text Tina Summers photographs Max Doyle styling Miguel Urbina Tan hair & make-up Rosie Neyle talent Benee

Benee is the 19-year-old New Zealand-born artist blowing up in her home country and abroad with an idiosyncratic mix of indie pop and R&B. Growing up in suburban Auckland, Benee surrounded herself with creatives from a young age, recording a series of covers on Garage Band that caught the attention of a producer while she was still in high school. Since then, she’s been recording and performing and gearing up for stardom. In the lead up to her debut EP FIRE ON MARZZ, and her second headline Australian tour, we met up with Benee in Sydney and quizzed the musical prodigy on yesterday, today and the future of her budding music career.

Bene_2.jpg Bene wears Kow Tow jacket, Reliquia earrings and Valet clip

How would you describe your music to people who might be tuning in for the first time? I mean, it’s kinda a mix of indie, R&B and alternative pop! I love to mix different elements from different musical genres to create a fresh exciting sound.

Could you tell us a little about your upcoming EP, FIRE ON MARZZ? What can we expect from it? It’s made up of six songs that I’ve spent the past almost two years writing! There’s a mix of different moods on each track so you can expect to hear songs that are very different to the ones I have out now.

What was it like working on it? And how did you approach it? For me the creative process of writing and making up this body of work was waaaay too much fun! Two legends that produced the songs with me called Josh Fountain and Djeisan Suskov (both in band Leisure) make the song-crafting process an overall flipping awesome experience. We worked together in a funky lil’ studio in Morningside, Auckland. I think we kinda work from song to song and during this process we kinda knew which ones would make the EP. Before going into the studio I’d bring a bunch of notes about weird dreams I’d had or a really memorable night that I decided to write down at 3am. For me, being able to kinda explore different weird ideas was the ultimate way to just roll out finished songs that I think represent me best.

Bene_6.jpg Bene wears Trelise Cooper jumper, Kow Tow pants, Valet clips and Primavera necklaces

Do you have a favourite song from the EP? It’d probably have to be ‘Want Me Back’, because it’s the song that has the most meaning to me. I explored different ways of projecting my voice in the final bridge and really let myself become very vulnerable through honesty with my lyrics. I think with this song every word that I wrote really had a strong tie to the feelings I felt during a breakup. I hope that the listener gets a sense of where I was at emotionally writing the song.

Were you always interested in doing music? How and when did you start out? I asked to learn the saxophone when I was eight and then my rents got me into playing the guitar, so I guess I was interested in learning it then. But I kinda ended up dropping both when I started to play competitive water polo as that took up most of my time! In my last year of high school (2017) I kinda had a weird impulse moment where I decided to post a couple of covers to Soundcloud for my mates…so that’s when it kinda fully started out.

When did you write your first song and what was it about? I improvised a song when I was 4 about wanting to be pretty and blonde and to this day my family still teases me by playing the video they have of it.

Bene_9.jpg Bene wears Double Rainbouu top & hat

What’s the creative scene in Auckland like? Are there any artists there you love working with or admire or that you count as a close friend? I mean I think music right now in Auckland is at a serious peakkkk! Those Leisure guys are the only other musicians I’ve worked with so far but there are some sick acts in the scene right now like Chaii and Imugi — they’re awesome! I’m doing a headline show with Jack Berry and the Katayanagi twins and they’re both flippin kewl. I also just did a merch co-lab with a really talented graphic artist/painter called Shelley de Bruyn.

Do you prefer recording or touring and why? I’m about to go on my first proper tour so I guess I’ll be able to answer that later! I love recording and playing live shows equally though.

Which artists or specific works are most inspiring to you? Any art that speaks to me is inspirational! When you find an artist that really moves you it’s that’s the best. Innovators like Jackson Pollock inspire me…people who use unconventional methods and break new ground free the artists who follow. Two musicians who spark me are James Blake and Rosalia.

Bene_7.jpg Bene wears Michael Lo Sordo jacket and Le Specs sunglasses

If you could collaborate with any musical artist in the world, who would you pick and why? I think right now probably King Krule. He’s just crazy. His music is next level and makes my heart melt. I just reckon making something unique with him would be sick.

If you could collaborate with any visual artist in the world, who would you pick and why, and what would you want to make with them? Maybe this artist called ‘Rita Salt’. She’s actually a tattoo artist but her drawings are soooo cool man. They’re crazy and colourful and I reckon single art could be mean.

What instruments can you play? Saxophone and guitar but not very well anymore.

Is there anything weird or funny about you that nobody knows? Many things. I think in order to find these things out one needs to gain ma trust as I can’t have everyone knowing the kinda shit that goes on in my brain.

Bene_4.jpg Bene wears Trelise Cooper jumper and Valet clips

What was your day shooting with Max for Doingbird like? Dude he was so cool! The whole setup was super fun and vibe. I think we all just had a good time, super chill and relaxed which is always nice.

What makes you happiest in the world? This sounds cheesy as heck but for me having genuine connections with people who have time for me makes me most happy.

Who is your hero? Mum.

Where do you want to be in…

1 year’s time: Somewhere cool. 5 years time: Having the best time of life. 10 years time: Iceland? 50 years time: In a funky-ass house with a mean family and two Rottweilers.

What song sums up your current state of mind? ‘Sunflower (feat. Steve Lacy)’ — frickin feeeeel good!

Bene_1.jpg Bene wears her own clothes

Benee’s FIRE ON MARZZ Tour Dates: Friday 22 November - Woolly Mammoth – Brisbane, QLD Thursday 28 November - Oxford Art Factory – Sydney, NSW Friday 29 November - Max Watts – Melbourne, VIC