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Femme: 'I Wasn't Prepared To Wait Around For A Path To Be Put In Place For Me'

Monday, 15 February 2016 Written by Milly McMahon

Fresh from dashing between London fashion shows, her pastel pink hair cropped into an elfin tangle, Femme rushes into view. Easily identifiable, fronting strong accessories and heavily-layered, feminine outfits, the producer embodies both style and substance.

The aesthetic, sound and mission statement Femme presents through her art is entirely based on self expression. Powerful and full of fun, she sings about ideas and concepts as her vocals punch impressive, soulful scales.

With an experimental approach to progress, learning through removing limitations others may place on day-to-day values, watching Femme perform, supported by her three dancers, is infectious. Her rainbow bright, synchronised stage performers run through hip-winding, energised routines that appear so simple but add a flash of elegance. Smiles spread instantaneously.

Having collaborated with big name brands like Adidas and Uniqlo to channel beauty and style through her non generic edge, Femme is a truly modern and empowered woman. Refusing to be derailed by the misogyny rife in the music industry, which is very present and compromising many of her contemporaries, Femme’s mindset is positive and forward-thinking.

Educated at Goldsmiths, she discovered her identity in the thrift shops of Deptford. Her music is very much attuned to the quick pace of London life. Referencing ‘60s soul-driven doo wop and modern electronic production, Femme offers a rose tinted perspective on reality. Her music feels warm and familiar, with an exotic edge. Her first album, ‘Debutante’, is out in April and is music to make the rush to work feel more like a sprint through a waterfall of Smarties.

How do you feel now the album is completed?

I feel good. It’s been a lot of pressure. I didn’t realise how much pressure I was going to put on myself and it’s been revelatory. I’ve learnt a lot about myself that way. Some of these songs I wrote three years ago and now this is it. I’m just gonna put it out there and if people like it, fantastic. But I’m powerless over my audience’s reactions.

How are you enjoying London fashion week?

I went to the Barbour show this morning and now I’m off to Christopher Kane. In the past I have worked on show soundtracks. Stella McCartney used my music for a show and I’ve done some cool online stuff for Wonderland magazine’s fashion films.

Do you enjoy working to another person’s creative brief?

For sure. Sometimes I really enjoy making a lot of instrumental music that sounds very different to the music I make. Sometimes it’s just short pieces of music for adverts or online projects. Sometimes it’s quite fun to just get off your comfort zone. Usually I find younger brands have the coolest stuff going on. KTZ always have great music and Felder Felder pick some good tunes. Sibling is great.

Do you work with a stylist or do you create your own looks?

Usually I do my own thing but recently I’ve been working with a friend of mine called Fannie Schiavoni, who helps style Femme and previously she helped style one of my tours when I worked in my band Ultraísta​ [alongside Atoms for Peace members Nigel Godrich and Joey Waronker]. We were touring America for a month and I needed help with outfits. That’s how we met and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. She really gets what I’m up to and we have quite similar tastes on how we see Femme progressing. I like to have myself and the dancers all in the same outfit, or a variation of the way one looks, so they are or tend to be exaggerated versions of myself. But I do ‘live’ my look every day, with the pink hair and big jewellery. I take a lot of influence from Edie Sedgwick and Twiggy and that age of fashion, combined with a forward looking perspective. That's where I come from on the live front.

With the music video treatments, do you have a vision or statement that is always at the front of your mind?

I always have visuals in my head for it all, usually before I have finished the song. When I am writing lyrics I have already thought of what I want the video to look like when it is translated. I have a very firm idea of that before I start bringing other people on board. I know exactly what I want to do, usually. Sometimes that morphs or changes and then I end up with a video that might be different to how I imagined. But that’s the nature of working with live video I guess.

The overt sexualisation of young women in pop music is a big problem. What is your angle on the issue?

I don’t really focus on it too much. I just present myself how I would like to be cast. I wouldn’t be anti getting nude in videos but a lot of what Femme does comes dressed up as  fantasy and not taking itself too seriously. I’m making pop music for a living. Every time I do start to overthink it, I think: ‘This is just a good laugh.’

There’s no feminist manifesto to the music you are making?

Not really. I just produce tunes myself because I didn’t want to have to wait around for someone else to fit me into their schedule, which is why I started producing music. I wasn’t prepared to wait around for a path to be put in place for me, so I just started making my own. That’s how I ended up doing what I’m doing and I’ve always tried to surround myself with likeminded people who are doing their best work. They don’t have to be famous or well known. There are some amazing people doing great stuff, probably not getting the recognition they deserve, but as long they have the ethos to make good material, that’s what I hope to do. That’s what I want to do with the album, make something that is honest and I think is the best work I have done so far. Hopefully leads to another four or five albums.

'Debutante' is out on April 15.

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