Femmepop is a solo project from New Wave musician Margaret O'Sullivan based in the United Kingdom. Though this project may be a new name to you, she has been building herself up slowly and steadily throughout the years, receiving praise from critics that had them raving. With the release of her most recent EP Underground, I had a chat with O'Sullivan regarding her history and the new EP.

Okay, let's get started. Introductions are always nice, so give us a little bit about yourself and Femmepop for starters. 

O'Sullivan: Well, my real name is surprisingly not Femmepop! It's Margaret O'Sullivan. I was born in Cork in Ireland but I have been living in various parts of the UK for almost fifteen years. Femmepop is about ninety percent of my life and music is all I think about twenty-four-seven!

You seem very varied in the instruments you play even though you are considered an electronic performer. What was the first instrument you ever played? And what made you want to continue playing music?

O'Sullivan: My voice was the first instrument I discovered! I was about fourteen when I used to sing with my brother and his friend for fun, I was always told I had a lovely voice so I felt it was something I could do well. I used to always hear my brother in his bedroom next to mine strumming his guitar to Bob Dylan and Neil Young so I decided that learning to play the guitar would make me independent on relying on others to write songs. So I messed about on the guitar and then I incorporated it into my Femmepop Live set where I played electric guitar. It just came naturally to me to continue in music. It's like breathing to me; it's who I am. If I didn't continue in music I wouldn't be able to live. It's a calling, whether it is good for my health and my financial situations is another story! But it's who I am.

If you could name five musicians that has influenced your own music, who would they be and why?

O'Sullivan: I have loved Madonna since I was five, her ambition, attitude and talent has always driven me. In my teenage years the band Suede completely changed my outlook on life when I was fifteen. I found them to be champions of the wandering generation and about diversity in attitudes, in ways of life, in sexuality and they made ordinary things become beautiful. Brett sang about such ordinary situations in urban spaces but Brett would write and sing about poignant moments within these situations, thus turning a normal everyday life event into poetry. And I have always loved Suede for these reasons and more. Another band I loved at those critical teenage years was The Sundays, people used to compare my voice to Harriet Wheeler's. The Sex Pistols and punk also had a major effect on me. But I am inspired by so many artists. So it is hard to pin point a particular set of five.

As far as I know, Femmepop is just yourself. However, do you ever have help in the studio, or has there ever been anyone other than yourself in Femmepop?

O'Sullivan: Femmepop has always just been me, but when I play live I had a bass player, drummer and guitarist. During the mini tour of the UK I did to promote my first EP Kick I had a continuous stream of musicians being hired and fired! I have so many different line ups it's been quite fun. I haven't actually worked in a studio for any of my releases. I record my music in the place I am at the time. I don't really have a specific city or house I have lived in for longer than a year either, so all my gear is all over the place or in storage, which can be quite annoying and complicated! So generally I record the keyboards, the vocals and the guitars, the music on my gear. Then I send the demos to Gavin Monaghan who masters them. That is how I am currently working but with my next album or EP I would like to do something different. 

And, when did Femmepop officially start up? And where did the name Femmepop come from?

O'Sullivan: It officially started in 2008 with the first commercial Femmepop release the Kick EP. I thought of the name in 2004 in the back of a bus with my ex boyfriend after listening to a Le Tigre album. I wanted something feminist and punchy!

The first EP that pops up on your Bandcamp is “Femmepop (EP1)”. Is this the first ever recorded EP you put out, or were there other demo tracks out there somewhere lost in space?

O'Sullivan: Yes, it is. These are the first ever songs I wrote under the guise of Femmepop! I mean there are some very rare Femmepop songs on old cassette tapes, demos and things that I never put out, maybe one day as a rare Femmepop  album or something!!!

And how did the beginnning phase of Femmepop flow? Was it tough finding the right direction for yourself? Or did you kind of already know where you wanted to go with Femmepop?

O'Sullivan: I didn't set out to be any one particular direction. I just wanted to concentrate on using my guitar and voice together. And whatever I wrote that I was happy with I put out. But I didn't try to sound like anyone or be like anything, I just put out what came out of me. There was always a very political feminist agenda in my mind though, as I have felt sexism a lot and it makes me angry so I wanted to use that energy in my work. Sometimes I think being political is a turn off for most people but I don't understand that. Surely people want to hear something real? Maybe not.


