Interview: BENEE Talks Debut EP ‘FIRE ON MARZZ’ & BENEEvision
New Zealand’s BENEE (formerly BENE) caught lightning in a bottle when “Soaked” went viral in 2018. The fuzzy, indie-pop/R&B concoction racked up close to 20 million cumulative streams and caught the attention of Republic Record in the US. The 19-year-old didn’t waste time recording her debut EP and FIRE ON MARZZ arrived on June 28 to glowing reviews. Which makes her decision to drop out of university and focus on music seem rather canny. The 6-track set includes her breakthrough single as well as more recent offerings.
I recently posed BENEE a serious of questions about her debut EP and she explained the curious title (it’s a reference to her music being “a big, old fiery experience”) as well as the story behind “Evil Spider.” The breakout star also opened up about the vulnerability of current single “Want Me Back” and the addition of an extra “E” to her name. Other topics of conversation included the goal of BENEEvision, the prospect of dropping an album and cracking the US. Get to know BENEE a little better in our Q&A below.
Why did you add an “E” to your name?
Well, basically when I came to the states with my name “BENE” I stumbled across a wee road bump. There was someone else with the same name. So I decided that instead of completely changing my name, I’d just add a lil’ something to the end.
Can you explain BENEEvision?
BENEEvision is this idea I have of everything I do contributing to a much bigger, kind of “art piece.” I want everything to build and create a massive artwork composed of different songs, colors, physical art and visuals. I’m inspired by Jackson Pollock; splashing layer upon layer, using different materials, experimenting with new methods to produce something fresh. I’d love to be able to create in this way!
How would you describe your sound? Alt-pop, R&B or a hybrid of both?
Hmmm, I guess I’d like to think it’s a bit of a mash up of different genres. A kinda mix of indie/R&B/alternative pop.
How did you connect with Josh Fountain?
It was after I posted a few covers onto Soundcloud, we got in contact through those and I went and met him at Golden Age Studio.
Did you think “Soaked” was going to be a life-changing song when you recorded it?
To be honest. not at all. I’d released “Tough Guy” at the end of the previous year, and it didn’t really get that much love, so I really didn’t expect anything this big from “Soaked.”
How did you land a deal with Republic?
Is the US a major priority for you?
For sure! I think the States is a huge part of the music industry worldwide. There are so many other artists and music industry people here, so I think to be working my audience here is definitely a go.
Is “Evil Spider” based on personal experience?
I wrote “Evil Spider” about wanting someone that’s already taken. I guess it was based on a personal experience, but I went a lil extreme on the theme… me being a spider trying to snare someone. In real life, I was just observing!
Was it hard being so vulnerable on “Want Me Back”?
You know what? “Want Me Back” is currently my favorite and the process of making it was pretty crazy. I think this is the first song in which I’ve fully opened up and made myself super vulnerable, so to put that out there… I was a little nervous at first. This song means so much to me, and I poured so much emotion into it. I think even just having this song as a little marker from a pretty significant happening in my life so far means I’m happy and confident with it.
How did you come up with the EP title FIRE ON MARZZ?
Ha! I wanted to have something that didn’t really link to any of my songs or make sense. I think every song in my EP is a little different to the other, the themes are all over the place so I wanted a name that didn’t necessarily “match” the songs but could elevate them and make it all a big, old fiery experience when you listen to it. FIRE ON MARZZ for me is a bang of energy, visually pretty strong as well with flames instantly coming to mind.
Are you working on an album?
I’m building up a bunch of music so could be possible.
“Glitter” is a standout on the EP. What’s it about?
This night I had out at the coolest gay bar in Auckland, NZ where a random [guy] came up to me with a tube of glitter and poured it on my head.