“I like to just get shit done” sums up the impressive work ethic of Laura Bettinson, aka FEMME, and is certainly a tenet that we can get behind.
We recently featured FEMME in an installment of UTG Crush where we showcased some of her work, all of which we feel deserves the utmost attention of any pop loving audiophile. As Bettinson throws her fashionable hat into the ring with a fresh and undeniable sound, you’ll be pleased to find that her currently limited catalog is comprised of big beats, infectious hooks, and vocals that could have made even Tommy Lee Jones smile at the Oscars this year.
FEMME recently took some time from her busy schedule, before kicking off her first live appearances here in the states, to speak with us about her singles and videos that she released this year, as well as her sense of style and plans for the near future. Read through the break to become more acquainted with FEMME and get ahead of the curve before she’s headlining your favorite festivals.
First off, if you don’t mind, could you explain why you chose FEMME as your moniker?
Well at this point where I think pretty much every combination of brilliant and banal words have been used to make band names, I thought I’d just go with the obvious one; a female producer, making music combining masculine beats with feminine girl group melodies. It made sense to me. It’s a big name to fill and I hope to do it justice.
You’ve released two excellent AA-sides since this Summer, but I’ve heard that you have an album written currently. Do you think that’ll be the next release in due time or will we get more material before that comes?
We’re talking about putting out an EP early 2014 before an album. I’ll keep you posted.
What can you tell us about the material you have written? Does it differ from the tracks we’ve heard from you so far? Will any of those 4 be featured on your debut?
Some of them will probably make it onto the album. For sure. I have the album mapped out but I’m also writing new songs all the time so if something new comes along that equals or betters what I’ve already got then there’ll be a few hard decisions to make. A lot of the songs on the album are laid back with aspirational sunshine beats. The music is feel-good, the lyrics not so much. I like that contrast. Producing something that’s bouncy and catchy, which instantly makes you want to move but with a darker undercurrent in the lyrical content.
Definitely. I’d like to do lots of interesting things like that. As a consumer as well as music maker I can’t expect people to spend their money on something I wouldn’t buy myself. That’s important. A lot of my fans are like me and I imagine with similar tastes so If I’ve not bought a CD in 6 years, I can’t expect them to. I’m much more willing to spend more money on something special and limited edition. I’ve got a few good ideas for getting the album out.
What have you been listening to lately that gets you moving or smiling? Do you have a favorite album from 2013?
There’s a lot of good music coming from the girls at the moment. I’m into Mercedes, MØ, BANKS, Kelela, FKA twigs. I think there’s a lot of hot stuff going round. I’ve also recently fallen unashamedly in love with Aussie Chela. She has a knack for writing killer pop hooks. In all honesty I very, very rarely find I will purposefully ‘put a record on’ and listen to the whole thing. I’m a streamer. I’ll listen to playlists and mixes of lots of different artists. I’ll jump from website to website just playing my favourite songs of the moment. But, I did really enjoy Jagwar Ma’s album, Howlin’, this year.
So far you’ve released videos for each of the tracks from the AA-sides. I’ve also read that you do the editing yourself. How do you balance your time between writing, recording, making videos, and editing them?
Christ, I’ve spent as much time filming and editing videos this year as making music. “Educated” was my first foray into filming and editing something myself. I had this cake idea- I had a neon pink piece of material, and I had my two best girls and I didn’t have time to wait for someone to turn in some half-assed treatment which is usually way off the mark, and then go through the long and laborious process of tweaking it, eventually shooting it and then arguing over the edit. I like to just get shit done. I’m not adverse to collaborating, and on “Fever Boy” and “Heartbeat” I got a film-maker friend involved to help shoot it because I was spending so much time in front of the camera. I do like working with other people but I’m yet to find someone who ‘gets’ and betters my vision for the tunes. They’re out there somewhere of course, but they probably just cost a million bucks. One day.
