New Zealand’s Benee (formerly Bene) went from making pizzas (which she apparently wasn’t very good at) to an indie-pop career that brought on Lorde and Billie Eilish comparisons and endorsements from Zane Lowe, Billboard and more. We spoke to her in anticipation of her headlining show at the Red Room at Cafe 939 next Tuesday. Read on to hear her discuss everything from her favorite James Blake songs to her EP’s album art, being covered in glitter, and more.

KB: I recognized Ricardo Cavolo’s art style from his work with Kaytranada! I know you touched on the album art for EP FIRE ON MARZZ a bit in an interview with Rain Mag, but can you tell me more about how the process of creating it came to be? What was it like working with him?

B: I mean I’ve been a fan of his work for ages now, and I think when it came to finding an artist to make my EP cover he sprung to mind. His use of colour and bold forms really appealed to me, and he used the characters in my songs as inspiration. I had one phone call with him! I kinda just told him about my work, and he had a listen to my songs, but really the only guidance I gave him was that I wanted it to link with the name of my EP because I really wanted to let him have free rein!

KB: Please describe your music without using genre names.

Hmmm it’s like a crispy apple… I like to think that it’s fresh…I like to use that word to describe it!

KB: You’ve talked about your fear of large spiders in an interview with Ones to Watch. Are there other fears you’d like to share? Are there any fears related to the music industry?

B: I have a ton of minor fears. I think music industry related I’m just afraid of regretting something I’ve done which may not have been totally true to myself.

KB: Talk to me about the recording process for your songs. In an interview with Beyond the Stage you talk about how you bring notes and ideas to the folks you’re working with at the studio and play them songs you’ve been listening to. Do you want to share some specifics on a song or section to help readers get a sense for how you build off your initial ideas?

B: My song “Afterlife” was based on a dream I had! It was one of those dreams where I woke up and remembered so much of it. I quickly typed what I could remember down on my phone and brought it into a studio session the following day! Dreams have really inspired me recently with my songwriting, as they kinda form these weird stories that no one else could come up with. I love writing songs in story structure, and I think dreams really allow my lyrics to flow easily!

KB: If your EP was a room, what would it look like? What would it be decorated with?

B: A tonne of glitter! Maybe like a seriously brightly coloured wall!!! Stars & space painted on the ceiling! Lots of comfy cushions & fluffy rugs to laze around on (::: a green lava lamp maybe. Some aliens plopped around the place hahaaaa!

KB: What are your favorite James Blake songs? (You must’ve been so excited about the James Blake x Rosalía song, because it seems like those are two artists you love!)

B: Holyyyy! I first found out about James when he released his album Overgrown in 2013! I think his songs “Life Round Here” and “I Am Sold” have probably been two of my favourite songs of his ever since! I think from Assume Form his song “I’ll Come Too” is probably a favourite of mine!

KB: You mentioned you’ve been listening to Still Woozy and Rosalía a lot lately (Same! Good stuff.) Who else have you been listening to lately?

B: I’ve just started listening to a couple songs by The Marias, they’re supa cool! I’ve also been really liking Jakob Ogawa & Toro y Moi!

KB: You mentioned to i-D that you dig the Colors and Tiny Desk YouTube channels and find a lot of new artists on there. Do you regularly make an effort to discover new music, or do you rely on recommendations/Spotify’s Discover weekly/music blogs/YouTube channels, etc.? (Or a mix of both?)

B: I think a mix of both! I kinda have a super deep search on YouTube sometimes trying to find new music. Or I’ll go onto Spotify and kinda download a bunch of playlists then heart songs I like and find artists that way too!

KB: You’ve talked about how being dyslexic has made it hard at times at school. How does songwriting help you explore your emotions? Are there any song lyrics you’ve written that you think were influenced by your ability to process language differently?

B: I think for me, it’s more just that songwriting kinda doesn’t have the boundaries that academic writing had for me! I’m a very visual thinker, and I think that shows in a lot of my songs.

KB: Your parents are both creatives—aside from music, what other works of art influences you?

B: I love art in all kinds of forms! Film, animation, painting and sculpture are just some other art forms that inspire me! I love going to galleries & wandering around new cities looking at architecture (:

KB: I read that “Glitter” is about a night some dude dumped a bottle of glitter on your head. Can we hear that story?

B: Haha! I wrote glitter after this night I had where I was at a Charli XCX after party, and a bunch of mates and I ended up at this crazy gay bar near where I live! It was just this super surreal night with a bunch of crazy cool people, and someone did end up coming up to me and covering me with glitter which inspired me to write the song!!

KB: You’ve got some funky sounds on “Soaked”—are there any particular sounds or non-traditional instruments you’ve used in your music?

B: Oo ya for sure! I’m super fascinated by Arabic music, and in a song that I have coming out soon I took chords from the Arabic scale and incorporated them into the song!! I look forward to experimenting with a whole lot of other sounds and textures in the future!

KB: What’s next?

B: I have new music and visuals coming out that I’m super excited about! I’m also doing a heap of shows so I have a lot to look forward to at the moment! (:

Hear Benee perform her debut EP (and more) live on Tuesday, October 22 at the Red Room at Cafe 939.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.