Rice Digital chats with the living mannequins of FEMM

It has already been a busy year for FEMM. Not content to release one album in December, they followed it up with another album in January. Both Tokyo Girls Anthem and Tokyo Ex Machina are full of fantastic tracks and highlight the impressive skill the duo have always had.

These living mannequins from Japan combine fashion, music and on-stage artistry to create something truly unique in the world of music. And if there is one thing we love here at Rice Digital, it is something unique.

We got the chance to chat with RiRi and LuLa, the two figures behind pop duo FEMM, to find out more about their two albums, their back catalogue, and their plans for the future.

Of course, being mannequins, they couldn’t speak directly to us, so we had to rely on the power of email to get the info. And thanks to the power of the written word — and the occasional emoji — they were able to get their message across clear as day.

Our chat with FEMM

Rice Digital: You’ve put out two albums in two months, which is a really intense release schedule. What motivated you to record so many songs and how did you decide what songs ended up on Tokyo Girls Anthem and what made its way to Tokyo Ex Machina in 2022? Do you have a favourite song on either album?

LuLa: Yes, it was a pretty crazy schedule! We have been creating new songs in the studio for a long time, so now we are so happy that we can share it! These two albums are set with two different vibes. One is hip-hop and the other is more like emotional songs. My favourites are Tokyo Girls Anthem from Tokyo Girls Anthem, and We Got Each Other from Tokyo Ex Machina.

RiRi: My faves are Peach from Tokyo Girls Anthem and Outta the Clouds from Tokyo Ex Machina. Peach is hardcore and it suits me! We chose Outta the Clouds from over a hundred demo tracks, and it was my fave back then, and it’s still my fave. The MV is awesome too. We could really express our feelings.

RD: FEMM 2.0 seems to be a big departure from the sound of some of your previous work. What prompted you to want to make that change and was there a particular artist that you heard that made you want to make it?

RiRi: As for the sound, we don’t really think it’s that different from our previous music. Since day one we have always had rapping in our songs — like in Astroboy, where we are rapping like we’re talking or gossiping! As we got to know more about humans, we became much closer to them. So now we are upgraded to 2.0 and able to express our feelings in a more raw, smooth way.

I think it shows a lot in our new album Tokyo Ex Machina, especially in the tracks Crystal Ball and Crawl Away. For sure, we listen to many kinds of music daily — from oldies to recent hits. But we don’t really focus on mimicking or following someone’s step. We believe that we got our own world!

RD: I really want to talk about We Got Each Other. I love the song and the video, which seemed like it was a lot of fun to make. The vocals in the opening feel really different to anything else in in your catalogue. What inspired that delivery and can you tell us how it came about in the studio?

LuLa: Thank you! RiRi wrote the lyrics for this song. When we first got this song’s demo track it already had words on it, but it was more like a punk vibe and didn’t really suit us. But after RiRi rewrote the lyrics it became more “us”, and matched our voices.

RD: Unbreakable is a song that really stands out among a lot of your earlier work for being so raw and exposed, but it also shows off just how good of singers you both are. Was it a conscious decision to include this stripped-back ballad on an album that largely consisted of dance and hip-hop tracks like Fxxk Boyz Get Money and White Noise?

RiRi: Wow! Thank you for loving our early songs. Our first album FEMM-Isation was like an experiment for us, since we were just fashion mannequins until then. We mainly wanted to notify the world that mannequins have feelings too and we wanted to make peace with humans. Our up-tempo songs were catchy and got attention, but we did have our sensitive side too. That’s why we recorded Unbreakable. As mannequins, we’ve been in the shadows and been used like objects, but still we’re unbreakable. That was one of our early messages.

FEMM Outta the Clouds
Image via JPU Records

RD: Being recording artists and fashion icons must be a lot of hard work. How do you both recharge your energy after a long day? What does the downtime of a living mannequin look like?

LuLa: I like playing with kids and animals and also relaxing in nature. RiRi likes to work out!

RD: What is something you’re looking forward to in the next year? Is there a new project on the horizon that we should keep an eye out for?

RiRi: Maybe we can relax for a moment, since we just released two full albums. It took lots of energy…!! This year just started, so we’ll probably be performing our new songs for our Agents [Ed. note: FEMM describes their fans as “Agents”] Nothing on the plate for new projects for now, but we’ll always be ready for fun things. Traveling might be our next step, whenever it gets safer!

RD: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to your Agents here in the UK? We would love to see you visit and perform when it is safe to do so.

RiRi: We hope that this pandemic world settles down and gets back to normal days, so we can visit the UK again and perform for our Agents!! Till then, please enjoy our two new albums!!!

LuLa: Hi, UK agents! Long time no see, but how are you doing?? We’re looking forward to singing and dancing with you guys again!

FEMM have two new albums out, which you can find on your streaming service of choice. And more than one is likely to turn up in the Rice Digital Spotify Playlist in the coming months because we really can’t get enough of these two.

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