Some people really do have it all, and Femme is one of them. Starting as a teenage singer-songwriter, she’s now a bona fide DIY diva armed with catchy pop productions and self-directed videos. After studying at the prestigious London art school Goldsmiths’ she arrived on the music scene as part of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich’s band ultraísta, where her vocals blended into dreamy, fuzzed-out synth landscapes. Now, she’s making bolder statements and striking out on her own. Born Laura Bettinson, she’s quick to refer to herself by her chosen moniker, one that represents her as a self-made woman.
Femme has only released a handful of singles so far, but they make an immediate impact. “Fever Boy” has emerged as her signature track, and when she sings, “You can be my fever boy,” and, “I’ll still be your bullet girl,” you might stop to think twice about what she means. In Femme’s capable hands, succinct statements are total enigmas. She cites Andy Warhol as a source of inspiration, and it’s easy to see why. Like the pop art legend, she shows how simple imagery can be some of the most engaging. Her latest clip for “High” turns the concept of the performance video into a hypnotic daydream, envisioned in a retrofuturist color palette of silver and pastel. The “Fever Boy” video—self-made on a budget of “about 50 quid”—sees Femme and her dancers donning sleek swimwear as icons of boys and girls and bullets flash onscreen in time with the words. And like Warhol’s colorful camouflage prints and pistols in triplicate, the concept of the “bullet girl” seems divorced from any implications of violence. It reminds us that weapons can easily be melted down and turned into something completely different; likewise, Femme’s versatility is an extension of her talent.
Though Femme has quickly become a darling of the fashion world, soundtracking Stella McCartney shows and performing at Milan Fashion Week, her personal look is more eclectic. She describes her style as, “a mixture of up-and-coming designers and people that I love, but then also very practical, streetwear, a kind of mixture of vintage and thrift shop.”
Onstage at New York City’s Webster Hall, she sports a luxe-looking coat that’s the same cotton candy hue as her tousled pixie cut, spangled black trousers accessorized with a gold Moschino belt, and a pair of orthopedic-looking Reeboks that speak to a playfulness and practicality that’s requisite for someone who’s always on the move. Throw in a pair of dark, expressive eyebrows and a penchant for statement jewelry, and her look is a take-charge interpretation of Edie Sedgwick for the twenty first century. But unlike the Warhol superstar, Femme is both muse and creator.
Femme’s other key reference point comes from visual artist Cindy Sherman, the photographer renowned for using self- portraits to explore the semiotics of identity. “It really put into perspective what you’re creating and what you’re seeing,” Femme elaborates. “A lot of it is drama, a made up character, an amalgamation of what you want to be.”
What she wants to be is a completely self- sufficient artist, now that’s she’s broken away from the band and can get more personal. “I’m very comfortable in my own company, which I feel means you can have a bit more leeway with getting a little bit of you in it,” she says of her songwriting process. “In a similar vein, it’s a little bit more character-based. I guess there’s a lot of that from recording by myself and that maybe other people would feel self- conscious about, but I don’t think I could put out that shit if I was in a studio with a producer. I enjoy being able to do what I want.”
Femme’s tireless work ethic has paid off in the form of a debut album that’s currently set to be released next year. In a world where pop songs are almost expected to have half a dozen writers and producers, she’s pulled off a formidable feat alone in her basement studio.
“It’s a very personal chunk of your creative agency and you don’t always want to bring someone else in,” Femme says. “In the end, it ends up very diluted because you’re making compromises and it ends up being something that you don’t know very well. I get on with everybody and make friends easily, but I couldn’t come out with a sound where I haven’t also sat in the producer’s chair. Unfortunately, in the pop music industry, even if you make it to the fucking chair, the album is still their sound, it’s still their beat. It’s your sound when you make it.”
As a result, Femme has crafted a sound and vision all her own. While her colorful, minimalist-meets-maximalist aesthetic WWsomething she’s had on her mind—her WILD Wish is to enter the stage on a sleigh made of marshmallows towed by unicorns.
Photographer: Marek Berry
Stylist: Lia Hallie
Hair stylist: Dana Boyer @ ArtMix Creative using Oribe
Hair Care Makeup Artist: Laura Stiassni
Photographer Assistant/Tech: Brendan Cain and Gerrard Wilkinson
Stylist Assistant: Bielkys Paredes