Travel, Experimentation, & Collaboration: A Conversation with La Femme

La Femme © JF Julian
La Femme © JF Julian
French band La Femme continue to take listeners on hypnotic journeys while bringing in new influences along the way on new songs “Disconnexion,” “Cool Colorado,” and “Paradigme” off their upcoming third album.
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Stream: “Disconnexion” – La Femme

Some artists make albums with strategically thought out track listings, ensuring that the overall result has a cohesive narrative that the listener is drawn into. This is what makes an album an album as opposed to just putting out singles, the songs are bound together as a collective. But sometimes albums are more like sketchbooks, there for organizational purposes and an accessible way of distributing a mishmash of ideas and inspirations. There’s no cohesive structure but that’s what makes it more engaging. 

Disconnexion - La Femme
Disconnexion – La Femme

La Femme, the French group lead by musicians Sacha Got and Marlon Magnée, follows this example. Their albums are long, the influences varied, and the intentions are more to exemplify the fun of creation rather than pinpoint a particular story or moment in time. Psychedelic touches, disco ambiences, and Yé-Yé references permeate the songs, meaning instrumentation and atmosphere tend to be at the forefront. 

Having released their debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin in 2013 and their follow-up Mystère in 2016, the group’s latest releases feel more progressive. “Paradigme” (released in September) is cinematic, the grandiose brass instrumentation emphasizing a sense of glamour and the aura illuminating like a night in the city. The lyrics, however, are kind of lonesome and dark, adding an element of glamour and escapism to the tougher attributes of life. It’s similar with “Cool Colorado” (released in November), taking to the road and losing oneself in smoke and hazy thoughts while trumpets and trombones dance in the refrain. Their latest release, “Disconnexion” is hyperactive and a little otherworldly, the lyrics consisting of an uncertain political speech (‘Je, je, je, je pense que le, le, plus grand problème de l’homme/C’est d’éprouver sans cesse un désir d’expansion et sans limite/ Tandis qu’il vit dans un monde rempli, lui/ De limites physiques et cartésiennes/ Euh’ it starts) and energetic strums of a banjo.

Pendant la nuit les paradigmes s’effacent
Les masques tombent pour célébrer le néant et la folie
Dans cette énigme qu’on appelle la vie
J’ai envie de courir et de pleurer
Pendant la nuit je ressens la menace
Parmi les ombres je vois les monstres et les rapaces
J’ai dans le ventre une boule qui me stresse,
qui me possède et qui m’empêche
De voir clair dans ce monde où tout m’oppresse
Paradigme,” La Femme

Their third album, due out beginning of 2021, follows similar traits. “Foutre le bordel” has the same kind of punk-like chant as “Tatiana” from Mystère while the futuristic techno-leaning instrumentals of Psycho Tropical Berlin resume. There are tracks, however, that take different directions: A western-style instrumentation and Turkish influences. There’s also the slower, sweet-sounding kind (“Pasadena” and “Le Jardin”) that radiate a soothing melancholy that’s usually absent from La Femme’s music.

Got and Magnée both grew up in Biarritz, attending the same high school and bonding over the avant garde. They moved to Paris where La Femme began to take shape, Clémence Quélennec joining with vocals as well as a myriad of other collaborators. La Femme, as a result, is more like a collective- the focus not being on specific members but the mystery and the music as a whole. Widening their network of collaborators continues as do the journeys they intend for their listeners to go on. In order to get a better understanding of La Femme, Atwood Magazine chatted to Sacha Got about the formation of the band and influences behind the new material.

La Femme © JF Julian
La Femme © JF Julian


Disconnexion - La Femme

Atwood Magazine: There’s a lot of focus on the style of the band and how you embody this quintessential, sexy Parisian. When you started the band, did you have a clear aesthetic in mind? I wonder how much this plays a part in your identity.

La Femme: When we started at the beginning, we began to mix some vintage sounds from the 60s mostly and old soul guitars but we tried to mix it with more of an electronic approach with loops of drums and bass. So it was kind of a mix of 60s, soft music, psychedelic, and 80s cold wave. That was the first approach we had when we started the band. Then we went in many other different styles and mixed everything. I would say that our first mix was this kind of stuff.

What are some of your influences? Is there anything in particular that we should check out that would help us get into your headspace?

In French I would say we like all the Yé-Yé movement, like Serge Gainsbourg and Jaques Dutronc. Also the 80s cold wave scene. For the main singer though, I would say Gainsbourg, Dutronc, George Brassens, and Barbara. 

Could you talk about the origins of the band. You and Marlon are the founders and I guess the driving force. So what role do you have in relation to the other members?

It was a bit messy. Me and Marlon, we were friends since school in Biarritz and grew up together there. Then the rest of the band are from Paris and we meet them in Paris. Clémence, the first lead singer, was from Brittany and we met her from Myspace. Then we started to build a lineup for the live shows and this was like the original line up.

How has the band changed over the years in terms of members or collaborators? For example, I know Clara Luciani features on the debut album.

Yeah Clara Luciani was singing with us some times, live too, but it was mainly Clémence. Sometimes some extra musicians would be in this line-up. For the studio, it’s mainly me and Marlon who write the songs and work in the studio and then we have a lot of musicians who come and a lot of singers too so there are many female singers. It’s not just one singer so each song is different. 

It’s been four years since your last album so are there any changes with the members for this one? Did you collaborate with anybody new?

