Singer, songwriter, and producer Femme, AKA Laura Bettinson, has always kept it weird. Since 2008, she has performed synth-heavy electro-pop, and now, the singer is moving closer towards club music territory. Her London stage debut of her new song, ‘Angel’ will be in the aptly-fit location of Heaven, London’s iconic nightclub. ‘Angel’ is a perfect club song with a DIY music video filmed during Miami Music Week – truly encompassing the headspace the artist was in when she was writing. To accompany the exclusive premiere of the visuals for the track, Schön! caught up with Femme to talk all things songwriting and club culture.
What brought you to Miami for your music video? I understand you like weirder pop music, what are your thoughts on Miami?
I flew out there in Spring this year for a meeting while Miami Music Week and Ultra Festival were in full swing. I had the best week. Lots of sun, some amazing electronic music and a fair few insane parties. It made a stark difference to the dark, dank London clubs I’m used to and some of the best people watching ever. I get a lot of inspiration for music and video from observing other people going about their everyday lives and their own odd habits and behaviour. Miami was like a spoof of itself! Topless jocks, girls with augmented bodies in bikinis, Cristal champagne, buckets of Grey Goose and fast cars. I L-O-V-E-D it. We filmed most of this video while we were there on a 35mm Lomokino analogue video camera.
What led you to move more into Club music territory?
I’ve always had a love for electronic music, over the years I’ve written and featured on a lot of other DJ/producers work and hearing my more pop-leaning songs remixed and in turn producing remixes for other people has been a lot of fun for me. The success of one of my early singles, ‘Fever Boy’ led me to write an album in a pop template – Debutante. When I got back into my studio after promoting that record I purposefully wiped the slate clean, I had a bunch of songs left over from that album but I didn’t want to go back over old ground. I’ve always admired artists who are forward-looking and don’t always play it safe. This new music I’m making is me flexing my muscles more as a producer, not just a ‘popstar’.
Any cities that have a great music or club culture that have inspired you? Anywhere cool you recommend to visit?
London! I’ve spent over a decade living in this city now and I’m still not bored. I find you have to move further and further out of the city to find the new, exciting events and people putting them on but they are still there. There’s still something happening.
What have you learned from Debutante that caused you to have shifted your sound?
I released my first single as Femme in 2013. Following that, I spent 3 years developing as an artist and building a fan base to the point where it was worth putting an album out – Debutante in 2016. Three years! Because of the popularity of some of the early singles, I knew I had to put them on the album but I was 3 years more practised as a producer and writer. I didn’t want to remake the original singles because I don’t like rehashing things for the sake of it but when it came to writing new music after that chapter had closed I found I had three years more experience under my belt and I had so many more new influences that I had collected on that journey. I’ve enjoyed stepping into new territory and challenging myself to make something new.
What do you enjoy about being with a smaller label?
The freedom. The speed at which you can move.
Who are your musical influences of the moment, past and present?
You’ve worn the hat of a director and choreographer in the past – how do you think being fully hands-on affects your music/career and perspective?
I’ve worn these roles out of necessity. Without a big major label behind you to pay the bills it’s impossible to be able to employ the best people in these fields. I’ve always tried something out myself first with the friends and people I have around me, seen if I could get away with it and usually found that because the artistic intent behind it is genuine, it’s usually leant the work a certain charm that my fans have found to be very authentic and refreshing in the pop sphere. Sometimes with a lot of mainstream, major label pop projects you can see the machine at work and literally sit on the sidelines horrified as you watch the artist who they were before they got signed get washed away and buried in a series of bad singles, videos and terrible decisions. I think that’s changing now and artists seem to be given more power to realise things their own way but with my project, hand on heart I can honestly say every single decision from the very first kick drum programmed to the final cut in the video – has been made at my fingertips.
You’ve been nominated for awards for your work, how does it feel to break into industry recognition?
It’s always a good feeling to get a pat on the back and reassurance that the industry is watching and acknowledging your work. But a pat on the back doesn’t make your bank. I don’t dwell too much on pleasing the industry. I need to reach my fans and find the people who connect and identify with my music. This is more important to me.
What does the stage name “Femme” mean to you?
How does being the front-woman of a band differ from being a solo act?
Honestly, I was never really in bands growing up so I have very little experience to compare it to. My work in Ultraista was as a collaborator. We all wrote, played and performed that music and made those decisions together. With any collaborative project there’s always more compromise than when you’re working on your own but each project influences the other. I learn so much about myself and my voice when I am writing and recording with Ultraista.
When are you playing London’s Heaven? Have you performed there before?
December 6th! I have played there before as support band for Grouplove a few years back. I can’t wait to return for my own headline show.
This Schön! online exclusive was produced by
Words / Estefania Hageman