Now that all that is out of the way, let's get onto the bigger news at hand. Your latest EP Underground has just released at the end of January. What was the EP about? Does it tell a story, do each of the songs represent different emotions, did it help you through a tough period in your life, etc.?

O'Sullivan: My life has never been a privileged one, so yes, music is always a form of release for me. Be it about a shit situation in my life or about sexism Femmepop helps me cope with these things. I was listening to Gary Numan's 'Are Friends Electric' and Suede's 'Stay Together' and 'The Drowners' when I wrote the title track 'Underground'. I was inspired by London and urbanity and how music has to power to just completely take me over. I wanted it to be dark and moody and teasing, so I hope it comes across that way. It's like my anthem about the diversity of London. How insanely exciting and dangerous it can be. There is excitement in that danger. I remember going on the boat over to London as a teenager and going to loads of gigs and meeting loads of crazy teenagers and all of us being united by music. United by songs about London and all its wonders. I went to so many after parties and met such interesting kids, I guess the song is about all these diverse  emotions and experiences I had within that amazing city. 'There Is a Place' is about having a bad day and feeling that yes, I am here for a reason. I have given up a lot for my music, its takes all my time and most of my energies and as a job there is no stability, so you give up holidays and living a 'normal' life. You become a rolling stone following this calling and this song is about that. I wanted to keep the EP all electronic based, I didn't want to include any guitars. I included two singles I also previously released on it as I wanted them to be part of a body of work rather than just singles. 'Games & Toys' is probably my favourite song as it's my first instrumental. I was inspired by Disasterpiece and Boards of Canada, I was listening to a lot of them as I wrote it. I wanted it to be poignant and moving. It is about coming of age as a teenage girl and noticing boys and the poignancy in this. It's about crushes and obsessions from the girl's perspective. So it is a very special piece for me! I want to do more instrumentals and maybe write a concept album on the place I grew up. 

You have quite a selection of releases on your Bandcamp. Tell me, after writing and recording so much music, how do you find out ways to record new material? Specifically, how do you think Underground stands out musically from your other releases?

O'Sullivan: Underground is purely electronic and it is the release I am most satisfied with. The EP has a specific theme and story too. I think it flows well and it needs to be heard by everyone! 

I'd like to ask the same about your lyrics. Again, you've released a lot of songs, so how do you get your mind to writing new songs and the like?

O'Sullivan: Lyrics just come with each new song, I don't plan to write about anything I just decide when I have the melody put down and if I am thinking of some topic or subject at the time I will write about it. I have a lot of old poetry too which I used at the beginning of 'Games & Toys'. As it was a poem about a punk boy I was obsessed with. So as a teenager I wrote this poem on my bedroom door in black marker, And I have always remembered it, so I used the first two lines in G&T.

So, after hearing Underground mastered and recorded and pretty much all glued together in its final form, how do you feel about it? Personally, where would you rank it with your other albums and Eps?

O'Sullivan: Underground is the release I am happiest with so far.

So far, how has the reception been for Underground? Have you heard anything, good or bad, that has really stuck in your head?

O'Sullivan: It's been out two weeks now and I have had some amazing feedback. BBC Northern Ireland made 'There is a Place' their 'Track of the day' on the amazing 'Across the Line' show. Ireland's main radio station RTE have also supported it. I think it's very difficult reaching the people you need to reach sometimes as there is just so much music out there. I am a small fish in a huge pond! And I do all my promotion and publicity entirely alone so without the help of any record company or promotional company. 

Do you have any plans to play live or tour for the new album, and if so, where can we find the dates of your live shows?

O'Sullivan: My aim this year is play gigs!I am literally aching to play live, especially across Europe too, London, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm etc I would love to play these cities. So I am going to sort this out ASAP. It is my next mission! My live set has completely changed too, and I want to throw myself into it ASAP. Yeah, so bookings are as of now being taken!

Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time and I welcome you to say anything you with in the space below. Cheers!

