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With their glossy debut earworm Rendezvous, Miss Benny memorably emerged as one of pop’s most electrifying new artists. Following the release of equally-infectious queer synthpop bangers such as That’s My Man and Every Boy, the COVID pandemic – and a leading role in Netflix’s comedy series Glamorous (out now, read our cast interview here!) – saw them temporarily halt their musical ambitions.

Four years on, Benny has finally launched their comeback with their debut EP, Swelter, led by the ‘angry and energetic’ stylings of their pop, metal and rock combo Break Away. Benny tells GAY TIMES that their new musical direction is a “peek into my personal life for the first time”: “I was nervous about how I would feel releasing this music, just because it is so personal and different for me. But, I’ve just been met with the most warm and amazing response.” 

From heartbreak to infidelity and closure, the themes on Swelter will undeniably resonate with listeners – particularly those under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Read ahead for our full interview with Miss Benny, where they discuss the creative process behind Swelter.

What inspired the direction of Swelter?

Up until this point, I had just done a lot of pop music about kissing boys, hooking up and having fun – escapist pop. I think a lot of artists, when the pandemic hit, took a step back. I was like, ‘I want to make songs for me. What am I truly feeling right now?’ I recognised that I had some anger, heartbreak and resentment that I had never really worked through, especially artistically. I started to do a trial run of, ‘What would it sound like if I put the things I’m currently working through into my music?’ and it turned out to be this pop-rock, metal-rock sound. The song that solidified that was Break Away because I wanted to make something that felt like it was screaming at you. It was exploding with anger and energy. From that point on, I felt like it was all clicking into place, giving people a peek into my personal life for the first time.

Sonically, these new tracks sound like a natural progression and evolution of Rendezvous, That’s My Man and so forth. But, Swelter definitely feels more authentically Miss Benny.

That’s what I was going for, for sure. I was so glad that people liked my first couple of songs, because I love those so much. When I hear Rendezvous now, I’m so happy to say, ‘This is how I started.’

Break Away is such an in-cred-ible lead single. You mentioned how feelings of anger and resentment informed the EP, so can you talk to me about the story behind the song?

Imagine I was totally not PR’d and I just gave names and scenarios! I look at Break Away like an amalgamation of all the hurt and pain that I felt in past relationships. When you’re a young queer person, you latch onto your initial relationships because you maybe didn’t have that companionship growing up or didn’t feel that level of validation and attention. I remember when I first started dating, I felt so validated and seen. When you have that fantasy ripped away from you, it feels like a loss, like mourning.  I had never really taken the betrayal, resentment and rage about losing something like that into account. Typically, I’m not a super angry or reactive person and I was shocked when I wrote it, but I was happy with it. I felt like my audience would also be shocked and excited by it.

Have you performed Break Away live yet?

No! I want to, so bad. When I write music, I think of the visuals and what it would feel like to perform it. Break Away was the one where I was like, ‘This will be the craziest, most cathartic release.’ But no, I haven’t performed it yet. I actually haven’t done a live show yet, I’ve been accidentally building a lot of suspense for this first performance moment. And so, it’s on my mind a lot and I promise that, when it happens, it will be very special.

I love the title and cover art for Swelter. How did you decide on the title?

I have never really experienced intense anger before. I just have this strong feeling of suppressing it. When it caught up to me, it manifested in a lot of physical anxiety and for me, my number-one symptom is my body overheating. While I was working through those feelings and writing these songs, I was struggling with panic attacks and anxiety attacks and generally feeling discomfort. I heard the word “swelter” or saw it somewhere and I loved the phrase because I identify with that right now! It basically means to be in a state of heated discomfort. Also, living in LA… Aesthetically I was like, ‘I like this, I can just be sweaty and sexy and angry.’ I felt like that was what I needed, artistically.

I need to talk to you about My Ex Just Fell In Love, which screams smash hit. I assume this is also based on true events?

Sort of. In the midst of this process, I had a dream that I ran into my ex and he showed up to a party with a person who was all of the things that I was insecure that I wasn’t. He was doing all the things that I always wanted him to do. It was the nightmare scenario for anybody who’s processing a breakup. It was interesting because I confronted him in the dream like, ‘How could you do this to me?’ His response was, ‘If you’re able to move on, I should be able to also.’ I woke up, immediately gagged at my own brain. I needed that. It was like therapy and I had to write about it immediately. It was the most cathartic song I’d written because I got all of the vulnerability out that I needed to. It’s also just really fun!

This bop should have been playing on Glamorous when – spoiler alert! – Marco sees Parker with his double.

Literally! Oh believe me, there’s so many moments in the show where I was like, ‘I should put a song here and there.’ I have this narcissistic fantasy one day of doing a movie or a show where the credits are just three minutes of me: edited by, music by, fashion by, creative direction by – starring! A one-woman show and it’s just me doing all of the jobs.

Like you said, there’s a lot of vulnerability on Swelter, so what was the hardest song on the EP for you to write?

There’s two songs that were particularly challenging: Hiding My Heart and Rush To You. I was really scared to put out Hiding My Heart because it’s a painful song about my experiences with infidelity and betrayal. When you experience breaking of trust, you can never really get back to that sweet, innocent spot you were in. Rush To You is the aftermath of that, when you meet somebody that seems perfect and healthy for you but you’re just not ready to move on yet. These songs were interesting to make because I’ve never talked about that publicly before. Vulnerability is a hard thing to do, especially when it comes to something you artistically create and are very proud of. You want to hold it sacred and very close. Hiding My Heart seems to resonate with people since the release, and it’s the song I listen to most when I listen back to the EP. I would probably say it’s my favourite song, and Rush To You sounds like something that would be played at the end of Grey’s Anatomy or some cable drama show.

Grey’s Anatomy is on its 45th season and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down, so there’s always time.

There’s always time for a Grey’s Anatomy placement! I’m waiting and manifesting.

How have you found the response to Swelter?

It’s been great. I was nervous about how I would feel releasing this music, just because it is so personal and different for me. But, I’ve just been met with the most warm and amazing response. I think the best compliment I got was when one of my friend’s friends, who is freshly going through a breakup, put My Ex Just Fell In Love on their Instagram Story like, ‘This song hits too hard.’ I felt so seen! It makes me wanna release more music that feels closer to me because it’s healing to have people relate. I feel energised.

The Break Away music video is so much fun. Do you have plans for more visuals?

Well, I wanna see what the response to individual songs are. If people are down, I would really love to do a video for Hiding My Heart because I think it would be amazing. I have some ideas for that song that might not be a video. It truly comes down to how people respond. I spent the past couple of months writing my next music and so I’m just excited to keep putting things out as I took such a long hiatus to incubate. Now, I feel so confident of this sound that I’ve found and I want to keep exploring and expanding on it.

Miss Benny’s debut EP, Swelter, is out now.