words: Emma Pulbrook
photographer: Edward Cooke
fashion editor: Kristofj Von Strass
hair and make up artist: Grace Vee
stylist assistant: Eva Maria Santner
Despite having an album called Debutante, pop artist FEMME, AKA Laura Bettinson, is no blushing rose, in fact, as STREETS writer Emma Pulbrook discovered; she’s the real 2016 deal.
Refreshingly genuine, its incredible to note that behind Laura Bettinson’s no-fuss English sass is a talented self-made pop artist with the kind of motivation few could rival. Femme is all her own creation. Working independently from the mundane world and formulae of big labels, everything from the writing, recording and production to the visuals, is an amalgamation of Laura’s influences packaged into dancefloor-ready, addictive electro pop.
dress worn under: apujan, top and skirt: issey miyake, shoes: amelie pichard, vintage earrings: rokit
How did Femme come about?
I’ve been writing my own songs since I was about sixteen, but I’ve always been a kid that sang.
I moved to London and was doing gigs, taking my piano on the Tube, but I quickly realized I couldn’t cart a big piano around with me, that’s when I started working with electronics and producing my own stuff.
Initially I was on a project called Dimbleby & Capper while at Goldsmiths Uni. It was bit more leftfield than Femme.
After that I was in Ultraista, (with Nigel Godrich, and Joey Waronker) for two years. Off the back of that I started Femme.
It’s really impressive to see artists creating everything, themselves. Is it satisfying having that complete control?
It is satisfying, at the same time I didn’t ever really intend on having complete control of everything, but I enjoy all the different aspects of what it takes to be an artist in the music industry.
My biggest influences are big visual pop artists: Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, even Cyndi Lauper to an extent, all larger than life characters when it comes their pop star personas.
The visual side of the project is, for me, despite being a music lover, always equal in some parts to the music. It’s what Pop’s all about, creating this big overgrown fantasy.
I’ve always had an interest in fashion. With the video stuff I started exploring and experimenting with that. I always try to do something on my own first to get a grip on it. Luckily, the DIY style and charm suits my music.
You’ve worked a lot with fashion brands, such as Stella McCartney, Uniqlo and Adidas, tell me more about your relationship with fashion and how these collaborations came to be?
My relationship with fashion is self-styled or self-made or found, and clashing. Kind of like my music! It’s a big medley of my influences.
I take a lot of inspiration from the ‘60s Pop Art – that amazingly revolutionary time in fashion, art and music, but I always try and move it forward to a different place. I love that time and the influences but there’s no point being completely retro, otherwise it’s just kitsch and that’s not cool.
The collaborations you mentioned came about because those people approached me. My music seems to get around, now with music being so global and so accessible, I have no idea who could be listening to it.
Perhaps the accessibility of art was why the ‘60s was such a revolutionary time? Do you think there’s a parallel to today with art and fashion becoming less elitist?
That’s the nice thing about today, it’s a very fun time to be an emerging DIY artist like myself because your audience is much wider and you can reach the four corners of the globe.
At the same time it can be tricky because you might have a lot of fans but they’ll be separated all over the world and there might only be a few people in each city.
So tell be about your debut album Debutante?
I’ll go get the vinyl and show you! I’m really happy with it. Because I decided to do the artwork myself, like the layout and all that stuff and the record is white. And it sounds good too thank God!
Yeah, the album, it came about because I started doing singles. The idea was to build a little buzz, and find out who my fans were. The industry is changing so rapidly, there’s no right or wrong of doing anything at the minute. If you want to self-release stuff you can, and it scan still end up on Radio One, so you can have similar opportunities to an extent.
I got to a point where I thought we’ve put out six singles, because I’m making it all myself, largely in this room, its quite prolific, so it was a natural step to make an album.
I’ve even got another seven tracks for another album, so we’ll see…
What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
I’ll probably put out something new relatively soon, you know just keep moving. If every morning I wake up and I’m still able to do this professionally its like a mini win.
Its really funny, people have started to recognize me on the street, so that’s interesting, that’s a new part of the monster I’ve created.
shirt and trousers and boots: paul & joe, coat: fleamadonna, vintage earrings: rokit
Your image and sound are obviously getting people’s attention, perhaps because of how well everything you do fits together?
I get really frustrated with new label acts, because it’s not cohesive. I think it can be quite confusing as a fan. You need the whole thing to work together and be consistent. I think because I’ve made all the decisions with Femme, regardless of whether you like the music and the image, you can’t say its not consistent, because it’s from one set of hands.
Like FKA Twigs, she is my kind of artist; visually everything she puts out is so complimentary to the visual. It feels quite comforting as a fan to have that from an artist, from the very beginning, the visual stuff is the continuation of something.
What motivates you the most about making music?
Being able to explore different parts of your personality, and blow them up in a way that’s only really possible with music.
What I find quite fascinating is, now the album is out, its out of my world and into other peoples.
My favourite bit is to see how other people are connecting with it. Especially when this is music I largely make on my own. My relationship to music is self-exploration.
What do you think the future holds for Pop music?
People, and pop stars have bigger responsibility to speak out more, and they don’t often say anything. Actually, the general public isn’t that stupid, they don’t want straight up pop, we will lap up what we’re played, but it doesn’t have to be mundane. If riskier music was played on the radio, you’d see the effect in 20 years time of more interesting popular culture.
There’s so much going on in the underground but the mainstream just plays the same 5 artists. Across the board, in other artistic fields, I feel a change coming through, in politics as well.
I feel I’d love to see more weird stuff. I think art and pop deserves a little bit of the weird and for us all to be challenged.