With the air of someone who probably picks up new mates everywhere they go, Venbee is an immensely likeable newcomer who delivers smart nighttime-tinged pop. With her new track ‘Gutter’ out now, she’s the latest cover story for our New Music Friday playlist edit The Cut.
Words: Ali Shutler.
Venbee was only expecting to play to a handful of kids on her recent UK headline tour, but the run of shows was full of “absolute nutters,” she says with a grin. “I’ve been loving it.”
Erin Doyle, aka Venbee, is having an exciting time of it lately. The Chatham-based musician has only released a few songs so far – ‘Low Down’ and ‘Messy In Heaven’ – with both racking up millions of streams. Her third, ‘Gutter’, has just dropped
She first started writing songs when she was 8 and hasn’t ever really stopped. In 2020, she started releasing her “shitty” laptop recordings under a different name and then spent a further two years grinding away on TikTok. She released ‘Low Down’ on a whim last year, and things suddenly went from zero to 28 million and counting.
That drum and bass-inspired song was written about a time in Erin’s life when she was feeling “really, really crap,” while the pulsating electronics offer a touch of optimism.
“It’s very much my story, so for me personally, it was a special song, but I had no idea whether it was going to relate to other people,” she admits. “It did alright, though,” she adds with a grin, especially because it was uploaded to TikTok on a whim.
Then came ‘Messy In Heaven’, a dreamy track that imagines Jesus doing cocaine on a night out. The controversial track has become a mainstay on BBC Radio 1 despite Erin thinking it “would flop really badly.”
“I was really nervous about releasing that song, but I’m really glad that the story of drug addiction and how the greatest of people can fall down a difficult lane has been heard and received. I think it’s an important message to share. Now I’ve just got to follow it up.”
This is where ‘Gutter’, another slice of raw storytelling set against pulsating drum and bass, comes in. “It’s my life story,” explains Erin. “It talks about where my head was at when I was 15, and my life started to go a bit skew-whiff. I lost track of things, started listening to the demons in my brain, and couldn’t see any other route other than self-destruction.
“I guess I do have a point to prove to people”Venbee
“Then I talk about being 22. I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing, but I’m seeing how far I can go. It’s a song about being grateful but also recognising the trouble I went through and the pain I caused.
“I want everyone to know that it’s okay if you don’t know what you’re doing; it’s okay. If you don’t know who you are. And it’s okay if things aren’t working out,” she continues. “That’s a message I’m stuck on sharing.”
She knows people will look at her and think ‘overnight success story’, but that’s not the case. “I was working three jobs to make music work. I struggled, but I never gave up because as soon as you do, you’ve lost your chance at whatever could possibly happen. Being resilient is so important,” she shares.
Venbee is very much a drum and bass head. She discovered the genre via Rudimental in 2012 before moving on to stuff like ShyFX and then going heavier. “I really got into it when I was old enough to go to raves, though,” she adds. “They really are the time of your life.”
But her music also takes influence from the likes of Alanis Morrissette, Stevie Nicks, Adele (“she can do no wrong in my eyes”), Demi Lovato and Lizzo. “She writes such positive tunes. If I’m ever feeling like shit, I’ll play her music and know that I’m worth something. It’s so important to have people like her,” explains Erin. It’s why her own songwriting is so honest and raw.
“I’m really not good at talking about what’s going on in my head, so writing about it is my way of processing my own emotions. I write songs for myself, but I also write songs in the hope that they’ll be heard and felt.”
“I’ve spent a lot of my life in denial about where my head is at,” she continues. “I don’t care about the charts or stuff like that; I care about people listening to my songs and going ‘I’ve felt like that before’ because it makes me feel not alone, and I’m sure it makes other people feel not alone as well.”
On tour, she performed another song called ‘If Love Could Have Saved You’, which tackles men’s mental health and suicide. “It’s a tribute to people who have lost their lives and telling people to hold on. It’s so emotional. The first time I sang it, I had to stop myself from crying because I could see the effect it was having on people in the crowd. Music’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?”
There’s a mixtape coming later this year, ahead of a debut album that Erin wants to be “raw, emotional and full of my deepest, darkest secrets. I think that’ll just be a weight off my chest,” she explains. Beyond that, “I want to go as far as I possibly can. I would love to go worldwide, but who knows?”
Despite the string of recent successes, Erin has experienced years of releasing music into the void and knows nothing is promised. “You’re never safe in this game,” she explains. “You can have a song with 200 million streams, and you might never be able to follow it up. As soon as you’ve got one success, you’re labelled a one-hit wonder until the next one.” Then the cycle repeats.
“I guess I do have a point to prove to people,” she admits. We’re a couple of weeks away from the release of ‘Gutter’ and Erin is “way more nervous now than I was before I shared ‘Messy In Heaven’.”
Even if ‘Gutter’ is her biggest hit to date, she knows “the nerves will keep stacking up, and the pressure will keep building. I want to keep going, though. I’m always searching for me, and I’m not going to give up.” There’s that resilience again.
Venbee is part of the blossoming UK scene that’s taking drum and bass and making it pop. She’s already toured with piri & Tommy Villiers and is part of a WhatsApp group featuring over 60 female creatives who uplift and support one another.
She says drum and bass’s recent resurgence in the charts is “because people are realising it fucking bangs; I love how drum and bass tickles my brain.”
“Full credit to PinkPantheress and piri & tommy for pioneering that [movement]. I met PinkPantheress at the shoot for ‘Low Down’, and she’s the most wonderful human being. piri and tommy are good friends of mine as well. I love watching them all smash it.”
“I want people to rave to my music, I want them to have a great fucking time”Venbee
She goes on to say that, as well as the music, she loves the culture of drum and bass. “It’s always been such an accepting scene. I came in, started dropping tracks, and they could easily have shut me out, but the whole community has been nothing but welcoming. No one’s listened to my music and then tried to tell me it isn’t drum and bass, which is what I was expecting to be honest.”
Being part of a wider scene “makes me feel accepted,” says Erin. “It also means I’m comfortable creating my own lane in this genre. I still want to be able to hop on some real heavy drum and bass, though. I really do love the culture, but for me, I want people to rave to my music, I want them to have a great fucking time, but I want them to do it safely.”
As much as Venbee is part of this exciting new scene that’s reshaping what traditional drum and bass is, Erin knows it’s important to stay true to who she is.
“That said, I’m massively complimented when people say I sound like Billie Eilish,” she adds with a grin. “If I hear anyone compare us, I make them say it again because I’m so flattered by it. Billie’s got better pipes than me, though.” ■
Venbee’s new single ‘Gutter’ is streaming now. Follow Dork’s The Cut Spotify playlist here.