FEMM, J-Pop’s Hit Mannequin Duo: “There are so many situations where women need to be strong”
Japan’s singing mannequin duo FEMM sure do have some sound insights into life and music. Since FEMM took form in 2013, RiRi (aka ‘mannequin management agent’ Honey-B) and Lula (aka ‘mannequin management agent’ W-Trouble) have taken the world by storm with their mannequin act, one high-fashion infused performance eleganza at a time. Their first album, 2014’s Femm-Isation, followed a slew of buzz singles, most notably the infectious ‘girl power’ theme “Fxxk Boyz Get Money;” “Benny’s the only one who’s ever gonna claim me,” the girls mannequins declared over a gritty hybrid of whirling synths and wall-destroying bass kicks. It was enough to catapult FEMM into the international spotlight, and had them strutting their stuff on stages around the US, Europe and, of course, their home country.
After a series of bops in 2016, FEMM are back with 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL, a brand-new album and concept. 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL, a fourteen track LP, is a cover album, but not as you know it – 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL updates and ‘FEMMifies’ hits by some of Japan’s most treasured artists.
Showing a rarely seen human element to their act, Honey-B and W-Trouble exclusively spilled some tea about FEMM’s new album, their rise to international fame and some beliefs on ‘FEMM’-inism.
Watch the mannequins do their thing in this exclusive video interview where, in true FEMM style, the mannequins model answers to their favorite questions on posters:
How has FEMM’S AGENCY SYNDICATE grown since releasing the debut album Femm-Isation in 2014?
H-B: Having giving amazing opportunities, we think FEMM and us agents could grow a lot in these years. Especially in the fashion area, FEMM has appeared in various brand’s shows and shoots and this really is an honor for them originally being fashion mannequins.
W-T: FEMM is spreading by the day and not only in Japan, but having foreign FEMM agents (fans and supporters) is a big motive for them.
What is your message with 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL as an album?
H-B: First of all, FEMM has showed respect to the great Japanese artists who made monster hits in the past. In the past, we have chosen English songs for FEMM in order to deliver their message far. But this time, it was important for us to rediscover Japan’s great music and to spread it to the world since FEMM are mannequins made in Japan! That’s why we chose the theme “J-POP REVIVAL.”
W-T: We didn’t want it to be just another cover album, so we kept the concept of the original song alive and added some FEMM-ness to it!
What inspired the concept of updating classic J-Pop hits for your second album, as opposed to completely original songs?
W-T: Bringing back the 80s and 90s is a trend right now. Both in the fashion and music area.
H-B: Since “PoW!,” lead song of FEMM’s major debut mini-album, we had the concept “REVIVAL” in mind. Afterwards, FAMM’IN (FEMM, FAKY, Yup’in) being assigned as Shibuya performance ambassador they have covered “Konya wa Boogie Back,” which is a Shibuya inspired song that made a big hit in the 90s. FEMM were really hooked on this song, so we started to have them try other songs too.
Which song did you have the most fun updating for 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL?
H-B: RiRi loved “Samishii nettaigyo.” We always had requests for FEMM to cover WINK, because they are both girls’ duo and have a similar vibe. Finally, we could make it happen! We even made a MV that is a shot by shot cover of the original.
W-T: LuLa enjoyed all the songs, but especially loved “Konya wa Boogie Back.” It has a unique feel to it. But again, it was hard for LuLa to figure out how to deliver the humanness in this song.
What story does the artwork for 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL tell (shown above)?
LuLa: Four artists who have been influenced by Japan’s animation did our artwork for 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL. It really has [an] 80s & 90s feel to it, like “AKIRA” and other Jap-animation, comic worlds. All the artwork [is] very unique and original, so please check it out in details!
RiRi: The artwork used on the album cover, and also in one of the singles, was by Max Prentis. Wardrobe and Backgrounds all have a special futuristic taste. FEMM really loved it!
Is there one song in particular on 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL which you think captures the spirit of the album?
H-B: RiRi would say “Samishii nettaigyo” by WINK. There are similarities in these two duos, and also having to cover WINK’s whole MV has become a big honor for FEMM.
