Interviews

BENEE is more charming, astute and venerable than ever

BENEE has pushed through the hardest times to create another astounding body of work with her new EP, LYCHEE.

BENEE told us about checking in with herself, leaning on support systems and subsequently writing some of her most magnificent music yet, in a seemingly effortless fashion.

HAPPY: It’s a delight to talk about your new single, Doesn’t Matter. Oh my goodness, it’s so pretty. I’m a big fan of your work.

BENEE: Thanks!

HAPPY: I think Doesn’t Matter is so perfectly sweet and sad. It complements the lyrics just perfectly. I guess I was wondering a little bit about the writing process for something so vulnerable.

BENEE: Yeah. Well, I worked with my producer, Josh, who I’ve made most of my music with here in New Zealand, so I’m very comfortable with writing in front of him. And I think it’s just a very chill space where we’ll work together, where I kind of just feel like I can write about anything, which is nice. And we’ve also been working together for so long now that I find it a lot easier to do a session with someone like him.

But yeah, I think for this one, definitely like from the start, I was like, ‘I’m making a sad song.’ And then I think he completely got it and he’s really quiet and patient and just like a really nice guy. So I think it was just nice to just be able to word vomit all of these ideas into my notes. And then I kind of just… we made this very stripped back beat. And then I just got into the booth and just kind of sung my lyrics without kind of having a structure or anything in my head. But yeah, I mean, it was just a nice, sad session with him. It’s always really nice working with them because he always gives me advice and always talks to me about whatever I’m writing about or whatever. So it was, yeah, a pleasant experience.

HAPPY: That’s good. It’s like a little bit of therapy?

BENEE: Exactly.

HAPPY: I love that. That’s so great. So wow, that’s incredibly impressive. So you’re coming into the studio without the lyrics, is that right?

BENEE: Yeah.

HAPPY: My god. Yeah, that makes sense that the melody is so dreamy as well, but you’ve just got a natural way of finding something so beautiful. In the hook, you say over and over again that ‘It doesn’t matter’. And I read that that’s referring to people saying that, that you hear people who don’t understand what it’s like to struggle with mental health, saying, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter.’ That’s huge. Because that’s so common. Obviously, it’s like there are two halves of the world, and they just don’t get each other. How do you feel like people should respond to that?

BENEE: Well, I think, I mean, it’s like, ‘doesn’t matter, don’t worry about it’, it’s like those kinds of comments that I feel people kind of always say first, which are not… it’s not because they don’t want to help you. It’s more that they just don’t know how to help or what they should say. I don’t know. It’s like really cheesy stuff, though they’d be better… like, ‘I’m here for you. I don’t understand exactly what you’re going through, but I’ll listen’, like more of that kind of stuff of just making them know that you’re there and more just for them to understand that… like an anxious and anxious person is not going to feel less stressed by someone saying, ‘don’t worry about it’.

Maybe that works for some people. But I always, when someone says that, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, right, I won’t.’ I mean, I can laugh about it now. But when I was in a hole, it was just the worst when people were like, ‘Oh dude, honestly, don’t worry about it. Like, it doesn’t matter’, and I’m just like, ‘I already know that it doesn’t’, and I wish that I didn’t have to think like that, but it’s like, you know, it’s the way that most people don’t… Actually, that’s the way that a lot of people think is that they will overthink. And it’s not just that easy.

HAPPY: Yeah, it’s not a logical thing.

BENEE: No. For sure.

HAPPY: I hate to quote Instagram, but when you announced the single or that more music was coming, you mentioned that people should have a support system. Do you have a strong support system for yourself?

BENEE: I do. I definitely do. I have my family who I’m very close with and a therapist who has been insane, like so helpful and my friends who I’m really close with as well. I think it’s important to even just have one person who you can talk to. And I think that that should be… I mean, it should be able to be one of your family members or a friend. And if you don’t feel like it is, you guys should have a chat and figure that out.

HAPPY: Yeah, I like the suggestion as well that people even just dump their emotions in the comments or reach out to someone anonymously. Very good idea.

BENEE: I think that’s the thing with media and even like fan pages, I always read what they’re saying to each other and appreciate how supportive they all are. And they all open up to each other and they’re like complete strangers that have met online. I think that at the same time, it can be so powerful because it’s like you can actually connect to people who you don’t know who may be going through a really similar thing and it’s free therapy, you know, having a vent to someone across the globe and it’s crazy that you can make friends that way now. And I think it’s just… you know, take advantage of it because there are some really nice people out there.

HAPPY: Definitely. It’s pretty cool to have such a kind fan base as well.

BENEE: Yeah, totally. Yeah, I’m pleasantly surprised. I feel like bases of listeners can sometimes be mean to one another or whatever, but everyone seems to be really nice.

HAPPY: I love that. That’s great. You mentioned you have your therapist as well as part of your support system. Can I ask, have you been doing the Zoom therapy since the pandemic?

BENEE: I’ve been doing it… I went to my first in-person one this year on Friday, I think, which was really nice. But yeah, I’ve been doing the Zooms and it’s good that we can still do that. But it’s also not the same. But I mean, at least being able to do it on Zoom still makes a huge difference.

HAPPY: That’s good to hear. I want to ask a little bit about getting diagnosed with OCD. I don’t want to pry, but if there’s anything that you wanted to let people know… is there anything about the condition that you wish people knew about?

BENEE: Yeah, for sure. Well, I think what most people… I read this article. And I don’t know exactly what the title of it was, but it was something like ‘OCD, the most misunderstood mental disorder’. I think that most people don’t really know exactly what… I guess what the darker kind of side of it is. I think that it’s portrayed as being this kind of like clean freak thing in a lot of films and stuff. But this character in ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’, have you watched that movie?

HAPPY: Of course!

BENEE: Yeah, it’s like the lady, the woman who’s in the rocky house. I feel like she’s the best example or the closest character with OCD that I’ve come across. And I think that for me, it’s just that super high level of anxiety where you just think ‘they’re going to die’ every day and it’s going to be something. Like once when I was living in my parents’ house, I was living in a sleep out and I would be like lying in bed, and I had this really weird fear that I was going to die in my sleep or the room was going to catch on fire. And I’d hear like the fridge, and it would just be like a normal fridge noise. But I would be so convinced that it was going to catch on fire and that I was going to die that I would turn off the fridge at night and it would like leak and I’d have to like… I don’t know. It’s just like really stupid stuff.

You know, every night, I’ll go around and do my little routine and I count everything and I have to go back and check that everything’s off. Even though I’ve checked twice, you know, the oven might not be off so I’m checking it again. If I’m on the aeroplane, I’ll convince myself that the plane’s going to crash if I don’t count to three. And yeah, also like a big amount of it is also just like intrusive thoughts. Like really fucked up things that I don’t want to be thinking about. Something like… I don’t want to say it. This isn’t something that I thought, but this is kind of something that I can think of that is close to it. It’s like you’re holding a puppy and you drop it. Something like that. And if I don’t count, then it might just randomly happen. So I think there’s a lot more that goes on than I think people realise. And it’s weird to talk about it because it doesn’t feel right. It feels very weird. And it feels like… yeah, I don’t know.

HAPPY: I think it’s helpful to talk about it, though.

BENEE: Yeah, for sure.

HAPPY: And I commend you for doing so…

BENEE: Thank you.

HAPPY: Because especially, there are just so many layers like you said, the anxiety and those intrusive thoughts. I think it’s just people have no idea what it’s like. So they’re probably a lot faster to say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter.’ Cool. So, while people think that creating music is such a great way to express yourself, and it is for so many, have you found yourself… have you ended up feeling like there’s a lot of pressure, especially when you are struggling so much more with your mental health?

BENEE: Yeah, I think definitely for a while last year, I was kind of going through it and then also had everything the year before blow up with Supalonely and all of that. And then it was kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m hella depressed right now and I hate the music that I’m making. And I feel like everyone’s going to give up on me’, and I was just kind of watching numbers drop basically because it was like peak and then you couldn’t go out, couldn’t perform, couldn’t travel or whatever. So it’s definitely a weird time and then just feeling uninspired. And I mean, I saw a lot of my artist friends like tattoo artists and stuff post about it as well, just being like… they just feel so uninspired, they don’t even feel like they want to make art.

I feel like when you’re at a level of sad, it’s like you just… that’s when I know that you need to do something like if I don’t want to make music then I’ve got some serious work to do. And that’s only ever happened one other time at the end of my first proper world tour and I had to go home and I was like, ‘I can’t. I don’t even want to make music right now either. I need to focus on my mental.’ I ended up going to LA at the end of last year, and that was like a huge breath of fresh air, I think, because it was like, ‘OK. I’m back onto it. I’m ready. I’m ready to get back into the role of things.’

HAPPY: That’s cool to know that you can use that to check-in. If you don’t want to make music, you’re like, ‘Alright, let me look after myself.’

BENEE: Exactly.

HAPPY: You mentioned that the song ponders what it would be like to be truly carefree and I feel like that’s something that people talk about all the time because… it’s maybe too deep for us to just chat about right now. But I guess I wonder if that’s something that you would want. I mean, it seems like there is so much that comes hand in hand with so much mental shit. And along with that is being like, ‘Oh, maybe I feel things so much more’ and whatever. I can see why it would be appealing to want to be completely carefree. But I wonder if that’s the kind of experience you’d want for life.

BENEE: Like being carefree? I don’t know. It’s a weird one because I think with Doesn’t Matter, I was wondering what it would be like to not have to feel how I was feeling at the time. And I definitely… I’m on medication now and I’m also seeing my therapist, not at all in the same place. So I’m now actually getting a taste of what it’s like and it’s fucking awesome. Like, I went to the shop by myself the other day. It’s little stuff like that. I don’t really know if this is really answering the question, but I can sometimes go out now by myself. And that was like never before. I would not go anywhere about myself. I don’t like going to the supermarket, that’s still something. But yeah, I think at the same time… I wouldn’t want to change anything that I didn’t need to change. I think it’s just me and it can be improved like it can be helped a bit, but it also makes me make what I make and whatever, so I think no, I don’t really…

HAPPY: I’m sorry, I feel like I phrased that weirdly!

 

 

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BENEE: No, that’s alright. I feel like I…

HAPPY: No, you had a great answer because you touched on what I really meant. People have this idea of a struggling artist and being like, ‘No, you have to be in pain to make things.’ And in response it’s more like, ‘Oh, no, I just want to live comfortably.’ It’s a fine balance. I think it’s cool to see if you’re feeling so much better you can just do these things. You can make great music. That’s good.

BENEE: Exactly.

HAPPY: I will have to wrap up in a second. I just wanted to say, you’ve got your EP coming out. LYCHEE?

BENEE: That’s right.

HAPPY: Awesome. Are you excited?

BENEE: I’m stoked. I’m very excited, yeah. Love an EP.

HAPPY: Well, the world is definitely eager to hear it. We’ll have to wrap up there. But thank you so much for chatting with me.

BENEE: Thank you. Cool beans. Nice talking to you.

HAPPY: Nice talking to you!

 

LYCHEE is out now.

BENEE is playing Yours & Owls Festival, April 2 & 3 at Stuart Park, Wollongong. Pre-sale tix are available now.

Book tix to see BENEE live here.

Photos Supplied

Interview by Chloe Maddren