Pop music often carries a bit of a stigma. Tarnished by years of the X-Factor and so often fed through a cookie cutter mould, the genre has failed to shift its disposable image. Step up Femme – the answer to our pop music prayers! This ‘one woman powerhouse’ (so says Annie Mac) is ‘unashamedly pop’ but packs a DIY ethic that would impress even Black Flag; from beats to videos everything is homemade. CUB caught up with Laura Bettinson, aka Femme, to chat tunes, tour and tequila!
Hi Laura, it’s been a busy few months for you – touring AND releasing music! Is this busy schedule set to continue throughout 2014? Can we expect a Femme debut album later in the year?
I hope so, yeah! The record is kind of done, I’m always writing new stuff but as far as I see it there’s a set amount of tunes there that work really well together so we are just figuring it out now, come July it’s going to be a whole year since I’v been public, so we want to get something down. We’re working towards putting out another single too!
How is the tour going so far?
Tour has been great! It was actually amazing to go to Europe and there be full houses, you never really know if people are listening to you out there or not so it’s always a bit of an experiment going on the first tour. We had such a laugh! We played the Haim after show in Amsterdam too which was really cool!
How did it differ to touring with Ultraista?
It’s different from Ultraista, because it’s me and the girls, a lot of the time we (Ultraista) were playing our own headline shows and they were already sold out and you knew what you were getting into, whereas the Femme stuff, because we’re just emerging – it’s different. The Femme audiences are so up for a party, right from the word ‘go’! Instantly dancing! Women react really well to the show! I guess I feel like the Ultraista fan base was more male, more Radiohead fans who perhaps found out about the band through that connection.
It’s refreshing to see an artist that is ‘unashamedly pop’, but doing everything themselves – does it feel more rewarding being in full creative control?
Yeah, it’s really important for me, because especially as a woman in pop there’s this temptation by the industry or the structure around it to say you can’t do that, you’ve got to do this and that happens a lot. I guess I just wouldn’t have been satisfied with that. I don’t want to sing somebody else’s tunes, I have such a definitive idea of what I want to look like and the videos that I want to make. There has always been room for intelligent pop music in the industry; Michael Jackson, Prince, Talking Heads, Bow Wow Wow – I take influence from all that stuff! Having the freedom to get stuff out, the environment, the industry, everyone is consuming stuff all the time now. It’s great to be able to roll out of bed, roll into my studio at the bottom of the garden, make a tune and whilst I’m making the tune I’v already thought of the video and then the girls that live on my street are ‘the bullet girls’ so I call them up – are you free this weekend? So I’m making videos with my mates and we’re all doing it for no money, there’s no budget at the moment. It’s been very organic in that way – we just get shit done!
Like many great artists at the moment, you are a former Goldsmiths student. Is there something in the water? What do you think makes it such fertile soil for musicians?
I think the course there is very different to a lot of other music courses. A lot of other music institutes churn out more accomplished session musicians and make instrumentalists whereas at Goldsmiths it’s literally free reign – go and out and do it, and the weirder you can make it, and justify it – the better!
You’ve sound-tracked two Stella McCartney catwalk shows in the past. Which designer would you most like to collaborate with and who are your current fashion inspirations?
I really like a lot of upcoming stuff! I try and keep in touch with the recent graduates and stuff. Someone that I have worn before is a girl called Mary Benson, who’s brilliant! She’s at Westminster Uni – she’s actually just in her final year but she’s done some amazing stuff! I love the big designers like Vivienne Westwood and Balenciaga – I love all that weird couture stuff! There’s a brand called KTZ which do really amazing stuff, right up my street! Meadham Kirchhoff also, really extravagant, surreal bizarre textures and colour! Anything kind of OTT, I’m definitely a more is more kind of person – you’ll never find me in just a black dress!
You marked International Women’s day with a fantastic cover of R.E.S.P.E.C.T – who is your female icon and which women do you look up to the most?
So many female icons! I guess musically, the big divas like Tina Turner, Dusty Springfield, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin of course – all those girl groups too like The Shirelles and The Shangri-La’s! Real female icons! I guess, the equivalent today would be Beyonce but I’m not sure even she measures up to those people.
Do you think divas have been watered down in recent years?
I don’t know, I watched that Beyonce – Drunk in Love video and I can’t imagine Diana Ross writhing around in her undies on a beach – maybe that’s just the world at the moment…
What’re your current band crushes and what is on repeat on your ipod?
Currently I’m kind of obsessed with ‘FKA twigs’. I love the music as well but the visual side that she has going on is phenomenal. She’s definitely more on the avant-garde side of things and her visuals are superb! A girl called ‘Kelela’, she’s a really great rapper/singer. Loads of women! I find I don’t really listen to male singers, I don’t know why I that is. An Australian girl called Chela as well – great pop music!
It’s regularly mentioned in interviews that Ultraista was fuelled by Tequila. What is the official Femme tipple?
Oh my God, the official Femme tipple is probably whiskey. Me and the girls like to have a shot of whiskey just before we go on stage! I don’t really drink when I do shows at all, but we’ve got into this habit of having one shot before we go on!
Finally, will Rocky (the pup from the Fever Boy vid) be making any more music video appearances?
I was talking about this, this morning! I think he should for sure! He’s my friend’s dog who lives in Brixton – he (Rocky) seems pretty keen as well! I’m going to try and get him in another video – I have a really good idea for something off the album!
All images: Rachell Smith
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