W-T: For LuLa, it would be “Konya wa Boogie Back.” FEMM has been performing this song for a while with fellow artists like FAKY, Yup’in, AMIAYA and UNA. Also, FEMM usually are based in Shibuya, and this song is like a theme song, so why not love it hard!?
What was the biggest difference when creating 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL with your previous music?
H-B: It was really different! Basically, having [RiRi and LuLa] sing in Japanese instead of English was a big change. And also, we wanted to keep the vibe of the original songs but add FEMM’s essence to it. These are monster hit songs that so many people love, so we needed to take great care into it.
W-T: We really wanted to show respect to these artists. Imagining how these songs were born, what are the differences between the songs now and then, we were focusing on these kind of points, since 80s & 90s are a completely new era for FEMM.
Are there any female musicians you’d like to recruit to FEMM’S AGENCY SYNDICATE?
H-B: Sorry, but FEMM’s Agency Syndicate do not recruit human artists, but we do search for mannequins who have a potential as leaders like FEMM.
W-T: But if there are human artists who support FEMM’s movement and like to collaborate, we are more [than] welcome for that.
How do you feel about “Fxxk Boyz Get Money” being considered a feminist anthem? What is FEMM’S AGENCY SYNDICATE’s stance on feminism?
RiRi: We have never used the word “Feminist” for this song, but it is the listeners who decide how they feel. It’s more like [a] “Girl Power” theme for us. For instance, if you are feeling down, like in your love life or anything sad happens, and if FEMM’s songs make to cheer up, nothing else makes us happier. FEMM usually sing in the character of a powerful woman, because we want to send this positive energy.
LuLa: Like H-B said, it’s not that we push “Feminism,” but if the listeners feel positive with FEMM’s songs, it’s an honor for us. These days, I feel like there are so many situations where [women] need to be strong, so if FEMM’s songs can push their strength, that’s what we are here for!
How do you feel about being a representative of female musicians in the music industry? Is there a goal of changing something for female musicians as FEMM‘S AGENCY SYNDICATE?
W-T: FEMM’s main focus is to deliver the message as mannequins and to spread it to the world. We have been doing this since day one, so we shall keep devoted.
H-B: Not just musicians, but as a woman it is sometimes hard to just be yourself. FEMM have pride of being mannequins and having their own style. If we can learn to “be ourselves” like FEMM, that would be a great thing.
Are there any Japanese female musicians who you are paying attention to?
RiRi: RiRi met a singer named RiRi!! Same name! She is still in high school, but is an amazing singer with a deep voice. FEMM love her!
LuLa: LuLa, of course loves her too! Same name as LuLa’s partner, but so different in style. It was a delightful surprise.
Perfume has been particularly successful overseas, so how do you feel about overseas audience who appreciate Japanese culture?
RiRi: We are so happy that Japan’s culture is really popular in other countries. FEMM has visited the US, Denmark, Taiwan, Indonesia and UK and wherever they go, there were people who have very deep understanding for Japan’s culture and even they could speak the language very well! We were so surprised.
LuLa: It’s so amazing. FEMM, being mannequins made in Japan, are so proud of their culture! When they meet FEMM agents who love Japan’s culture it really makes them happy. If they have an opportunity to perform their new album 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL in other countries, we hope the audience love it!!
Are there special messages for overseas fans of FEMM‘S AGENCY SYNDICATE? What’s on FEMM’s schedule for 2018?
RiRi: Thank you for always sending love via SNS [social networking services]! We read all of your comments to FEMM every day and it makes us so happy. We would love to visit countries FEMM has never been to and perform there! We are in the process of new projects too, so please stay tuned!
LuLa: Thank you, FEMM agents for always supporting. We hope you love FEMM’s new album 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL. It’s gonna be 2018 soon!! We hope we can deliver lots of new and fresh images and songs of FEMM to you. See you at FEMM shows!!
Stream FEMM’s album 80s/90s J-POP REVIVAL on Spotify:
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