WE sat down with British songwriter/producer Laura Bettinson, a.k.a. FEMME, before she recently opened for Charli XCX at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. Here’s what she said.
Weeping Elvis: You were previously involved in a project with other artists (Ultraista). How did you decide to go solo and start doing Femme?
Femme: After doing the Ultraista record we kind of toured it through the year, and we did lots of TV over here …. Letterman and Jimmy Fallon and stuff. And then, after that the album promo was kind of over and we all started to just naturally do different things. It was about time, and it gave me a nice platform to step into the world as my own solo project and the timing was good basically, but now its impossible to get us back into the same country all at the same time, never mind the same recording studio. Yeah Ultraista, we will put out another record at some point, it’s just trying to get everybody together. But, yeah, FEMME is kind of taking over for the minute so that’s what I’m going to do.
Is Femme a sort of persona you’ve created for this project?
Yeah, it’s as a solo artist; I produce the tunes and I write the music obviously. And, I perform it and make all the videos and stuff. And its like my creative little baby really.
I’ve talked to other female artists female songwriters about being treated dismissively. For example, their writing credits being denigrated and being told they have someone else write for them. Have you experienced that at all?
Not yet; I guess I don’t yet operate in the big major label pop circles that Charli probably finds herself in. At the moment I’ve been really fortunate to kind of just do things my own way and find my own fan base, small as it is at the moment. It’s growing every day, especially on a when we’re on a tour like this. So I haven’t come up against it too much. It’s more — not on the writing side — it’s more the production side. No one ever believes I produce my own tunes. So that can be quite funny, not that they don’t want to believe it, it’s more they’re just not used to hearing it.
I’ve seen Grimes has said the same thing.
Yeah, “Who makes your beats?” I made the beats!
It’s great to see so many female artists speaking out about it.
It’s brilliant, about time too. I think it’s just great to be able to encourage more young people to make music now, especially girls, to step up and get clued up on that shit. Otherwise you do get kind of pigeonholed, ‘oh you’re a pop singer,’ so let’s put you in with this producer and this producer you know. But if even you have the slightest hand in how to record yourself, artistically it lends you a little bit more artistic control. Which can’t ever be a bad thing in my eyes.
Absolutely. Especially with this tour with you and Charli and Elliphant. How is it being on this tour?
Its fantastic. Yeah, we’re only just starting. I have to keep reminding myself we’re only 5 shows in, tonight will be the fifth show. we’re only a quarter in. Yeah, it’s great. Charli is amazing, Elliphant is amazing, and the fans — actually a lot of them are teenagers, especially teenage girls — I like to think people are going home a bit more inspired and a bit more empowered to do something like step out on their own as strong women, I think. I hope they do!
Me too! So the “Fever Boy” video in the old school bathing caps, how did that come about, whose idea was that?
That was my idea. I basically, I had an idea, I wanted to bathe, I’ve been watching a lot of Busby Berkeley videos.
Ha, I caught that reference!
Haha! I’ve been watching that, been on a little YouTube spree watching those kind of videos, and then it just came to me. I just wanted to combine that aesthetic… because a lot of those videos its like SO, (sighs), ‘we’re women and it’s fantastic!’ It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s not like its misogynist at all. It’s just such a sugary outlook on feminism, and so I wanted to take that influence, that look, and then combine it with this dog that in the UK has a really bad reputation. That breed of dog, like they’re fighting dogs and they’re rude boy dogs, and they really don’t get a good rep, unfortunately, (Staffordshire bull terriers). Combining that — a very masculine, contemporary animal — with this very vintage and very, very feminine look. Its’ a quite an interesting combination. When we filmed the video — I just basically had this idea and I was going to do it anyway — I spoke to my friend Sami Abusamra who helps me film videos. He was like, “It’s never going to work, the bathroom is too small, you have no lighting, you’re working with an animal you’ve never worked with before…blah blah blah…ain’t gonna happen! You’d be a fool to shoot this video.” But, I was like, “no I’m going to do it anyway, so come and help me or I’ll find someone else to do it!” So, he came and helped me, and we shot it; it’s one of the best videos we ever made. It turned out really well, we got lucky with that dog. No one knew he was going to perform like that. He was fantastic.
It’s a very fun video. Anything else you want to add?
I’m excited to play the show tonight, its my first time in DC!
And you’ve got the best venue in the country.
Yeah, I’m looking forward to it!
All Photos | Katherine Gaines
9:30 Club, October 9, 2014, Washington, D.C.