There are a lot of girls featured in your videos for the most part. I would imagine that most of them are friends of yours as you mentioned, but can you tell us about them and what they represent in the themes presented? And is that your doggy in the “Fever Boy” video?
Unfortunately that is not my dog. He’s called Rocky and he belongs to a friend of mine. Bit of a superstar right? The other girls are yes, friends of mine. I wanted to make videos and music which empowered my female fans and didn’t intimidate or alienate them. I watch Rihanna and Miley videos and although of course they don’t offend me, I don’t find myself idolising them or looking up to them. Maybe that’s just me. The feedback I get from female fans who interact with FEMME is generally “OMG I WANT TO BE IN THE BAND!” because they can see bits of themselves in what we do. Most girls have spent a portion of their childhood hanging out with their bessies making up dance routines and putting on shows for any one who will watch (usually your dog or brother). This is literally what I still do. Every day.
Who are some of your biggest influences that have helped shape the direction in sound and style you’ve taken? Did you have a lot of music in your childhood?
Growing up I listened to a whole range of different music. My dad would play me Carol King, Paul Simon and Dusty Springfield. My gran would play me Doris Day. My older sister would give me Smashing Pumpkins and The Crockets CDs she had worn through, and me and my friends at school would be listening to Destiny’s Child. In terms of influences, I admire the work of a lot of big strong, pop culture icons. Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Cindy Sherman, MIA and the music made by Phil Spector and his girl groups has always moved me from a very young age.
And what has influenced the themes in the videos you’ve released this year? I’m particularly interested in the “Educated” video.
In the “Educated” video I wanted to create something which teetered on the edge of obscene and sexy. Blurring those lines. We filmed that in a couple of hours in my studio. Afterwards, we invited the girls’ male housemates and boyfriends round (by some strange twist of fate we all now live on the same street in London) and we were reviewing bits of what we had just filmed. Their reactions were a mixture of hard-ons and horror. I knew we’d achieved what I’d set out to do.
So you just arrived in the states for a couple shows. Is this be your first time playing here? What else do you plan to do during your visit?
Yes this will be the first time I’ve played here. We’re playing a couple of shows in LA and a couple in NYC and a shedload of promo + interviews in between. I’m looking forward to meeting some new peeps, hanging out and making some new fans.
I get the sense that you’re very involved with fashion. Either that or you just have a natural knack for looking cool. Can you tell us about your sense of style and where it comes from?
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some very talented designer-maker friends who keep my wardrobe stocked but also a lot of what I wear is other people’s rubbish. Seriously, second hand stores and vintage designer gear I’ve picked up along the way. I studied at art school, Goldsmith’s College too, so that experience everyday was a barrage of bad taste and experimentation which undoubtedly moulded my sense of style.
So you also front Ultraista, correct? Has that taken a backseat to your solo endeavor at all or is that still very much a thing?
Still very much a thing but with us all being in different cities at different times It’s a matter of pinning everyone down to get something finished. There’s more to come in 2014.
Outside of music, what are some of your hobbies and favorite things to do?
Hang out with friends. Read. Go to the countryside. Surf tumblr. Eat sushi. Drink whisky. Shop on eBay. Train for marathons. Pilot helicopters. Rent bouncy castles. Figure skate. Go to dog shows. (NB some of these may not be true).
Are there any artists or producers that you would love to collaborate with, or anything pending in that regard that you can share with us?
I’ve made some music with a UK producer called FTSE who is great. You might see some of that in 2014. I’d love to collaborate with Mica Levi or Matthew Herbert. Dev Hynes or SBTRKT would be cool too. A video with Michel Gondry or Chris Cunningham would be a dream come true.
Do you have any sort of mission planned to expand your fanbase in the near future or do you feel that your music is reaching people at a reasonable rate by itself? Obviously playing here in the states will help the appeal overseas.
Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keep playing. Keep dancing.
So overall, what do you have in the works for the short remainder of 2013 and next year?
US tour. Sleep. Hello 2014.
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion – Follow him on Twitter