There’s not a lot that’s sexier to a culturally transgressive American than artistically-inclined foreigners that refuse to adopt the customs of the Land of the “Free” and Home of the “Brave.” (i.e. speaking to us in our native tongue) And the rejection of the current state of “culture” only adds to the romantic appeal. Such is the case with Paris-based La Femme, a garage rock outfit highly indebted to the playfulness of surf rock, the morbidty of post-punk, and the synthetic sensuality of new wave, that also boast a plethora of postmodern yéyé girls brilliantly handling vocals. Their first LP, Psycho Tropical Berlin, made a huge splash in their native land a year ago and is set to be released stateside in a deluxe edition, with bonus tracks, on April 7th. The band are playing Olde Club in Swarthmore tonight, March 22nd, and will be in Philthy itself next Wednesday, March 26th, supporting … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead at Underground Arts. I recently chatted with the band about their upcoming US dates and all of the things that comprise their beautifully subversive amalgam.
Izzy Cihak: So this is still a relatively new band. What have been the highlights of La Femme, so far?
La Femme: This is not really a new band. We started four years ago. For the highlights, this year was intense: release of our first album, the show in “Rock en Seine” in past August in front of 20,000 people and “les Victoires de la Musique” (the French Grammy’s) little good surprise, in the “Best New Artist” category.
Izzy: And is there anything that you think is particularly important for fans and potential fans to know about the band… before delving into the music? “No” is a perfectly fine answer.
La Femme: Maybe it can be interesting for American “potential fans” to listen to French music from the ‘60s to the ‘80s (yéyé, new wave, synth pop) because it’s part of our influence and it is generally unknown in the US. The council works before, during, and after listening our music!
Izzy: And what do you consider to be your most significant collective influences?
La Femme: We also love late 19th/early 20th century’s way of life, especially artistic movements and French aesthetics (art nouveau, art déco, années folles…) More generally, what brought us together is the desire to mix all of this to make something a little unique. Travelling and spending a lot of time together on tour is reloading our collective artistic conception.
Izzy: And I’m curious if you have a favorite La Femme track, or a track which you think best represents the band, or where their sounds might be headed? I’m kind of in love with “Sur la planche,” for just embodying a morbid brand of post-punk eroticism… although as an American I have no fucking clue what it’s about…
La Femme: The entire band doesn’t have a favorite song. Each member has one or two favorite tracks (and one or two hated tracks! hahaha). We are nice guys, so we’ll give you some clue about what “Sur la planche” (“On the Surf Board” in English) means. It is about a girl who feels invincible on a board surfing the waves of Biarritz’s beach, but she’s in a serious matter because she’s hunted down by men. Check the video clip and you will understand!
Izzy: I’m a big fan of La Femme’s visuals, both your sartorial style and your music videos, so I have to ask: What most inspires the visual side of La Femme, both fashion-wise and cinematically? (It’s somewhat ironic that I’m actually familiar with yé-yé, which you’ve noted as an inspiration, solely because of Godard’s Masculin feminin, which is officially my third favorite film of all-time.)
La Femme: As we said previously, we are inspired by late of 19th century. We love strange cinema. When we make a song, we imagine a movie scene related to the songs. That helps us a lot for making video clips. We’re mixing many cinematic influences to make the videos. We know Jean-Luc Godard, but also François Truffaut. You should watch movies like Les 400 coup. It is an amazing story and typically a movie from the new wave in the 60’s, maybe the very first and cultest movie from the French Nouvelle Vague!
Izzy: You’re about to play a number of dates supporting …Trail of Dead on their tour celebrating 2002’s Source Tags & Codes, so I have to ask your thoughts on the band. Are you fans of the group and/or the album? They’re actually one of my favorites of recent years and I remember seeing them, at 17, first touring behind the album.
La Femme: We know it. They have a great reputation, but we did not know them before. We are excited to meet and play with them!
Izzy: And what are your plans and hopes for the rest of 2014? Any chance of new music or a full-scale headlining tour?
La Femme: We will still be touring a bit everywhere over the summer (European festivals) but the key thing for us this year is to progress in the recording of the second album. We are very excited to go to the USA and Mexico, to meet new and cool people!