Name: Elisabeth Renner aka benzii
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Recent release: benzii's debut album Bare Skin is out via Motor.
Recommendations: My recommendation is to listen to the latest eartheater album Phoenix: Flames Are Dew On My Skin while walking through fog in the forest and riding in Sassy 009's blue race car on her website "sassy009.world" showcasing her latest EP "Heart Ego".
If you enjoyed this interview with benzii and would like to find out more about her work, visit her on Instagram, and Facebook.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I remember how touched I was as a child by the expression of feelings and thoughts in music. Nevertheless, for a very long time I was quite intimidated to compose music.
I started off by only writing stories, which then developed into poems. At the age of 14 I started studying and covering songs by my favorite artists, such as King Krule and finally dared to try out songwriting myself. I was immediately hooked.
For me, there is no comparable outlet for what is going on inside me and what I might not dare to say otherwise. That's why I don't write in my native language. It just feels more distant and abstract.
Moreover I simply like the complexity of music. You have an almost infinite number of ways to express a thought, a feeling and don't have to rely on just words, which allows me to fully dive in the intensity without losing myself too much in the choice of words.
I was never satisfied with my poems. I'm too much of a perfectionist … With music I can just let go of that, because there’s another layer to the expression.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you’re listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Music gives me the safe space to be clear about my feelings. I tend to lose myself in thoughts and impulses. Music helps me to take a deep breath and just feel everything without acting directly against it. Instead I try to turn these feelings into something tangible, like a song.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I think my development as an artist is not particularly characterized by a pressure to find a certain sound or to write a hit, but rather by creating something that finds the perfect mix between originality and authenticity.
It is important to me that you can identify with the songs, that I’m able to touch many people, but still keep a certain weirdness to it, which falls out of the grid.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I think the core of my expressions is intensity. I hate it and love it at the same time. It helps me to shock and touch, but at the same time it deprives me.
I used to blame myself a lot for my emotionality and still do. I would like to be more mysterious and cool, and I think a lot of people feel that way.
My lyrical, acoustic and visual expression is meant to help myself, as well as others, to see that intensity is something beautiful, essential to feel truly alive, maybe even viewing it as a blessing.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Personally, I think both have their place. I'm always happy to hear innovative mixtures of genres and sound, as you know from artists like Oklou or Eartheater. But I also appreciate traditional sound in a sense that it's the foundation on which everything new is built.
Ultimately, I think that everyone should listen or write music that they simply enjoy.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
The music writing started with me rather rudimentarily. My music consisted of my parents' piano and my singing.
Today I write electronic music exclusively, which is why I would say that my voice is what holds all the songs I've ever written together. Therefore I’d say it’s the most important instrument to me.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
To be honest, I don't really have a normal routine ... Unfortunately I can't cover all my costs from making music yet, so the only routine in my life is probably my part-time job then x)
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that’s particularly dear to you, please?
My last single “Mess Me Up” is a good example for my work process as an artist.
I usually start with the lyrics, which usually randomly fly to me during bus rides and walks. Then I start to produce a sketch for the song in Logic. Afterwards I show it to friends who help me produce my vision fully and give their own input as well. Later on, I brainstorm ideas for a cover and music video, which I then realize with creative like-minded people.
It’s very important to me to be involved with every creative process that involves my work.
Creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
How closely I work with others really changes from song to song. Sometimes I find it extremely refreshing to work more closely with producers or even write a song instrumental together fully. The working process is much faster and more intense in my experience. There is simply no such thing as postponing something until tomorrow, or space for giving up that easy. You sit together and have to cooperate. That often opens doors to a new sound.
However, I'm not as open minded when it comes to writing lyrics. Writing is a very personal process to me, which is why I'm driving solo when it comes to those.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
My work is quite interpersonal. I write mainly about my own feelings and experiences. Nevertheless, these are of course related to social issues, such as the current dating culture, the pandemic or social conventions in relationships.
Thus, I think art is always indirectly related to society and functions as a channel to reflect one's own life, views, feelings.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
For me, writing music is the challenge to squeeze an inner process into a 2-3 minute text, to understand it better, to get to the point.
But sometimes it’s also enough to find this one song that perfectly fits your situation and let it work for you, serving clarity.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Even if music is based on certain factual laws, such as key, structure, frequencies, etc., I don't find these particularly crucial when it comes to the essential core of music to me: intense experience, absolute emotionality.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn’t or wouldn’t in more “mundane” tasks?
For me, writing and performing music is simply a much more demanding and personal process that requires much more emotional depth, energy and courage. I need this courage rather less when I pour my coffee xD....
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I explain the power of music less by the pure process of listening, but more by the fact that it gives listeners a certain safe space. Lyrics, melodies, and rhythms sometimes speak out exactly what one does not dare to convey or consciously perceive oneself.