O'Sullivan: Thank you! I would like everyone to check out my new EP and also check out my 'Underground' Video on youtube! And watch this space!
Femmepop interview
February 17, 2016
Brutal Resonance

Femmepop

Feb 2016
Femmepop is a solo project from New Wave musician Margaret O'Sullivan based in the United Kingdom. Though this project may be a new name to you, she has been building herself up slowly and steadily throughout the years, receiving praise from critics that had them raving. With the release of her most recent EP Underground, I had a chat with O'Sullivan regarding her history and the new EP.

Okay, let's get started. Introductions are always nice, so give us a little bit about yourself and Femmepop for starters. 

O'Sullivan: Well, my real name is surprisingly not Femmepop! It's Margaret O'Sullivan. I was born in Cork in Ireland but I have been living in various parts of the UK for almost fifteen years. Femmepop is about ninety percent of my life and music is all I think about twenty-four-seven!

You seem very varied in the instruments you play even though you are considered an electronic performer. What was the first instrument you ever played? And what made you want to continue playing music?

O'Sullivan: My voice was the first instrument I discovered! I was about fourteen when I used to sing with my brother and his friend for fun, I was always told I had a lovely voice so I felt it was something I could do well. I used to always hear my brother in his bedroom next to mine strumming his guitar to Bob Dylan and Neil Young so I decided that learning to play the guitar would make me independent on relying on others to write songs. So I messed about on the guitar and then I incorporated it into my Femmepop Live set where I played electric guitar. It just came naturally to me to continue in music. It's like breathing to me; it's who I am. If I didn't continue in music I wouldn't be able to live. It's a calling, whether it is good for my health and my financial situations is another story! But it's who I am.

If you could name five musicians that has influenced your own music, who would they be and why?

O'Sullivan: I have loved Madonna since I was five, her ambition, attitude and talent has always driven me. In my teenage years the band Suede completely changed my outlook on life when I was fifteen. I found them to be champions of the wandering generation and about diversity in attitudes, in ways of life, in sexuality and they made ordinary things become beautiful. Brett sang about such ordinary situations in urban spaces but Brett would write and sing about poignant moments within these situations, thus turning a normal everyday life event into poetry. And I have always loved Suede for these reasons and more. Another band I loved at those critical teenage years was The Sundays, people used to compare my voice to Harriet Wheeler's. The Sex Pistols and punk also had a major effect on me. But I am inspired by so many artists. So it is hard to pin point a particular set of five.

As far as I know, Femmepop is just yourself. However, do you ever have help in the studio, or has there ever been anyone other than yourself in Femmepop?

O'Sullivan: Femmepop has always just been me, but when I play live I had a bass player, drummer and guitarist. During the mini tour of the UK I did to promote my first EP Kick I had a continuous stream of musicians being hired and fired! I have so many different line ups it's been quite fun. I haven't actually worked in a studio for any of my releases. I record my music in the place I am at the time. I don't really have a specific city or house I have lived in for longer than a year either, so all my gear is all over the place or in storage, which can be quite annoying and complicated! So generally I record the keyboards, the vocals and the guitars, the music on my gear. Then I send the demos to Gavin Monaghan who masters them. That is how I am currently working but with my next album or EP I would like to do something different. 

And, when did Femmepop officially start up? And where did the name Femmepop come from?

O'Sullivan: It officially started in 2008 with the first commercial Femmepop release the Kick EP. I thought of the name in 2004 in the back of a bus with my ex boyfriend after listening to a Le Tigre album. I wanted something feminist and punchy!

The first EP that pops up on your Bandcamp is “Femmepop (EP1)”. Is this the first ever recorded EP you put out, or were there other demo tracks out there somewhere lost in space?

O'Sullivan: Yes, it is. These are the first ever songs I wrote under the guise of Femmepop! I mean there are some very rare Femmepop songs on old cassette tapes, demos and things that I never put out, maybe one day as a rare Femmepop  album or something!!!

And how did the beginnning phase of Femmepop flow? Was it tough finding the right direction for yourself? Or did you kind of already know where you wanted to go with Femmepop?

O'Sullivan: I didn't set out to be any one particular direction. I just wanted to concentrate on using my guitar and voice together. And whatever I wrote that I was happy with I put out. But I didn't try to sound like anyone or be like anything, I just put out what came out of me. There was always a very political feminist agenda in my mind though, as I have felt sexism a lot and it makes me angry so I wanted to use that energy in my work. Sometimes I think being political is a turn off for most people but I don't understand that. Surely people want to hear something real? Maybe not.


