationship? Because it is a very visual song. 

B: I didn’t actually write the song about me. I wrote it about a creepy old man type because there are so many out there *laughs*. I kinda put myself in this situation and wanted to imagine what you would be like to go out of your way to steal someone’s partner. It is a pretty dark theme and I kinda knew that going into writing the song, but I wanted to try lighten it up. I was then inspired by seeing a spider in my room and I was like “omg I’m going to make myself a spider who is lieuing the prey into the web”. So it became this metaphor for the situation. 

TB: Was it a visual metaphor that came to you straight away in the writing process or did you brainstorm ideas on how to translate this feeling visually? 

B: Honestly, I think the spider idea came pretty quick to me in regards to the creative process. I had been liking the idea of animal and little critter themes so I was trying to think of ways I could spice this idea up. I was then in the studio and I knew what I was going to write about and I had it all laid out for the day, but there was just one part missing that would glue it all together. And then it came to me.. It was being a spider and using that metaphoric idea. 

TB: ’Wishful Thinking’ is a song that really stood out to me on the EP because of it’s experimental layers and it’s slick and psychedelic production. So do you mind if we dive into the creative process of this song for a moment? 

B: It’s an old song that I worked on in the same three day sessions that I made ‘Tough Guy’ with my producer Josh Fountain. So I had been sitting on it for ages but it was actually one of the first sad songs I made. I know it doesn’t really sound sad, but it has this melancholic vibe to me because I wrote it about a long distance relationship. It was my first ever relationship and I actually wrote it just before I actually got with him and I was imagining how it would work and almost pre-empted my hurt and pain. I was kind of trying to turn myself off the person by doing this song and exploring the idea of a long distance relationship and the mess and difficulty of it, but that didn’t work *laughs*. 

With lyrics like “Live far away now” and “no way to reach you when I’m low”, It was just me writing about the realness of wanting this person but not being able to see them because they are at the other end of the country. 

It was sad when we made it and it was mixed, mastered and ready to be released but we came back to it at the end of last year and I wanted to grunge it up a little bit so Josh went in and fucked up the bass a little which changed the direction and feel a bit

TB: So why did you decide to sit on this song for so long before releasing it?

B: I don’t really know! It was one of the those things where I sat on it for so long because I wasn’t completely happy with it at the time. I actually have a lot of songs like that now that I will probably go back and tweak a few things before they ever come out.

I was going to release it ages ago as a single but that never happened. But now it’s out for the world to hear *laughs*. 

TB: ’Afterlife’ is another song that I was immediately drawn to because of it’s contrast of dark and cynical lyrics with an upbeat production. The lyrics “In this afterlife, I will prove that you’re ugly and make your new boyfriend love me till there is no one above me” have this really dark wit to them. So what inspire you to go this dark?

B: I felt like such a bad bitch writing it *laughs*. It was actually written about this dream I had. I was studying euthanasia at the time because I was at a religious high school and it was this weird fucked up dream that was kinda about purgatory. I ended up in this weird afterlife because this girl killed me for no reason and I was running around and I wasn’t meant to be there so everyone was questioning me. It was all over the place *laughs*. And then there was a guy that was trying to kill me in the afterlife which made no sense *laughs*. It was one of those weird dreams that I remembered every little detail about. So I woke up shooketh and wrote everything down on my computer to try make sense of it.

So when I started playing with the idea of making this a song, I knew that wanted to make it a diss track for the girl that killed me. I had never really played around with those kinda badass lyrics before. I feel that the likes of Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen really capture that attitude and it’s something that I really love about their songwriting. So I wanted to find a way to incorporate that into my own. So that’s how I came up with this one. And there were times I questioned if I should be saying these things but the feedback has been amazing so I’m glad people enjoyed those vibes. 

TB: I love that you used the word “shooketh” to describe your reaction to the dream *laughs*.

B: Oh, I was SO shooketh *laughs*. I love that word!

TB: ’Soaked’ really took on a life of it’s own and was played everywhere. Like actually, everywhere… So where has been one of the strangest places you’ve heard the song? 

B: I actually heard it the other day in one of those weird stores that sells everything. It’s not a $2 shop, it’s a little more boujee, but it’s the same sort of concept. I was in there with some mates and I was on the phone to my mum for some reason and I was like “oh fuck, my song is on”. And then this big group of dudes were walking around the shop and I could hear them humming along which was so funny. 

 I don’t really go out often, so I don’t get to really hear it in public. I’m a bit of a hermit *laughs*.

TB: ‘Soaked’ was only your second release and you were still an independent artist at the time, so was it overwhelming to see the reaction people were having to it so quickly? 

B: Yeah for sure! It was nuts! As soon as Triple J picked it up, my manager was texting me everyday like “holy crap”. We were so stoked because it was a song that we finished and I was happy with it but I didn’t really have any expectations for it. We released it as low key track and did not expect it to become my biggest hit, but here we are *laughs*. It’s crazy!

TB: You are returning to Australia in November for a run of East Coast shows, so how do you want to visually and aesthetically translate this EP to the live stage for this show?  

B: I’m not 100% sure yet if I’m going to have any screens behind me for these run of dates so I can have projections and visuals. But I’ve started playing with some different things and talking about visuals to enhance it. 

But lights are also something that I really want to bring more into my live performances. It really brings a unique energy and it’s something that stands out to me whenever I go to live shows. So definitely that! I also have a live band who I play with and I feel like we’ve got a lot tighter since doing our last tour so I’m so excited to bring all those elements together and amp it all up. 

TB: What is one feeling or emotion that you want people to walk away from a Benee show feeling or thinking? 

B: I just want people to be satisfied. Because I peronsally love to feel satisfied after I go to a gig. It’s that sensation where you feel the energy, you feel the lyrics and you’re ready to continue on and party for the rest of the night. So I just hope they have a good time. 

TB: Do you want them to be shooketh?

B: I want them to be bloody shooketh! And if they’re not then I will be upset and they will have to come to another one where I will re-shooketh them *laughs*. 

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind.

B: Oh I am SO bad at this game but let’s do it! Go!

TB: My pre-show pump up song is…

B: ‘Weight Off’ by Kaytranada

TB: Most mornings I…

B: Sleep in!

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

B: No, no, no, NO! It’s an absolute not!

TB: The emoji that best describes my EP ‘Life on Marzz is…

B: The t-rex! Because there is a little t-rex in the artwork and I always think about him *laughs*.

TB: My go to snack on tour is…

B: Maybe like a chip? I don’t know, hey! I ate so much weird stuff on my last tour *laughs*. But I did eat heaps of avocado on toast, so let’s go with that!

Benee Australian Tour

Friday 22 November – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane

Thursday 28 November – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Friday 29 November – Max Watts, Melbourne