Yeah we collaborated with new people. Some people from the Parisian jazz scene, like old school jazz- New Orleans style. We have a drummer and trumpet player and trombonist playing on “Paradigme.” Also we have a bunch of players from Memphis because we did a couple of sessions over there with a country music guy. There’s some new female singers too.

Awesome. The album Mystère, I feel, was more expansive and varied than the debut and your next album feels like another progression- Especially because it feels more cinematic with the trumpets and stuff. What is the mindset of this record?

For every record it’s the same mindset, just that we have a bunch of songs and demos- over 100- and we take the best ones and put them together so there’s not really a specific direction. It’s just the best songs and a bit of everything and then we build it like that. It’s more like a compilation of many titles that we wrote at different times in the years. It’s not like we go to a studio and say ‘this record is going to sound like that’. It’s more messy, from different places.

That’s cool. There seems to be a real mix of styles.

Yeah, it’s dependent on the song. We are going to have many that are electro too. Like the first single we put out is a style we went through but it’s not the full style. You will see with the record that it’s more varied and stuff.

Stream: “Paradigme” – La Femme

For anyone listening to music in a different language, not just French, the sound is what they take in first and if they’re drawn into this then hopefully they’ll look into the lyrics afterwards. Whereas if you’re listening to music in a language you fully understand, the lyrics might be the focus. So you’re pretty popular in France but I’m assuming you want to branch out. How important is the sound and instrumentations in your songs for you? Is there a relationship between this and the lyrics or do you want the instrumentation to be the driving force for listeners? Because there is that psychedelic quality to your songs.

The two are both important but it’s true what you said about the melody coming first. Mostly when you’re like a stranger and you don’t know the lyrics the melody is important. But both instrumental and lyrics, we work on it at the same level, like everything has to be good. And if you understand the lyrics it’s even better because it puts another dimension to it. For us we make a bunch of instrumentals and then we put some lyrics on it. For me it’s all important. 

So when you’re making your songs, do you have the lyrics first then you find the music?

It depends. Most of the time we have the instrumental first and then we put some lyrics on it.

Cool. So a lot of the time are the lyrics influenced by the sound?

Yeah most of the time the sounds make a mood or a situation or a place and the lyrics come from this.

In terms of the new album, are there any particular narratives lyrically that define what it’s about?

Yeah, we play some other stuff, for example songs with philosophical-style speech. Each song is like a different bit of life and situations, place or time, and characters too. 

How long had you been working on the new album? Could you give an insight into that process.

It was in such a different time. We have a song that comes from 2013 but we worked on it for two years. We tried to bring it all back together and finish it because our goal is always to finish. There’s songs from 2012 to 2019, I would say.

And when it comes to your live shows, how do these differ to your recordings?

With the recordings I would say it’s more sophisticated, we like to use a bunch of tracks and a bunch of instruments because in the studio you can put all the tracks you want. Live I would say it’s a bit more rock n roll. It’s not as clean as the record, it’s more the rock n roll energy. We don’t like to use computers and we play everything so it’s a very different thing. We like the shows but in the studio it’s more building an electronic song with loops and stuff. 

I really miss live shows. Do you have any plans with the release of new record? I guess it’s hard because nobody knows what the situation is going to be like early night next.

For the moment I can’t say anything because for the situation we’re going to see what happens. So at the moment there’s no real plans for that. Maybe a few shows next year but it’s still uncertain.

I have a really annoying question that I hate to ask but you may be undiscovered to a lot of readers so I feel I should ask it. Why did you choose the name La Femme? Two initial thoughts came to my mind: The first was that it links with the whole ‘sexy, Parisian’ thing but then also the band is founded by two guys so I was a bit like hmmm.

I know it’s kind of a boring question that everybody asks us and we never have a specific answer. I would say it’s a mix of many reasons but at the period when it came to us it was evident that this would be our name. Also, we use a lot of girl singers and stuff and we like to use the woman as a visual too so it’s a fuller concept, you know. We like the figure of that and it could be like a mother or a daughter or a girlfriend or a friend. It’s kind of like the woman as a mystical force. 

Yeah, I never ask that question because I know it annoys bands haha but I thought it might be good for readers to know!

Yeah and it’s like a name and then you have to keep it your whole career. But finally we liked this name and then you have to use it with no specific explanation. It’s a concept, a force.

Stream: “Cool Colorado” – La Femme

It’s a continuation of our past records so it’s a big mess of everything. It’s not a very specific mood board. We just take all the music and kind of stuff that we like from the past century, from the 30s to the 90s, and we mix all of that together. It’s a continuation because we use the same sounds and psychedelic elements but in the styles it’s going in different ways. It’s just a big mess, you know.

A good mess. Yeah I love that. Your music is pretty transportive, I guess a lot due to that psychedelic quality, so is there any particular place or mood you want the listeners to be taken to with the new record?

Yeah we love places a lot and we love to travel to some great places like the ones at and be inspired by them. I would say that with this record there’s some New Orleans, some California, some Spain, some France, some Detroit, and some Turkish.

Are these all inspired from when you visited these places or is it just imagination?

Yeah, mostly yes. Sometimes it depends. I never went to Turkey for example but I’m big fan of the Turkish music from the 70s. So sometimes you don’t even need to go to the place to travel, you know

I’m not really familiar with Turkish music. Are there any songs in particular on the album that incorporate this?

Yeah, we have a song called “Va” and it’s inspired by this thing.

That’s really cool. I think that’s just what we need right now seeing as nobody can really travel that much. So having this album is a good way to bring different places to people.

Yeah, yeah. You’re going to hear that it’s like a big travel.  

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Disconnexion - La Femme

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