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SpencerKohn_Ladygunn_Femme_06Coat, Assk. Socks, & Other Stories. Shoes, Stylist Own. Earrings, Femme’s own

photos / Spencer Kohn
makeup / Eric Vosburg
styling / Suuz Bisschops
story / Jay Loyola

British alt-pop darling Laura Bettinson, a.k.a. FEMME, has been on our radar for quite some time. We’ve been trailing her every musical step since she charmed our hearts with the retro sounds and stylings of her 2014 debut single, “Fever Boy,” and then with her euphoric follow-up pop anthem, “SOS.” Now, on the cusp of her highly-anticipate debut album, Debutante, we talked to the talented singer about her music and fashion influences, as well as her writing method. Oh, and we did this all while candidly chatting about Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, and what it’s like to be a woman who writes and produces in a male-dominated industry.
A while back you released an EP of covers that included songs by Madonna, The Shangri-Las, and Anita Ward. Was that a way to pay tribute to your influences or favorite artists?
Yeah, totally. I mean, that basically started because I got asked to do a couple of covers by two different artists and they were both from two very different times. One was 60s, and one was an 80s cover. And I was like okay, maybe I should just do an EP of the decades. That’s how that idea got started. It’s always nice to do a cover sometimes. It’s not something that I do lots. I’m not one of those people that posts acoustic covers on YouTube or whatever, but it’s nice to sometimes dig into somebody else’s song, a song that is already complete and written, because it’s already a classic, so you can’t go that wrong. Unless you really, really butcher it!
Who’s your ultimate pop star?
I would say that Michael Jackson was the ultimate pop star, even with the tragedy and the weirdness that surrounded him. I actually think he was some sort of alien. I mean, I can spend hours watching his YouTube videos and be like, what brain has come up with these songs and dances moves? Just wow. I think he is my ultimate pop star.
You released your single “Gold” late last year. How did that song come about?
It’s kind of bonkers, that one. That song came about from watching lots and lots of ABBA videos. Sometimes when I take a break from working in my studio, I’ll just go on YouTube and end up in places that I never intended to go, and during the period of writing that song I’d been watching a lot of ABBA videos. Also, a lot of Shirley Bassey… videos on YouTube of her in the 60s with a full orchestra. Very strong, powerful women are always very inspiring to me, so that’s kind of where I end up. This song is about when you have that safety net of a relationship, the comfort that can provide, and then you take little steps back from it and have a moment of clarity where you think, am I actually in love with this person, or is it just comfortable?
So would you describe your method of writing as being very personal?
My writing is usually quite overblown, like an exaggerated version of myself and the situations I find myself in. I love the fantasies of pop music, being able to create a different world. Pop musicians and the icons of the past with huge personalities have inspired me, people like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, Grace Jones, and current people like FKA Twigs—someone with this massive image and style and a fantasy world around them. I like not being too real, in my pop music. But there is always some reality in there somewhere. I always end up writing about something that I kind of step back and listen to it again and think, oh, that lyric is about a certain situation… I mean, it’s cramped in there, but usually it’s almost like the script of a movie.
Your debut album is out in April—finally! What can you tell us about the album?
It’s basically a pop record with a lot of personality. It’s ballsy pop. It’s got that retro, 60s girl-group influence like in “SOS,” and some new sounds that you’ll hear soon. I always like to marry very masculine beats with feminine harmony and melody. That’s the kind of a stuff that moves me. The girl-group melodies but always with a big, fat beat. It’s like a little slice of my head, of my world. There’s a lot of character in the music.
That’s what I love about your music. There is a great mixture of sounds and genres, but that 60s sound stands out. Have you always been a fan of that era?
Yeah, I love it, visually especially; like Andy Warhol and that pop art movement. I think generally the 60s were kind of a very radical time in popular culture with art, music, and politics. We had people in space for the first time; there was a lot going on then. I really feel like the arts and pop culture reflected that. And that’s why it continues to be quite influential. It was a really special time in music and art. I think it’s important to take influences from the past, push forward, and explore new territory.
Where does your fashion inspiration come from?
I’ve always been scratching around for money, so I’ve never had a big budget to spend on clothes. A lot of this stuff that I wear is second-hand, or is made by friends or recycled. Or it’s a combination of older, high-street kind of stuff, vintage, and some new designers, whatever. I think a lot of my influences are from the 80s, like Jean Paul Gaultier and Givenchy and that period with lots of accessories and power dressing. That’s always been exciting to me. But then also I’ve got a bit of Edie Sedgwick in there—she’s always been one of my favorite style icons from the 60s. I also draw a lot of influence from Old Hollywood: Elizabeth Taylor, around that era. It’s a big mash-up—kind of like my music really.
I know you produce a lot, if not all, of your own songs. How does it feel to be in charge of your own music and sound?
It’s really great. I never really considered it to be any other way. As much as I love being on stage, making music, and just being by myself in my studio, is equally enjoyable. I could just go for days and not sleep, and work and be absolutely obsessed with finishing a certain song… That process is important to me. I’ve been working on these tunes for quite some time now and developing my artistry and figuring out who I am through the music for a couple of years now. And I kind of feel like this debut has to be all me.
Have you encountered any pressure from the industry for being a woman producer?
Constantly. But I don’t think it’s like, with malicious intent. They just don’t expect you, especially not in pop music, to be producing your own music. It’s not like I’m ever offended by it. A lot of people will ask me who’s the producer, and I’m like, I made it. It’s especially more obvious during live shows, when we work with male DJs in the venue. They will be like, we love the track, we love the beat, who made it? The answer is not what they expect to hear. I would love to see more—I am sure there must be lots of girls making their own tunes and producing their own music. There must be! It would be nice to see a bit more of it in pop music, I’ve got to say.

Top, H&M. Skirt, H&M. Socks, COS. Shoes,Vintage (Marni). Earrings, Femme’s own.


Bra and Overalls, DI$COUNT UNIVER$E.SpencerKohn_Ladygunn_Femme_01

Shirt, Stylist own. Pants, DI$COUNT UNIVER$E.

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