Benn—whos leaving Seattle for a spell—could be the American Björk.
Benn—who's leaving Seattle for a spell—could be the American Björk.

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Renowned for her rich, expressive singing, guitar playing, and arrangement skills with the polyrhythmic and melodious avant-rock band Pollens—and for her contributions to the choral ensemble the EsotericsHanna Benn has been an exciting creative force within Seattle’s pop and underground scenes for many years. Now, she's planning to leave the city and temporarily relocate to her hometown of Indianapolis to visit family, before heading to New York City to work on her solo album.

After seeing her deliver a devastatingly moving set of art songs at Chapel Performance Space on June 13, where she opened for French electronic musician Colleen, I thought it a good time to catch up on Benn's activities.

Her former Pollens bandmate Kelly Wyse told me that Benn would be leaving Seattle to live in New York City. But that's not the entire story.

I’m leaving, but not moving,” Benn clarifies in an e-mail interview. She goes on to say:

I'll be visiting New York City this summer to record a project and to visit some close friends. I do not intend to stay unless I'm otherwise convinced. I'm headed back to Indianapolis, my hometown, this Thursday. I have no intention to stay there, either! However, I am allowing myself a six-month period (or longer) to write and slow down. I'll be spending most of my time in the greater Midwest, focusing on family and my solo record. The decision was spontaneous and the timing incidental. I have to get to a friend’s wedding on June 20. While looking at round-trip flights, I bought a one-way ticket instead. Why not? Surprised myself. I'll be back in Seattle, March 2016 to premiere an orchestral piece with the Northwest Symphony. That's all I know. Day by day.

I was under the impression that most of Pollens’ members had relocated to New York, but it turns out only one member has: Jeffrey Aaron Bryant. Benn is no longer in the group, but says she’ll “always be there in spirit.” Ultimately, she sees herself more likely to move to Detroit, LA, or the San Juans than to New York. As for her practice of dividing her time between high-art endeavors and more pop/rock-oriented music, Benn says that it’s all the same to her: “I continue, but hope to bridge the divide.”

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When she I ask if her performance at the Chapel—in which she played synthesizer and piano and manipulated her vocals into alluring alien choirs—is indicative of where Benn plans to harness her energies, she says, “Yes, but there will be way more low end and way more percussion.” During that set, I kept thinking Benn could be the American Björk, if she really wanted to. She has that same ability to merge pop accessibility with experimental techniques and challenging melodic flourishes.

What will Benn miss most about Seattle? “Washington is gorgeous. Nature is a god. I'll miss the air and my community.”

What will she miss least about Seattle? “The sex and exorcisms that were going on outside of my Pioneer Square apartment window. It was hard to sleep.”