Now that all that is out of the way, let's get onto the bigger news at hand. Your latest EP Underground has just released at the end of January. What was the EP about? Does it tell a story, do each of the songs represent different emotions, did it help you through a tough period in your life, etc.?

O'Sullivan: My life has never been a privileged one, so yes, music is always a form of release for me. Be it about a shit situation in my life or about sexism Femmepop helps me cope with these things. I was listening to Gary Numan's 'Are Friends Electric' and Suede's 'Stay Together' and 'The Drowners' when I wrote the title track 'Underground'. I was inspired by London and urbanity and how music has to power to just completely take me over. I wanted it to be dark and moody and teasing, so I hope it comes across that way. It's like my anthem about the diversity of London. How insanely exciting and dangerous it can be. There is excitement in that danger. I remember going on the boat over to London as a teenager and going to loads of gigs and meeting loads of crazy teenagers and all of us being united by music. United by songs about London and all its wonders. I went to so many after parties and met such interesting kids, I guess the song is about all these diverse  emotions and experiences I had within that amazing city. 'There Is a Place' is about having a bad day and feeling that yes, I am here for a reason. I have given up a lot for my music, its takes all my time and most of my energies and as a job there is no stability, so you give up holidays and living a 'normal' life. You become a rolling stone following this calling and this song is about that. I wanted to keep the EP all electronic based, I didn't want to include any guitars. I included two singles I also previously released on it as I wanted them to be part of a body of work rather than just singles. 'Games & Toys' is probably my favourite song as it's my first instrumental. I was inspired by Disasterpiece and Boards of Canada, I was listening to a lot of them as I wrote it. I wanted it to be poignant and moving. It is about coming of age as a teenage girl and noticing boys and the poignancy in this. It's about crushes and obsessions from the girl's perspective. So it is a very special piece for me! I want to do more instrumentals and maybe write a concept album on the place I grew up. 

You have quite a selection of releases on your Bandcamp. Tell me, after writing and recording so much music, how do you find out ways to record new material? Specifically, how do you think Underground stands out musically from your other releases?

O'Sullivan: Underground is purely electronic and it is the release I am most satisfied with. The EP has a specific theme and story too. I think it flows well and it needs to be heard by everyone! 

I'd like to ask the same about your lyrics. Again, you've released a lot of songs, so how do you get your mind to writing new songs and the like?

O'Sullivan: Lyrics just come with each new song, I don't plan to write about anything I just decide when I have the melody put down and if I am thinking of some topic or subject at the time I will write about it. I have a lot of old poetry too which I used at the beginning of 'Games & Toys'. As it was a poem about a punk boy I was obsessed with. So as a teenager I wrote this poem on my bedroom door in black marker, And I have always remembered it, so I used the first two lines in G&T.

So, after hearing Underground mastered and recorded and pretty much all glued together in its final form, how do you feel about it? Personally, where would you rank it with your other albums and Eps?

O'Sullivan: Underground is the release I am happiest with so far.

So far, how has the reception been for Underground? Have you heard anything, good or bad, that has really stuck in your head?

O'Sullivan: It's been out two weeks now and I have had some amazing feedback. BBC Northern Ireland made 'There is a Place' their 'Track of the day' on the amazing 'Across the Line' show. Ireland's main radio station RTE have also supported it. I think it's very difficult reaching the people you need to reach sometimes as there is just so much music out there. I am a small fish in a huge pond! And I do all my promotion and publicity entirely alone so without the help of any record company or promotional company. 

Do you have any plans to play live or tour for the new album, and if so, where can we find the dates of your live shows?

O'Sullivan: My aim this year is play gigs!I am literally aching to play live, especially across Europe too, London, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm etc I would love to play these cities. So I am going to sort this out ASAP. It is my next mission! My live set has completely changed too, and I want to throw myself into it ASAP. Yeah, so bookings are as of now being taken!

Lastly, I would like to thank you for your time and I welcome you to say anything you with in the space below. Cheers!

O'Sullivan: Thank you! I would like everyone to check out my new EP and also check out my 'Underground' Video on youtube! And watch this space!
Feb 17 2016

Steven Gullotta

info@brutalresonance.com
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.

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