Calgary-based hyperpop artist PLEASEBENiCE’s new EP might be one of the most consistently surprising things you hear all year – not every artist can put tags on their SoundCloud page that read “Chipmunk Soul,” “Sound Collage” and “Bruce Springsteen” in a completely genuine way. Mixing together the genre’s typical chaotic, high-octane thrills with quickly rapped passages, the lyrics of a born storyteller and plaintive acoustics, PLEASEBENiCE describes herself as “hyperpop-folk,” stepping into a genre lane that’s entirely her own. Labeling her at all would be a disservice, however – the EP’s six tracks are a truly cinematic experience that takes listeners across multiple diverse musical worlds as she lays out her current emotional state.
Many of the tracks here have so many complex moving parts that it’s hard to believe that they are single-handedly produced, as PLEASEBENiCE assembles manic, often disorienting sound collages that help to paint her vision. The closing track, “WAKE ME UP WHEN THE PAIN STOPS,” is an industrial, crashing mix of distortion that reflects lyrics about the transgender creator’s discomfort in her own body, as well as shouted vitriol towards a certain Kentucky senator. On the other side of things, the EP offers both eccentric experimentation as she deconstructs and reassembles old-school hip-hop tropes, as well as tender, romantic moments set to softer palates. Whatever sound is necessary to convey what she’s feeling, PLEASEBENiCE knows the most ear-grabbing and eye-popping way to portray it.
We talked to the creative Calgarian about the inspirations behind her latest project.
Why is hyperpop such an interesting space to play around in?
For me, it’s just that there’s so much freedom in it. I grew up listening to pop music and I definitely always loved top 40 music, like Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, but I also really loved hip-hop like Tribe Called Quest. I just love sample-based hip hop, more experimental hip-hop like Kanye and then eventually in my teenage years I got more into industrial hip-hop, stuff like Death Grips and JPEGMAFIA. My choice behind mainly aligning myself with the hyperpop community is just the freedom that comes with it, because before I would go in these like hip-hop spaces and it would be very cis male-dominated and I just really didn’t feel like I could be myself. With hyperpop, everyone is so welcoming and the amazing thing about it is that it doesn’t even have to be strictly 170 BPM, Auto-Tune, four on the floor, it doesn’t have to be any strict thing.
How did the folk influences get mixed in? It makes for a completely unique sound.
Definitely from growing up in Alberta, and also during the pandemic I just got more into classic folk artists like Joni Mitchell and Bruce Springsteen. The last single I put out, “can’t believe I found you,” was heavily inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s album Nebraska – cornered in his hotel, super DIY. I’m very inspired by a lot of the ethos that folk artists have, they’re all about breaking out of your small town and breaking out of the 9 to 5. Laura Marling’s album Song for Our Daughter definitely started my foray into folk and specifically with this project, there are some songs that are very much like hyperpop-folk. My goal with this project moving forward is to bring in the songwriting from folk music because I think folk songwriters are some of the best songwriters working, it’s incredible.
You have many lyrics about frustration that you’re not being noticed quickly enough, but clearly take pride in being “really experimental,” as it says humorously on your SoundCloud page. Is it tough trying to find a balance between the chaotic expression of your music and something more structured that might be more widely appealing, or do you hope that hyperpop is the next big thing in the mainstream?
All of the above! I definitely struggle a lot with trying to strike a balance between having my music be experimental while still being accessible. I think a project like that is the most amazing thing. I love the chaotic energy and I love mixing as many different influences as I can, and I mean, in all honesty, with the industry I’m 100% playing the long game. I’m not interested in a quick TikTok hit or something. I’m trying to build real connections with my fans and hoping that I can just have a long career. I would much rather have a 30-40 year career that’s steady than a 10 year career that’s crazy busy. I definitely struggle a lot with doubting myself and doubting that my music isn’t accessible but I just kind of just make what I want to make, and I also like to keep the listener in mind when I’m creating songs too. I just kind of hope it works out.
Right down to your name, you really make sure to put forward this overwhelmingly positive message of spreading love and, well, being nice. What’s the importance, to you, of leading with that message?
It’s just good to be nice! I know that’s so corny and cliche but it’s just good, and my goal behind the name was to have it be something where I could speak about political issues. I wanted to be able to do it in a way where I could say ‘hey, this thing that’s going on is really not okay’ but we also can’t be entirely negative about it. I think activism needs to be positive political anarchy. So personally the idea behind PLEASEBENiCE is just this idea of just spreading love and self-love. The name to me also serves as a reminder to be nice to myself and just love myself. It’s something to strive towards, every day.
A standout track on the EP is “this needs to be on lorem,” an ode to the quintessential genre-free Spotify playlist. Why is that the ultimate goal?
I think that my music is very genre-bending in general, so I totally think it belongs in that playlist. I just wanted that song to kind of be a jab at the industry, just how tired I am of having to play the industry games – but if you want to be in the industry, you kind of have to. I just thought it would be funny to make a song literally directed at Spotify called “Spotify put me on Lorem.”
Your biggest single yet is “can’t believe I found you,” which is one of the more heartwarming, genuine tracks on the EP – what or who is the titular “you?”
It’s a lot of things. When I wrote it last October, it was definitely about my partner but then as I kept writing it more, it turned into being grateful that I found music, grateful that I found people that liked my music, and grateful that I’ve been finding myself. As I kept on finishing the song and mixing it, it just became so much more to me.
What does the rest of the year look like for PLEASEBENiCE?
Once the EP comes out, it’s just going to be working on the next album. I’m hoping to really try out some new things. I always pitch up my voice and I really want to try pitching down my voice. I’m hoping to have some really dynamic production on this next album and bring in some interesting influences.
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