In conversation, Bennett is friendly, cheeky and animated. Strikingly confident, fearless and unselfconscious for her age. She was similarly unfazed by her set being brutally cut to four songs by festival organisers on the night.
Having taken up music after quitting a communications degree in Auckland, Bennett grabbed attention with her second single, Soaked, which was among the best singles of last year. With its low-slung, hip-hop-style production (courtesy of Leisure’s Josh Fountain and Djeisan Suskov – her production team), Soaked dominated New Zealand radio, and was embraced by Triple J (appearing in the Hottest 100) and the BBC.
The subsequent songs on Fire on Marzz consolidated the hype, mixing indie-pop, R&B and ’60s soul flavours.
Having become a minor pop star in New Zealand, she has laid the groundwork for success globally. She was named on influential music website Complex’s best new artists of the month in October, was profiled in US magazine Billboard, made two visits to the US and UK, and performed a smattering of European shows.
In August, she wrote and recorded in studios in LA, working with hot local producers Kenny Beats (FKA Twigs, Vince Staples), Jenna Andrews (Lily Allen, Little Mix) and Noah Breakfast (Carly Rae Jepsen, Santigold), some of which can be heard on Stella & Steve.
I like to enjoy myself on stage and the band makes that very easy.
“I think it was kind of an experiment to see how I would work with other people,” she laughs. “I was completely out of my comfort zone because I was so used to working with Josh and Djeison at their little studio in Morningside [Auckland]. I was a bit freaked out and overwhelmed, but it was good for me.”
Her recorded output is sophisticated and polished, but her live show is still developing. Her band is comprised of three other 19-year-olds – a demographic mix that gives Bennett’s manager regular conniptions – and all of them, including their frontwoman, are still honing their stagecraft.
“As I do more and more gigs, people are recording it and sending me videos, and I’m like, ‘oh my gosh, that’s what I need to work on!’ ” she says. “I like to enjoy myself on stage and the band makes that very easy. I just throw myself out there and say embarrassing stuff, but I like where I’m just being honest and being an idiot.”
Benee plays Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, on Friday, November 22; Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, on Thursday, November 28; and Max Watts, Melbourne, on Friday, November 29 (all sold out). She also plays Spilt Milk Festival in Canberra on Saturday, November 23; Ballarat on Saturday, November 30; and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in the new year.