On BENEE’s debut EP, FIRE ON MARZZ, her spunky lyrics are soaked in funky indie pop and then seasoned with R&B. Like everything else the 19-year-old New Zealander creates, her debut EP’s title drips with unbridled personality. And Mars isn’t the only thing on fire–BENEE has had a blazing hot 2019, bringing in over two million monthly streams on Spotify, including a total of over 20 million streams on her single “Soaked” alone.
In November, she dropped her second EP of 2019. STELLA & STEVE beams with dreamy grooves that complement the more sugary sweet pop of FIRE ON MARZZ. With a demeanor as upbeat as her sound, BENEE is adding her own kind of glitter to the pop industry. When BENEE sat down with FRONTRUNNER, we talked about where she’s come from and what inspired her new EPs, and we also learned which James Blake record is her favorite.
What was it like taking a leap of faith, dropping out of college to pursue music?
It was pretty scary at the time! I got home my second week at uni and had this moment where I was like, “I can’t see myself being happy doing this for the rest of the year.” I had a big ol’ chat with my parents about dropping out, and they were fully supportive of my decision to focus on music.
I know that you love James Blake. If you were going to be stuck on Mars, what James Blake album would you bring with you?
Haha! Definitely Overgrown! [That’s] been my favorite since it first came out.
In your new single “Find an Island,” you sing about someone finding an island away from you. If you could escape to an island, what would it look like?
Ooh, I think either a super nice tropical island, or a real freaky-looking one with a wild dangerous-looking rock!
You’ve mentioned that your dreams play a role in your creative process. What’s the craziest dream you’ve had that inspired a song?
I had this crazy dream which inspired my song “Afterlife”! It was super weird. I was killed by mistake in my dream, then woke up in this strange afterlife, and I wasn’t meant to be there! Someone was chasing me ‘round in the dream, and I woke up and wrote the whole thing down.
I love the sinister vibes in “Afterlife,” and in “Evil Spider” too.
Thank you! I wrote them around the same time. I think after I wrote “Soaked,” I didn’t hold back on weird themes for my songwriting, and that kinda shows in these tracks.
Was the “Glitter” music video inspired by one of your dreams, too?
No, actually, it wasn’t! The director, Steven Mertens, made the story up. It definitely reminded me of the random themes that flow through my dreams though.
I read that “Soaked” is about regretting not saying something in a pivotal moment. What’s something you’ve sang on FIRE ON MARZZ that makes you feel relieved rather than regretful?
“Want Me Back” for sure! I think listening back on that song makes me surprisingly feel pretty good. It’s my saddest song by far, and at the time writing it I wasn’t in the best place. But being able to look back on that time makes me feel pretty happy about where I am now!
I love the Māori language version of “Soaked,” too. Why do you think it’s important to do songs in Māori?
Yay, [I love it] too! I feel strongly that we should do as much as we can to preserve and fully embrace such a beautiful and sacred language and culture that we’re so lucky to have so close to us. I’m not fluent in the language but through school I’ve learnt quite a lot about the culture. I think singing “Soaked” in Te Reo Māori made me feel super proud to be from New Zealand, and it’s definitely inspired me to make more of an effort to learn the language!