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STRAND Showcase Spotlight: In Conversation With FLEUR ROUGE

Image courtesy of FLEUR ROUGE

Welcome to our STRAND Showcase Spotlight series, where if you haven’t yet bought a ticket to the live music showcases we support, we show you why you should.

The final STRAND showcase spotlight of this season is with FEMMESTIVAL showcase headliner FLEUR ROUGE, and while she’s last on our lineup, she’s the furthest thing from least. The half-French, London-born singer flaunts her femme-fatale attitude proudly both on and off-stage and the stage at SJQ in Dalston will be no exception.

“I’m absolutely a feminist,” she tells me when I first ask about her musical style. “But it’s not about bashing men. I want my music to empower women, and when they’re listening to it, I want them to feel like a bad bitch!”

“I wanted the lyrics and the production of my music to make sense in terms of that goal. A ‘future pop’ sound that's industrial, and hard-hitting, feels very sassy to me. It's a ‘zero fucks’ kind of energy.”

Listen to any of the tracks from her latest EP, What Makes U Think I Care?, and you’ll get that impression straight away. The lyrics of closer ‘Cold Feet’ accost their (male) target — “What are you crying about?”, Fleur asks two seconds in. “I just wanted you for the count / You don’t need to ask the amount / You were the fix that I needed for now,” she states cooly above a cutting electronic instrumental, full of tunneling synths and razor-sharp drums.

“I worked on that EP with my ex-boyfriend,” she tells me. “We spent a long time thinking about the direction we were going to take it in. We decided on a much harder sonic space than my first few singles. It's got a similar vibe to GIRLI, or July Jones.”

Songs like ‘Vices’ also hint at her French heritage, with bilingual lines like “J’ai toujours envie pour the late nights, the white lines … Je suis comme ça, tu ne me changeras pas.” [“I always want the late nights, the white lines … I’m like this, you won’t change me.”]

I ask her how she feels about using French in her music. “I've been wanting to put a lot more French in the music, but I’ve shied away from it so far because I want to get my name a bit more established before I start doing that. I think unless you really implement it properly, it can feel a bit throwaway.

“The singer Lolo Zouaï, who is half French and lives in San Francisco, uses a lot of French in her songs. That bilingual influence even comes across in the production, and that’s the kind of thing I love and want to experiment more with.”

While Fleur might be inspired by other powerful female artists, it’s clear she’s also carving out a distinct FLEUR-ROUGE-shaped space of her own. Nevertheless, this can sometimes make things difficult when it comes to performing in Manchester, where she currently lives: “Manchester is popping, but popping mostly for a certain genre: indie music. I haven't seen loads of artists doing my thing here, which has made it hard to sit comfortably on lineups sometimes.

“I feel like the scene for my sort of music is in London, which makes it better for networking for me. I enjoy being able to turn up to gigs and just chat to other artists.”

Luckily, that’s exactly the plan for the upcoming FEMMESTIVAL showcase, and we can’t wait. The show already promises unreleased music from the other two artists, and FLEUR ROUGE is no exception to this rule. “My new EP is currently in progress,” she relates. “There are going to be 6 tracks on it. Two of them are already out: these are ‘Trust Fund Baby’ and ‘God Complex’.

“The next song I’ll be dropping is called ‘Lost Cause’. I wrote it about being in a relationship with somebody who was also in the industry. It’s about the feeling of being with someone that you care about, but no matter how much you try, the relationship won’t work out. It’s almost a ballad, but not quite, since it’s got some strong drum sounds and it’s quite heavily produced. It is a sadder song in terms of the melody, but beautiful nonetheless.

“Then I’ve got another song coming out after that, called ‘Scumbag’, which I wrote about a friend who was cheated on by her boyfriend. It’s got a very Billie Eilish energy to it. I’m excited to share both of them.”

Fleur’s full EP is set to launch in late 2024, which is a date (well, season) we’ll be marking in the calendar. Her mention of pre-released single ‘God Complex’ reminds me of an Instagram reel she posted explaining the story behind the song: a three-hour date with a guy who wouldn’t stop talking about himself.

“‘God Complex’ is a way of poking fun at the men who love themselves too much, while also touching on the misogynistic aspect of it. I’ve definitely been on dates with men who have acted like they're God's gift to everyone around them just because they're a guy.

“I just wanted a song where girls could poke fun at the situation without it being nasty, because that's not the vibe I wanted at all. We dropped the music video for the song a week ago and we used a green screen for some really funny moments. There’s a scene where I’m holding the guy in my hands and I'm shaking him like I'm King Kong!”

If that description doesn’t make you want to drop everything and watch the video immediately, we don’t know what will. The King-Kong-inspired music video storyline aside though, I want to know how the real experience ended. “The guy I was on the date with was just so irritating. He didn’t listen to a word I said. At the end of the date, he was like, ‘Do you wanna go somewhere else?’, to which I said I’d rather watch paint dry.”

I wonder if he’s heard the song, I tell her. She laughs. “I don't think we follow each other anymore, but it would be funny if he did. He'd probably skim over it, and think there was no way it could be about him!”

Although Fleur’s date made a terrible impression, Fleur herself is all about making an impression when she performs her songs live. “I'm always moving around — my performances are very dynamic, and I love crowd interaction. I try to make them as exciting as possible for the audience — I want to give them the full experience!

My drummer also has an interesting setup which is split between a live drum kit and an SPD drum pad. I think our set at the FEMMESTIVAL showcase will give the audience some nice surprises.”

And how is she feeling about headlining the whole night, I have to ask? “I think it's really cool to be part of an initiative representing female artists. The music industry can often be a very sexist and frustrating one to work in, and it feels like it often pits women against each other. So, when we have the opportunity to get together as women in an empowering space, I'm all for it! I can’t wait.”