2018 was a breakout year for pop musician Stella Bennett, better known as BENEE. Her first single “Soaked” rocketed to the top of the New Zealand singles chart overnight. Like many new talented musical artists these days, BENEE began on Soundcloud covering albums and exploring her sound. Her first EP, ‘FIRE ON MARZZ’released just a few weeks ago and with hits like “Evil Spider” and “Want Me Back,” it’s no surprise the album is already being well received. Often inspired by dreams she’s had, her soul-filled lyrics explore everything from lust to loss – all in her remarkable vocal range. We catch up with the singer-songwriter here in an exclusive interview for RAIN online.
Easy first question, how did the name BENEE come about? I read it was formerly BENE?
Haha! It’s kind of a long story, but basically I just had to change it because I found that there were a bunch of other artists with the same name and people were getting confused!
Your first ‘EP FIRE ON MARZZ’ just released a week ago. I love the album art. Who did that? How’d you come up with the title?
Thank you! Ricardo Cavolo is the name of the wizard behind this art! I have been a fan of his work for ages now, and when it came to finding an artist for the EP art I knew exactly what I wanted. Honestly, I didn’t want to overthink the name and I didn’t think there was one word I could use to sum up all the songs, so I chose a name that popped visually. The art was something I felt strongly about to tie-in with the EP. The name ‘FIRE ON MARZZ’ instantly made me think visually of bright colors and flames, and Ricardo came to mind when I thought of this! When I heard he was keen to work on it, it was just about the best thing.
How did it feel to release a cohesive body of work into the world versus releasing singles?
It feels pretty amazing! I think I’m always looking forward to giving people more music, so I guess putting a chunk of it out together in one go was that much more exciting.
Apple Music editors describe the EP as “a collection of catchy R&B/pop songs with so much warmth and comfort in [your] vocals [the listener] would be forgiven for missing the personal themes and moving stories that lie within.” What are some of those stories? Did you think these would be relatable to an audience when you wrote them?
What I write about definitely varies I would say, HA! Some of my songs are about weird dreams I’ve had, and others such as “Want Me Back” & “Wishful Thinking” are more of those kinda heartbreak songs. I hope that people can relate to what I write about! I like how not everyone knows exactly what each song is about, and I’d be interested to actually get an idea of what people take from some of the more personal / weirder themes throughout my writing.
Your lyrics sound mature and refined – it makes me think you grew up fast. Is that accurate?
Hmm, I’m not sure haha! I don’t think I grew up too fast.
How is the music scene growing up in New Zealand. Do you feel it’s different in some ways from other major music scenes?
I think the big thing about the music scene in New Zealand is that it’s pretty small. Everyone knows each other, and it’s very much like a tight kinda family, like community, which is awesome. I think comparing this to say the music scene in somewhere like America…I would imagine it would be a lot more competitive and probably a lot harder to become known as an artist.
Did you have any childhood icons? Any music you listened to on repeat?
For sure! I grew up listening to a bunch of different stuff! Mum & dad introduced me to artists like Radiohead, Groove Armada & Lily Allen, who I still play on high repeat! I also grew up around a lot of NZ music! Bands like Fat Freddy’s Drop & The Mint Chicks are also a couple childhood favs!
Are there music videos from the new EP coming? What is your artistic vision for these?
Ohhh ya! I have one coming about this crazy dream I had and everything in the music video is inspired by what I wrote down the morning after having this dream, so I’m excited for the world to really take a look inside what goes on inside ma brain!
Speaking of music videos, you’re so fashionable in the “Soaked” video. Does fashion interest or inspire you?
Thank you! Oh for sure! I love fashion! I think any way that I can express myself in different forms I will, and fashion for me is the coolest with just being able to go wild with it! I love the idea of creating my own clothes in the future.
Do you go on tour next? Are you excited to perform your songs live? What do you think your fans are like?I’ve just come back from my first proper tour, and I’ve just announced my Australian tour which will go on late this year! The people that listen to my music and come to my shows are a real mix of people which is soooo flippin cool to me! I love meeting them all!