- 05 Dec 23
Rising Kent star Venbee has been making waves this year, signing to Columbia Records and releasing her debut mixtape no experience. She talks festival highlights, social media, love for her hometown and more.
Calling via Zoom from a lavish London hotel room, the interviewee appears to be in a state of excited disconcert. She’s deliberating different outfit options with her stylist in preparation for an event in Camden that same evening. I’m told The Rolling Stones will be present. It’s nice for some.
The rockstar life is relatively new for the young Erin Doyle (who has family ties in the outskirts of Belfast). Under the moniker Venbee, she’s blown up in 2023, amassing over 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify, earning praise from Sam Smith and collaborating with industry titans like Rudimental. She’s also fresh from wrapping up a successful headline tour across Europe and the UK.
“It doesn't feel real,” she admits. “Everything moves so quickly, you're here there and everywhere and you don't really have time to really sit and process it. It’s really fucking cool that I get to do what I love for a living.”
Amongst the really fucking cool things she’s done this year have been shows at the world’s most well-known festivals, including Reading & Leeds and the music Mecca itself, Glastonbury.
“Those are festivals that I never thought I’d play, that was like a dream come true,” smiles Venbee.
“I love festival crowds because I'm performing to people that possibly have never heard my stuff before. I love how many mosh pits there are and how messy it gets.”
A year of firsts, Venbee made her Dublin debut this year too. Taking over the main stage at Longitude with a memorable, rip-roaring set. The occasion will - quite literally - stay with the singer for the rest of her life.
“That was really fun, mental crowd – I loved it,” she gleams. “I got a tattoo when I'd had a couple of drinks. There was a tattoo artist backstage, and I didn't think about what I was getting, I’ve got this squiggly weird face on my arm now!”
If the summer was busy, the coming months would prove even more so. Before heading out on the road she dropped her first full-length project, the impressive and energetic mixtape no experience.
“I'm excited, I'm scared, I'm feeling a lot of emotions but most of all I'm really happy that people can listen to it,” Venbee says of the release.
“I spent a year and a half working on it and getting it to a place where I felt proud. It took a long time to get there, some points were quite stressful, so I'm very much relieved that it's out into the world.”
The mixtape is characterised by that garage-y, drum ‘n’ bass sound which has enticed so many from England’s southeast. What is it about the genre that gives it such a cross-generational pull?
“It just works, all of my songs essentially start on guitar as pop songs and then we sprinkle them with drum and bass,” she says.
“I've always loved drum and bass, I love the culture and sound. I’ve got a thing for chaotic music, it calms me down, I find it very therapeutic.”
The mixtape also emanates a strong sense of native pride, with songs like ‘Council Estate’ acting as nostalgic odes to Venbee's upbringing in Chatham on the eastern outskirts of London.
“My hometown is important to me,” Venbee affirms. “There's a lot of people that struggle but there's a good community, the people are good.
“I'm a Chatham girl through and through and that will never change. It's where I was raised, I don't know anything different. I still live with my parents at home, so I see everyone all the time.
“It's a way of keeping me grounded. Nothing in my personal life has changed. My parents are so proud and supportive, but they're also so aware that this is a job and that I'm still going to come home at some point. I know if I'm not feeling okay I have a safe space.”
zero experience reveals a lot about the authentic heroine – with plenty of religious connotations sprinkled throughout her songs, such as the brilliant, attention-grabbing line “I heard Jesus did cocaine on a night out” from the hermeneutically tittled hit ‘messy in heaven’, now at over 100 million streams on Spotify alone.
“I was raised in a faithful household and faith is something that is important, so I reference it in in music a lot," she says. "I use it in a metaphorical sense. ‘messy in heaven’ was about someone I knew struggling with cocaine abuse.
“‘die young’ was about a conversation I had with my nan, who was an extremely faithful woman. I was going through a time where I wasn't very well and know she would say a prayer for me.”
Venbee has shown that she’s unafraid to dip her toes into heavier subject matter, sclerotising zero experience from a sugary baptism to a deeper, more personal project. Her song ‘gutter’, for example, contains references to near death experiences from the singer’s teenage years.
“‘gutter’ is a story of my life. I think when I'm ready to talk about that period in detail I will go into it,” she reveals.
“It's very self-explanatory, I think people assumed that it was drug abuse and that's not what it was. I basically had a difficult time with food and that went on for a long time, I'm still working on it and I will forever be working on it, I write my songs for therapy for me and to help anyone else.
“I don’t want to impact anyone in a negative way. That’s really important for me, because when I was not very well, stuff in the media would be trying to shed light on that sort of thing and it can impact you. I've been through that and there is hope at the end of the end of the tunnel.”
In many ways she's an archetypal Gen-Z artist. In late 2022, Venbee made her initial breakthrough with the aid of Tik Tok, where a video of the then-unfinished track ‘Low Down’ went viral. An example social media’s potency in the modern music industry, she’s nonetheless wary of falling into the lure of appeasing the algorithm.
“I see social media as a promotional tool,” she explains. If I started writing songs in the hope that they’d go viral I’d lose my love for music. I write the song and if it connects it connects, if it doesn't then we move on to the next one.”
One connection Venbee struggled to make was with academia, having left university where she was studying music – deterred the education system’s restrictions on inventiveness.
“I've worked with so many wonderful creative and talented people, I don’t think I’ve ever sat down with someone who’s been taught creativity,” she says.
“I don't think you can teach creativity. You can teach theory which is very useful to have in a production room, it’s useful, but I don’t think you can teach creativity - it's something that you either are or you're not.”
no experience is out now. Listen on Spotify below.