Growing up, which artists helped shape your love for music? What are some of your earliest musical memories?
My earliest musical memories were listening to the soundtracks of the now-cancelled Song of the South and West Side Story as a young child – and you can definitely still hear the influence of show tunes and Tin Pan Alley in general in my music, say in the way my songs often have a specific voice or point of view of an implied character. I also use a lot of wit and recitativo which ironically means my creations are regularly dismissed by haters as novelty comedy songs or spoken word over music. I blame American Idol and The Voice for creating a hegemonic snobbism which today would prevent singers like Bob Dylan from ever making it through to the second round.
Your new single, 'Only Sixteen' is out now. What can you tell us about the writing and recording process of the track?
I first heard the original song as backing on an Instagram reel, and, as the lyric goes, I knew I had to record an adaptation. I can’t play a note on any instrument, so all the music is by session players in LA. I also struggle to sing a note, but the engineers and mixers did an amazing job with my vocal to make it almost melodious while not losing the rawness.
As the songwriter, what is the story of the song?
The original song was written by Drast and Lil Kaneki of the Italian band Psicologi. It’s about a toxic teenage relationship and suffering as a child affected by domestic violence. In adapting it into English I took the song’s resentment, expressed in calling the lover a “bitch,” and turned it back on the protagonist by adding a last verse where he calls himself a bitch for dredging up his old gripes and adds that he is doing so in the hopes of re-connecting. So in the end, despite the sexist slur, it’s an expression of love – or possibly a cry for something we all crave when we feel nostalgic – ex-sex.
The model and influencer ‘No Gender’ Jude Karda appears in the music video for 'Only Sixteen'. How did that collaboration come about and what can viewers expect from the video?
I also discovered Jude on Instagram – so Zuckerberg’s clearly doing something right with their algo. Like with the song, it was like love at first sight, and so we approached Jude’s management to request a collab. We had a storyboard for the clip but supported Jude to express a range of personae in the different scenes. We actually shot the clip in Toronto though astute viewers will notice that some of the rooftopping shots are filmed in Central Park West and at the Heli Lounge Bar in Kuala Lumpur. So you can imagine the magnitude of the budget: tiny – we had to use any stock footage we could find.
What are you listening to at the moment, which other artists should our readers be aware of?
As everyone knows we’re in the era of the fastest selling record of all time, 1989 Taylor’s Version. Nobody else seems willing to say it, so I will: it sounds a little thin and it’s just not as good as the original, due I think to the absence of the original producer, Max Martin.
That said, I actually believe that no other record by any artist has equaled the genius of the original 1989. Think about the Billy Idol sound of “Style” with all the tangential references to her ex, Harry; and “Blank Space,” the most true-to-life song and video ever about dating intensely smart girls; and has anybody written a better lyric than “the best people in life are free” (from a “New Romantics,”)?
She’s enjoying her Joe DiMaggio moment now, but don’t for a minute dismiss her as a WAG. She’s the Gershwin brothers of the twenty-first century. And more.
Another thing I’m liking now is Maneskin’s best song so far, “Honey Are You Coming,” And one of my faves Baby Queen has just released her first album, Quarter Life Crisis. People with more extreme tastes may enjoy Zheani’s hard-edged answer to Cardi B’s “WAP,” called “BWC.” In some of the video she seems to be channeling her nemesis, Yolandi Visser.
What's next for Benedict Sinister, what can our readers look forward to from you in the near future?
My Instagram got deleted again, and the person at Meta you used to have to blow to get deleted accounts reinstated got laid off. So your readers will not find me there, and I don’t have access to my main source of collabs. So maybe I’ll have to do some original work for once. Just kidding! Maybe I’ll try combining Despacito with Metallica and Mozart….