La Femme: The French Band Going Global

The French-surf-electro-psychedelic band La Femme explores both the history and future of music through their eccentric albums and unconventional sound.


Ellora Klein

Here is a photo from La Femme’s performance at Brooklyn Steel in New York City on June 5th, 2022.

Bathed in a purple haze, women with afros and bangs play trumpets and trombones of a shimmering violet-gold. A heart-shaped stage emerges from the lavender cloud, shining its foggy lights onto rows of Go-go boots and 1960s style mod dresses (the wearers sit like statues). A guitar is lazily plucked, producing a heavily reverberated, surf-psychedelic soundscape for a woman in  big square sunglasses and ladies in polka-dot dresses to swing and sway.

A man with a platinum bowl cut, brown lens sunglasses, and a black suit appears on the stage.

The man is Sacha Got, the lead guitarist of the French psych-pop band La Femme. The scene is the visual version of Cool Colorado, La Femme’s straight-out-of-the-60s 2020 single. 

Got begins to sing, telling a tale of a free, dreamy Colorado. The song holds a kind of Beatnik spirit, reflecting on the soul of San Francisco in the 1970s and the novels of Jack Kerouac in the 1950s. 

Cool Colorado, while in many ways a relic of another time, is also characteristic to the modernity of the band – the originality of its sound fits into a niche carved out by La Femme alone. Marlon Magnee, the band’s co-founder and lead keyboardist, told American Songwriter that the band doesn’t listen to the noise of other music, instead focusing on their own internal voices. These mental narratives shape that niche, taking root in both the band members’ individual styles and influences from previous eras of music, particularly the underground French pop of the 60s and bands like The Velvet Underground. 

The crowd becomes still as Magnee begins to sing their hit song “It’s Time to Wake Up 2023.” (Ellora Klein)

Got and Marlon first started exploring their eclectic array of genres and styles in Biarritz, a coastal town in France, where they both grew up and eventually met in secondary school. They found the town to be a haven for tourists and little else, and soon moved to Paris to find musical inspiration and  form a band. There they were greeted by inter-band turmoil, with unmotivated singers eventually leading to the band’s collapse. They realized that to get big in France, they had to make it in America first. 

La Femme decided to go on tour in America just as their EP was being released in France, giving them the appeal they had been missing before. This wasn’t about the music itself, but about making the Parisian music scene focus on them. Their plan worked: France noticed them, and they were soon signed to Barclay, a French record label. 

Thus came an onslaught of new opportunities, and, of course, albums. 

Album #1: Psycho Tropical Berlin

La Femme’s debut album Psycho Tropical Berlin was released in 2013, and quickly reached number 33 in France. Received well by critics and commercially successful, the album went on to earn the Victoires de la Musique Award. Psycho Tropical Berlin begins with “Sur la planche,” a lighthearted, surf-pop track initially released as a single. Each song that follows combines an ominous bass with similar elements of surf pop and coldwave. My top songs in this album are “Le blues de Françoise” and “Saisis la corde,” both tracks that transform as you listen to them, shifting between peaceful melodies and eerie ones. 

La Femme’s co-founder and lead singer Marlon Magnee crowd surfs over their concert in New York City. (Ellora Klein)

Album #2: Mystere

Mystere, La Femme’s second album, was released in 2016, three years after the release of their first album. This album represented a departure from electro-surf, as the band took on a more melancholy feel with a balance of upbeat, pensive, and dark tracks. A maturing sound introduced some of La Femme’s most popular songs, such as “Elle ne t’aime pas,” an anthem of unrequited love. Magnee has before described love as the “greatest force in the universe,” and this message makes its way into many of the songs in this album. My favorite song from Mystere is “Sphynx” a haunting tune with a distinctly dystopian, electronic feel.

Album #3: Paradigmes

Finally, La Femme’s most recent album – the long awaited Paradigmes, released in 2022. Paradigmes is thrilling, at times traveling through the USA with songs like “Cool Colorado” and “Nouvelle-Orleans,” while also experimenting with different genres untouched by Psycho Tropical Berlin and Mystere. The band describes the styles of the songs on this album as everything from “disco slam/country opera style” to “electronic dark.” Paradigmes also experimented with language, which can be heard in one of my favorite songs, “Le Jardin,” La Femme’s first song in Spanish (this was quickly followed by their newest 2022 single, “Sacatela,” a catchy Spanish song stylistically independent from their previous music).

As La Femme continues to develop its sound, Magnon and Got are sure to experiment further with the old and the new, combining the vintage with the futuristic to create an eccentric, idiosyncratic new album. Until then, La Femme is going on tour across France, the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Buy your tickets to see them in person here: