Interview: BENEE on Blending Art and Music

Monday, July 22, 2019

New Zealand 19-year-old BENEE continues to spice up pop music with everything she unleashes into her wild, and her debut EP FIRE ON MARZZ is a captivating release that blends an array of bewitching styles and sounds. We recently had the chance to talk to her about her EP, weird dreams, visuals and her travels.

You released your EP FIRE ON MARZZ recently, how has the last couple of weeks felt?

They've felt pretty cool! I think everyone’s been super supportive, which is awesome. I’ve been getting lots of good feedback on it too, which is nice. So, yeah, I’m very happy.

How did you celebrate its release?

I had a hometown gig at the end of my tour because I arrived back on the day before I released my EP. So, I had a gig at the Powerstation in Auckland with my people and yeah, and then we just partied.

That sounds like a lot of fun!

Oh yeah, loved it.

Was working on the EP a lengthy process?

Yeah, I made them all at very different times. Like songs like 'Wishful Thinking' were from 2017. But I think when I knew that we were gonna put out an EP, it didn’t take too long to kinda get it all together and say, 'this is what we wanna release now'.

Outside of the six tracks, did you work on many others, or was it just the six?

I have done two other songs. They’re probably gonna be released as singles and then possibly an album or another EP. So, yeah, lots more music coming to you!

Can't wait!! And were there any particular challenges you had to deal with when working on it?

There were some discussions where some people didn’t want or like particular songs on the EP. It kind of came down to being bossy and what I wanted ended up staying on the EP (laughs).

I’ve read that you’re really inspired by dreams. What is it about dreams that you find particularly inspiring when creating?

I used to have these dreams where I remembered every little thing. I wake up and I’m always like, 'Oh my god, like, that was crazy'. I wake up and write them all down. With making more music, I kind of realised that there are trends in these dreams, and I use them to write songs. I find them really inspiring, even random dreams, and I don't think my songs would be the same without those really specific dreams.

Have you ever tried going through one of those dreams guides to decode them?

I’ve had some weird dreams. Recently, I had a plane crash dream. And I’m like...does it actually mean something? And I go and look at it and it actually does mean something. Or like, you fall off the sky tower, or something, I’ve had a lot of those, but I haven’t really recorded those real kinds of whack dreams that I’ve had.

Oh wow, your dreams are really intense (laughs). 

Oh yeah, they're fucking weird man. With my average dreams, I’m like, OK, I’ll just highlight the ones that were really cool, ‘cause I’m sure no one wants to hear about those crazy ones.

Outside of music, what are some artforms that you draw influence from?

So I really love to draw. I also always use Jackson Pollock as an inspiration. I have this thing called BENEEVision which was this idea that my work can contribute to something larger and I went on and used different materials and stuff. I also had a mix of visuals and colours, different textures stuck onto it, like an empty canvas. I feel like this is the kind of style I also approach in my music career. So, I mean, Jackson Pollock, definitely has inspired the EP and me creatively overall. I just love the idea of mixing genres. The way a lot of artists and painters break away from the usual ways of creating art and mix colours, for me, has been something I have really wanted to do with my music — making music the way you make art, by mixing things up and trying to create a fresh sound.

How would you describe the relationship between visuals and music, and how do you think they can help each other?

For me, music is the base, and then I think the visuals and art and colours elevate it to this other place. I think they just work so well together. Once you have a video for a song, it just makes it that much more, and it can connect with so many people. When I hear a song I like, I tend to see the visuals or something that goes with it. It could even be a cool tour poster. With shows, I'm fascinated by the lighting or visuals. I went to Billie Eilish's show recently, and she had this crazy light show and these crazy animations, and it means so much to have these elements in a live performance.

What are some of the things that you want to visually bring to your live shows?

I wanna have something playing on a screen behind me. Whether that’s some weird animations, so definitely recordings or animations behind me.  I went to this gig in London at this place called The Waiting Room, which I was playing on tour and it was heavy-screamo. It was this random gig and we were really different from each other, like the guy was doing screamo. But we stood there and watched him and he had this crazy light show going on. It was the coolest thing ever, and we were also having really, really intense fun. Visuals are something I really want to work on with my future shows.

You’ve been travelling quite a bit across the last year, which is really cool, what have been some of your highlights?

Definitely the tour I just came back from. We did Europe, and we went to Berlin, which was the biggest highlight for me. I went on this three-hour cycling and graffiti tour with this random guy from London, who was a crazy dude, but really funny and a lot of fun. We had a look at the art, which was pretty awesome. Amsterdam was crazy too, and even LA and New York as well, I love those places. I loved being able to get out there and play in different areas of the world, and seeing that some people actually listen to the music (laughs), and having them sing it back to me has been mindblowing, crazy and a really cool experience.

Are crowds different on the other side of the world or is it pretty similar?

I think they change everywhere, to be honest. Like with New Zealand or an Aussie crowd, I feel like we're definitely our own different sort, I don't know if it's because we're a little more wild or the crowd is super amped up from having a couple of drinks, but it's more bouncy here. When I played in Berlin, it was more toned down. I think it changes everywhere.

Is there anywhere you’re really keen to visit?

Yes, I wanna go to Japan, really badly!! I’ve been telling everyone about it for over a year, I would love to go there.

And what is it like now that you're doing music full-time?

It's pretty wild. It's what I have wanted to do. Now that it's possible and I'm doing it, it's so cool! I started university, doing a communications degree, and after two weeks I thought I was going to go mad, so I left (laughs). But, I mean, it’s been pretty crazy, and I’m just loving it, having a good ol’ time.

Along with the Australian dates at the end of the year, what else have you got coming up?

I’m going away in August to LA to do some writing and to make music with a bunch of people. And then, I’ll be doing the Aussie shows and then some possible festivals in the summer, hopefully.

Sounds like you’re going to be busy!

Yeah! (Laughs) We’re having fun, so it’s all good.

Thanks, so much for chatting with me. Looking forward to catching you live in November. 

Of course. Cool beans. Thank you so much.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)


Watch BENEE perform 'Glitter' in a performance for Vevo:

Tour dates:
Friday, November 22nd - Woolly Mammoth - Brisbane, QLD
Thursday, November 28th - Oxford Art Factory - Sydney, NSW
Friday, November 29th - Max Watts - Melbourne, VIC
More information here

Follow BENEE: