At only 20 years old BENEE is already one of New Zealand’s most famous singer. After quitting college at 18 to pursue her music career, she was internationally pushed into the limelight with, not only one, but two crazy dance challenges on TikTok based on her songs. As a symbol of this fast-growing success, she collaborated with American singer Gus Dapperton on the song Supalonely and she even was nicknamed “New Zealand Billie Eilish” because of her blue hair.
Numéro: After finishing high school, you went to university for only two weeks before dropping out. Why did even you bother to go?
BENEE: I loved high school and I loved going in learning and be in an environment where you are around lots of people. The idea of university was appealing to me and I thought it was what I wanted to do at the time. But when I got there, I had just released a song and it felt like a distraction because at that stage I already knew what I wanted to do, which was music. So I was like "I'm dropping out", two weeks out, I had enough!
You said you left Uni during a quarter life crisis, what is that?
After ending high school, I felt that I did not know what I wanted to do with my life, which was what a lot of people were feeling at the time. In the meantime, there was a pressure from my school to go to Uni. I think this is partly why I thought I wanted to go so badly, because there was this expectation that I would go. When I went home after the second week on the Friday I was just broken down and I thought "this is not what I want to be doing with my life". At this time, I knew that what I wanted to make was music. The response to the song that I had released was super encouraging, but at the same time I felt that it was a massive risk. My parents were fully supportive and told me "just do it, you are gonna regret not giving it a shot". So, it was sort of crisis but it was a risk that ended up not being a risk after all.
What do you think the middle life crisis will be about?
[Laughs] I don't know, but it will definitely hit me.
BENEE - Glitter
Are you becoming more of a diva now that you're successful?
[Laughs] I don't think so, I hope not! I live with my parents and my brother, and I definitely joke around, I have a jokey diva side...
What is the most diva thing you've done on tour?
Oh my gosh! Probably a lot of things... I don't know if this is a diva thing to do, but the one thing that I ask is to have the window seat on the plane, when I'm touring with the band. I always say "Please... just tell the booking agent to put me on the window seat" [Laughs], I just hate being in between people!
That is all right, I do it as well and I am definitely not touring. In the Tough Guy video you are undressing a rather good-looking boy. Do you think that music videos are a way to make your fantasies come true?
In that particular video, it was me trying to convey that we should be breaking the tougher side that a lot of teenage boys had at the time. Actually, it is about one guy… [Laughs] It was about ripping away that tougher side, not about objectify him. On video you can really do whatever you want, you can have a guy with no top on, if that's your thing that’s cool!
In the Soaked video you are dressed both in some kind of a Matrix-like black outfit and in a yellow raincoat highlighting your innocent side: do you think these are the two parts of your personality?
Yeah I think so! That was what this video was showing, two kind of sides... but also how you can have your own battles with yourself... I get so pissed off with myself sometimes. When I wrote this song, it was me being angry at myself for not saying something to someone in a conversation, for not saying something differently. The video tried to portray with those two characters the kind of battle you have with yourself.
In the same video you are fishing, was it a way to show your fans your secret hobby?
Oh my god... I think we were just trying to add obstacles in this story, to be honest. But, fun fact, I was obsessed with fishing when I was seven, and I asked for a fishing rod, but when I was twelve or thirteen, I couldn't kill the fish, I felt too bad about it, so it was it.
BENEE - Soaked
Your song Glitter gave birth to a dance challenge on Tiktok. Have you tried the challenge? I cannot do it.
I have tried the Glitter one, people told me about it, but the Supalonely one is really really difficult, I can't do that. A few people asked me to do the Glitter thing, and I did it, but people asked me to do the Superlonely one, and you have to be a really good dancer, it's too hard!
You started performing at a very young age. Wasn't it scary to be on stage at the time?
I started performing on stage when I was 17 but touring in different countries was definitely a big step up for me. I'd like to perform forever, it feels very natural, going on and switching on to this kind of character where there is this new-found confidence.
How is it to go back to your parents’ house after staying at hotels in New York and going to fancy events?
I love it to be honest, I love touring and traveling in all these new places, but I do find the constant moving around overwhelming sometimes. Being able to come back to New Zealand, being with my family is really nice, grounding as well: it’s good for the soul!
Do you still like cheap beers and going out like a regular 20-year-old?
Yes I do! Just before the lockdown, before we found out how serious it was, I was at the bottom of the North Island, which is where I live, at this really little house music festival: I love festivals, and partying!
I assume you earn a lot of money now, what are you going to do with all of it?
I don’t know! One day I wanna get a house, I’m not quite there yet but that’s definitely something I want to do, to be able to get a house, support my family. Those are my priorities.
That’s all very reasonable…
Oh you meant crazy stuff! I’ll probably get a dog, although I’ll be away a lot, so…
Last question: to quote Superlonely, do you still feel like a lonely bitch?
[Laughs] I definitely feel like one now that we’re in quarantine, but I’m really not in the place I was when I wrote the song anymore!
BENEE - Supaloleny ft. Gus Dapperton