A newspaper recently stated, boldly, that La Femme make the only French music worth exporting right now. It’s not that there aren’t any other bands creating good music here in France — because believe me, there are — it’s just that their sound is so indisputably unique that it keeps raising heads around the globe. As extreme as this statement may seem, it also makes sense when we realise La Femme are relevant enough for their sound to break the perpetual British-American tandem, a feat especially admirable since they sing in their native tongue, which could potentially constitute an additional barrier for their internationalisation.
They are no kids either. Although founding members Sacha and Marlon are from Biarritz originally, it was not until they moved to Paris that La Femme began to take shape. And we’re talking about 2009/2010, which in the ever-moving music industry may seem like a long time ago — especially if we consider that their debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin only came out in 2013, following a series of singles and EPs that already included earlier versions of ‘Sur La Planche’ and ‘La Femme Ressort’, all very niche and discreet. But somehow between 2013 and 2016 everything exploded, and they’re currently one of the most exciting acts around, both live and on record.
I caught up with Sacha and Marlon backstage at Levitation France for a nice little chat before their show, which was undoubtedly the most anticipated performance of the second night of the festival. With their brilliant second album released earlier in the month, they’re now about to embark on a major tour that includes EU/UK shows as well as North and South American dates.
We began by discussing their presence in Levitation France, where they were headlining the sold-out second night, and I discovered their relationship with the organisation comes from way back. “We played the original Levitation, Austin Psych Fest, which is an open-air festival, in a field,” they said. “We also did Paris Psych Fest, but that’s an urban festival, in a closed venue, more like this one.” Apart from Austin, they also commented on having already played a lot in the States: “Yeah, it’s beginning to get bigger and bigger for us there. Even regarding the conditions in which we play, it just keeps getting better and better.” But what about the language, do they find it a barrier? “No, I mean, we all speak English,” Sacha tells me. “There’s even one of us who speaks Spanish and a bit of Portuguese. And then again, I think it’s the music that really gets to them, so even if they don’t understand what we’re saying, it’s fine.”
At this point Clémence briefly popped in the dressing room and I thought maybe she’d be joining us, but she seemed rather busy. She said hi and promptly disappeared.
We then talked about their new album Mystère, and how different it is from Psycho Tropical Berlin: “ Mystère has a lot more slower tracks, but we also tried loads of new things production-wise. We wanted to experiment.” But was this a conscious new approach or simply the result of the band evolving? “It was just a natural evolution of the band, I guess,” Sacha says, while Marlon vehemently shouts that it was definitely a natural approach. “We had loads of slower tracks, so we started working on some of them, deciding which ones should be included. We tried to find some sort of coherence when we were organising the tracklisting so we could control the way the whole album should flow… it’s been a real odyssey.”
“The album mixes both old and new tracks,” Sacha continues. “It was written between 2012 and 2015, so it’s all been a full three years in the making.” Three years? This came as a surprise to me since the impression I got when I first listened to Mystère was that it came in the aftermath of the recent events in France. But maybe that was just a construction a posteriori, or rather a consequence of the way the tracks were arranged. “We’re interested in the political situation and all, but more as individuals,” they clarify. “I mean, we don’t have tracks that are hugely politics-related or anything, maybe one day that will happen, we don’t know. Personally, the socio-political situation interests us, we talk about it, and we react to it. But our songs are more connected to everyday life.”
“Mystère has tracks that speak to people on a more intimate basis, that can send you on a self-discovery trip,” Sacha tells me when I put forward the idea of the album working as either a social or a personal escapism. “The songs can trigger memories that are not so nice because it’s all very rough and real, but they can also be very comforting. The general atmosphere is very human, very down-to-earth, but at the same time it belongs to the sphere of the imagination, of the dream.”
When I asked them to comment on the statement about their music being the only one in France worth exporting right now, they agreed to it happening due to them being engaged in making a new type of sound altogether. “I think that’s maybe because there’s no music being made in the US or the UK that sounds like what we’re doing.” So what would you call it? “It’s tough to say. Usually it’s the journalists that label us the way they like, but I think that with the due distance in time it will be easier to put a name to it. Well, sometimes they call it “la nouvelle scène” (“the new scene”).” Although I also hate labels, I had to ask them if calling it Strange Wave is completely wrong, since that’s the term I normally use to refer to their sound. “It’s a bit that, yes. Because you’re referring to the sound, without naming a specific genre or style.”
Being a collective of people who seem to be always on the move creatively, I inquired about possible collaborations on future projects. “We often team-up with theatre and film artists, but those are specific collaborations, for a certain show [like they did with House of Drama at Le Trianon] or a certain video. It’s easier this way — when you have something in your mind and you get the right people to help you making it happen.” I asked them if there was a specific project they would like to see happening, like if they’d ever thought about doing a feature film for example. “Oh yeah, totally. I mean, albums are nice and all, but it’s a very traditional format, isn’t it? Doing something different would be great.”
So what’s next for La Femme then? “We played some major festival dates this summer, but the big tour begins at the end of September. We’re kicking it off here in Europe [they play London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire on November 17th], and after that, it’s the United States, Canada, and then South America.”
“And we’re already working on the third album,” they added.
Mystère by La Femme is out now.
Originally published at https://www.thefourohfive.com.