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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

FEMME Discusses Rise In Music Industry, Touring Alongside Charli XCX

Kathy Zerbib |
November 2, 2014 | 1:23 a.m. PST

Senior Entertainment Editor

FEMME and her pink hair are redefining the pop genre (Jennifer Jones/FEMME).
FEMME and her pink hair are redefining the pop genre (Jennifer Jones/FEMME).
In the current age of music producers and artist collaborations, there is powerhouse artist FEMME. This alternative pop sensation does it all herself - writing lyrics, making beats, mixing tunes, singing and directing music videos. In an exclusive interview, the pink-haired Brit detailed life on the come up and joining Charli XCX's North American tour.

Neon Tommy: How would you describe your sound?

FEMME: My sound sounds like The Ronettes and The Crystals are meeting Blondie for a big night out at, like, a house party at M.I.A.'s house. That's basically what it sounds like. It's kind of masculine beats with feminine vocals.

Neon Tommy: What inspired you to go for that kind of feel?

FEMME: I guess I take a lot of inspiration from 60s girl groups in harmony like the Phil Spector kind of era of production, which is like that wall of sound… Something about the way that those melodies were crafted and put together has always really moved me. One of my favorite songs is "Then You Kissed Me" [by The Cardigans]. My gram used to play it in the house and it's something that I've always grown up with and certainly influenced me and moved me. But, then, I was a kid of the 90s so Destiny's Child… Even Salt-N-Pepa, to an extent… You know, massive pop tunes of the 90s. Even the Spice Girls, to an extent. I had the posters on my walls. It's a mashup of those different influences, but I've also always looked up to 80s icons as well, like early Madonna, David Bowie, Prince, Michael Jackson… You know. Massive, massive pop personalities. I've got loads of different influences.

Neon Tommy: [FEMME used to be the lead singer of a band named Ultraista.] What made you want to go solo from your band?

FEMME: Personally, Ultraista - after we finished promoting that record - the guys were doing lots of different things and it was time for me to come back [to solo work]. I've always made music, anyway, before I was in Ultraista. I'll probably continue to do Ultraista in the future. It just seemed like a natural progression to me to step out after doing that record, with my solo thing.

Neon Tommy: When you're making music, what inspires your process?

FEMME: Usually, it's people. Other people's drama. A lot of my lyrical inspiration comes from literally stories I've read, gossip columns, things people have told me, part of my private life will end up in the song subconsciously. A lot of the time, my starting point can be something from film, even a photograph sometimes. I am quite prolific. I'll sit down and I do write quite a lot of music.

READ MORE: Charli XCX At Sonos Studio: Review

Neon Tommy: Your new single is "High" and it has a really electrifying vibe to it. What specifically influenced that?

FEMME: Intentionally, I wanted to write a song that had more of a musical hook than a vocal one. That [Sings several notes of the beat] was the first thing I wrote for that tune. At the time, I was thinking about "Summer Lovin" [from the movie "Grease" featuring John Travolta]. [Sings several notes of the beat as comparison.] I just wanted to make a song that had a very recognizable musical hook like that, so that was my starting point for it. And the original lyrics for the song were "We're getting by," it wasn't "We're getting high." But it seemed quite sad and negative, "We're getting by," and the rest of the song didn't really sound like that. It sounded like a really upbeat song… A laid-back jam. So, there you go. Changed the lyrics and here we are. "High."

Neon Tommy: What can we expect from your debut album, [set to release in spring 2015]?

FEMME: More of the same, basically. If you've enjoyed "Fever Boy" [her first hit single] and "High" so far, then, yes, more of that. It's lots of interesting beats, lots of sass, lots of attitude… It's quite pink. But in like a strong hot pink, certainly not baby pink. It's got a lot of personality, I hope.

Neon Tommy: You write your songs, you mix, you produce, you even direct your own music videos and all of that. But who would you want to collaborate with as a vocal feature or as a producer?

FEMME: That's tricky, because I love producing tunes. I think a FEMME tune only ever sounds like a FEMME tune when I've produced it. I have been asked to do cowrites and stuff, and people want to write for me, but it never really turns out sounding like me. It always sounds like 50% of me, not quite the whole hit. So I would be interested in doing something with another vocalist, for sure, or maybe a female rapper. Could be kind of cool. I'm more [interested in] collaborating visually with a video director or a photographer. There's an amazing photographer called Tim Walker who does these massive editorial fashion shoots that are just beautiful. I'd love to do something with him. Maybe some stuff with film? My horizon's quite broad with collaboration, not necessarily musically.

Neon Tommy: You've been everywhere this year. You've been touring, so what is it like exploring the entire world and where have you received the most love from your fans?

FEMME: Here! This tour! This tour, I have received the most love. Crazy. So funny. Something changed after "Fever Boy" came out, where suddenly there was a lot of people even at the shows we were doing in London. We'd go to Amsterdam and play a random show in a bar and there'd be people there who'd come to see us. It was the first time for me that really happened. So just before we came on this tour [during] the summer, we had a great summer. We did a lot of different things, and we picked up a few awards that were really unexpected. After that, to get invited by Charli onto this, it's been really fantastic. The audiences here have been so much fun, by far the most fun audiences I've ever played to. They're really loud, hyperactive teenagers who just scream and line up from midday waiting to come in. It's so much energy and enthusiasm which isn't anything I've experienced before. It's really different for me, basically. It's been brilliant, this tour.

READ MORE: Elliphant Discusses New EP 'One More', Disgust With Pop & Hip Hop Artists

Neon Tommy: How has it been touring with Charli XCX and Elliphant?

FEMME: Super fun! I can't believe it's going really fast. They're great. Charli's amazing, Elliphant's been brilliant. She's like my big sister. She's been looking after me.

Neon Tommy: How did you meet Charli?

FEMME: She heard one of my tunes and gave me a shoutout on Twitter about it. It was "Fever Boy." She said, "Hey, guys, you should check out this tune." And then we just started talking, basically. I hadn't met her til we started the tour. We had only spoken online.

READ MORE: Charli XCX At The Mayan Theatre: Review

Neon Tommy: How do you prepare for a show like this? [The interview took place before her show at the Mayan in Los Angeles.]

FEMME: My prep is in my ritual of getting ready. A lot of the time, it's me doing my own makeup.  

Neon Tommy: You do all your own stuff?

FEMME: Yeah… At this level. I hope I don't, eventually. Yeah, right now, I wish I could afford to have hair and makeup on tour with me. But no, not right now… That's usually how I get ready, it's just my prep of getting stage-ready. Getting from here to where we end up. And I don't really do much talking before I go onstage. I do a little vocal warm up and then I just get into my own space.

Neon Tommy: This is a three-women lineup. How do you think female performers are impacting the industry?

FEMME: I think there's so many different female performers [that] it's kind of a hard question to answer. But this tour in particular is full of sass and badass attitude and certainly a kind of "two fingers up" to a lot of what is going on in the industry in other places. Elliphant has got so much attitude and a lot to say on lots of different issues like politically and also day to day. And then Charli's show is great. I think it's a good role model for a lot of the teenagers who come check out the shows. There is a lot of power in the show. It doesn't look like a major label's manufactured dream, you know. As much as I might wear a bra and trousers on stage, you don't get the impression that anyone's made any of us to do that. You can tell there's strength behind it, is what I'm trying to say. There's a lot of attitude and strength in this tour and that's got to be inspiring to the kids who come see it. It must be. I hope so, anyway.

Check out FEMME's YouTube, Twitter and SoundCloud.

Contact Senior Entertainment Editor Kathy Zerbib here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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