- 05 Jul 23
The Kent musician – real name Erin Doyle – caught the attention of Columbia Records last year after her unique drum 'n' bass style found instant success on TikTok.
Venbee is shattered after performing a high-energy set at Longitude Festival the day before, but the easy-going musician is more than willing to chat. Down-to-earth but always charismatic, I'd heard about the artist, real name Erin Doyle, after interviewing her friend (and fellow TikTok star) Caity Baser a few months ago. Like Baser, the 22-year-old's rise has been stratospherically swift.
Back in March of last year, Doyle released a video on TikTok of a then-unfinished track titled 'Low Down', featuring Dan Fable. The UK singer-songwriter wrote the song after rediscovering a retired iPhone 4, filled with voice notes describing her struggles with mood swings and depression. The dark pop track became a hit on the app, gaining the attention of Sam Smith and Manchester United F.C - before landing Erin a deal with the coveted Columbia Records, home to Lil Nas X and Grimes.
Venbee started writing music at the age of nine and taught herself the guitar and piano after watching her grandad play. By the age of 12, she had already decided she wanted to be a musician. Freestyling and memorising the lyrics alongside rhythm guitar to combat her dyslexia, over lockdown she connected with producer Elias Abid, a Paris-born, LA-based multi-instrumentalist. Working together remotely they created a number of tracks, with Goddard collaboration 'Messy in Heaven' immediately becoming a chart smash. Blending vulnerable lyricism with escapist, explosive drum 'n' bass beats, her ability to fuse both the freedom of club anthems with the emotional turmoil many of us faced coming in and out of lockdowns is part of the reason why Venbee's unique, ethereal voice has found a mammoth online audience.
'Gutter' and new Rudimental collaboration 'Die Young' are also climbing up the ranks, meaning that Venbee's drum 'n' bass sound is clicking with more than just TikTok audiences.
She's getting the ferry home at 6am the following day, but in the meantime, I've got twenty minutes at Sony HQ in Ballsbridge before she's heading for a meal and a few Guinness.
“We haven’t had any free time at all, until after this!" she laughs, still recovering from an action-packed set at Longitude Festival the day prior.
“Crazy crowd, crazy festival. They were loving it, man!" Venbee exclaims, seeming surprised. "I’ve never played here. I didn’t know how mental you guys were. They were like moshing to sad songs! I was like, ‘Do you know what? Here we go’,” she laughs. “They were opening up a massive circle and then running into each other! It was brilliant. I had a great time. Got a tattoo in the artists’ tent and then left.”
It's the middle of Doyle's first ever festival season. How does she win over gig-goers who may not even know her name?
“People move from tent to tent and stage to stage, but so far we’ve had a really fun time," she shrugs, smiling. "Every crowd has been epic. Long may that continue! I try not to worry about it too much, but I always have that fear about nobody turning up. Always. I don’t think that will ever leave me. But I think every artist gets that?”
Rick Astley presumed nobody would be present for his Pyramid Stage set at Glastonbury a few weeks ago, and tens of thousands of people appeared.
“Glastonbury was brilliant. I had the time of my life. I’m still pinching myself," Venbee tells me, shaking her head. "I can’t believe that I did it, it’s weird. When you’re ten years old, playing guitar and singing songs to your mum, dreaming in your head about playing Glastonbury, I never thought it would actually happen.
“I couldn’t bring my mum, unfortunately. They wouldn’t give me guest passes - but she watched the set on the telly. She was having a blast. I never went to the festival; I couldn’t afford to go. I’d always watch it on TV, staring at Miley Cyrus and all the world’s biggest acts singing on the Pyramid Stage. I knew I wanted to do that one day.”
Who would make the bill if Venbee could curate her own personal music festival?
“I’d like to perform, obviously!" she laughs, with admirable authenticity. "I’d also have Billie Eilish there. M.I.A, Lola Young, FLO, Turno, Kings of the Rollers, Shy FX. I wouldn’t have it in Kent, because I’d have it in the realms of Glastonbury and make it massive. I’ve never been to a festival in Kent.
“In my hometown, I’m still Erin around the corner who everyone saw grow up," Doyle explains, her loyalty shining through. "They’ve all got my back. I love going downtown to say hello to everyone. That will always stay the same. I’m just Erin to them. Homely and humble. Getting into the music industry so fast from TikTok is really weird, and it’s fast-paced. Nothing’s guaranteed. The longevity factor is tough.
"I’ve been called a TikTok artist, a one-hit wonder; every name under the sun but I do music because I love it," Venbee affirms, enthusiastically. "As long as I’m making tracks, my intentions are in the right place. TikTok is a great platform to give kids an opportunity that they never would have had otherwise, without social media.”
One critique of labels who sign young, inexperienced performers from TikTok is the occasional lack of artist development. Musicians go from singing tracks in their bedroom to people on a screen to hitting some of the world's most challenging stages, seemingly overnight.
“I’m always in control," Erin assures me. "I’ve got a really good team who support me and my decisions. If I’m not feeling it, or I need to take a break, they’re encouraging of that. I’m very, very lucky that my team understands me and knows the way that I work. With TikTok, it’s hard to not look at numbers or streams. I got into the habit of posting a video, looking at other people’s clips and then turning my phone off. I do as I please and then hope people relate to it. That’s the whole point of music. If you get fixated on one thing, you’re going to get in your head and lose your mind if something doesn’t grow to be as big as you expected.”
Collaborating with Hackney drum 'n' bass heroes Rudimental; Piers Aggett, Kesi Dryden and Leon "Locksmith" Rolle have become fast friends with Venbee.
“It’s an honour to work with them," she grins, sincerely. "They’re really good friends of mine, and just incredible people. I love working with them. I think what they do is really cool and fresh. I was like 12 when their first album came out, and now they’re heading back to their roots again. It’s great.”
“When I was younger, I went to a lot of underground free raves with random DJs, which was great, and then Rudimental came out with drum ‘n’ bass. That’s what got me into that style. Another inspiration I'd love to meet would be Carole King. I’d die happy if I met her. Also, Alanis Morissette, Billie Eilish, Fleetwood Mac, Ndubz, Eminem, Lola Young. A load of people influenced me. My range of music is ridiculously large. I love songwriters. When I was younger, I went to a lot of underground free raves with random DJs, which was great, and then Rudimental came out with drum ‘n’ bass. That’s what got me into that style. Now, I’ve gone to loads of gigs and I love it. My first actual concert was Olly Murs! The most influential show I ever went to was Demi Lovato’s. She’s a good egg. Helped me through a lot of shit.”
The toll it can take on artists when their fans have a deep-rooted connection to a personal, emotional trauma of theirs shouldn't be underestimated. Where does Venbee draw the line?
“I give as much as I can because I love people that got me to where I am," she says, after a pause. "But there’s a time that I will turn my phone off and go and play with my dogs, chill with my parents and my brothers. That’s my moment to diffuse in a safe space. It’s endearing. They’re asking questions or want to let you know that you’ve helped them through a tough time. It’s lovely. Sometimes you do have to step away for a little bit, but most of the time I don’t find it too much of an issue.”
It seems like no matter what chart positions or festival lineups Venbee secures, the no nonsense performer will always stay true to her roots.
“I've got a few things on my bucket list, like selling out my next tour. I’d love to see Wet Leg live. I saw them perform a couple of songs at the Brits, and then I wanted a full show! The Foo Fighters as well. I saw their Glastonbury set, and now I need the full thing. I want to get a few more songs out - a mixtape first and then a debut album hopefully.”
Stay tuned for Venbee's debut EP, hopefully landing before the end of the year.
‘die young’ is out now via Sony Music Ireland.