I can’t remember the last time I tuned into new music that I’ve been really excited about. Ages ago, in another life when I had more time on my hands, I used to schedule a weekly ritual of compiling a playlist of new-to-me music, and I’d post it up over on 8tracks. I remember asking myself on more than one occasion, “hey, so, if you’re constantly roaming for new music…when are you going to settle down and listen to the stuff you know you already like?” Well, that happened in early 2018 or so, and ever since then, I’ve been in a bit of a rut, listening to the same two Lana del Rey albums over and over again. Maybe it was a cry for help. (I still love you, Lana!)
On the day of this year’s midsummer solstice, however, Sam shared a link with me to La Femme Pendu’s debut album, All Of Them Witches, and just like that, I was obsessed all over again with music and how a marvelous song can thrill my very soul. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like La Femme Pendu’s sound. Described as “French lounge horror ballads” and the “demonic feminine in heavy reverb”, it evoked the feeling of sitting alone in an infernal coffee shop, drinking the most bitter espresso, and being the sole audience for a mysterious entity and her unholy instrument. Her eyes are piercing me until there’s nothing left but fragments of shadow and the phantom of her song.
I knew I had to find out more. For you! I did it all for you! My fellow lovers of music, and song, and dark-hearted devilkin! Also, okay, I did it for me because as you well know, I am nosy as hell. See our interview below, with the mysterious La Femme Pendu, whom you may know from other media and artistic roles…but I am not going to give too much about that away! Sometimes mysteries are nice, don’t you think? And it’s a lovely adventure to poke around and do a little digging and find things out for yourself. Hopefully below we reveal just enough to leave you wanting much more…
Haute Macabre: La Femme Pendu, or the hanged woman, is the twelfth card in the Major Arcana of the tarot. What is it about the essence of this card that speaks to you? How do these themes inform or influence your music and songwriting?
La Femme Pendu: Most interpretations of The Hanged One depict a sort of self-imposed purgatory, a discomfort we can’t help but learn from. It’s these periods that I’ve grown from the most; if I feel I’m twisting in the wind it’s usually time to look around. There is so much to be mined from our discomfort, and it’s usually from the heart of conflict that my songs like to emerge.
Speaking from personal experience, I’m still a baby when it comes to the divinatory power of tarot, and if I am being completely honest, I may be collecting them because I love the idea of portable prognostication + art more than I do actually learning to do anything with it. I am curious as to where you might be along your own journey?
If I could represent my relationship to the tarot with one of the cards, I’d say I’m somewhere around The Hermit. My practice is solitary as I develop a stronger literacy and relationship with my decks. All tarot is an invitation to reexamine the paradigm, a prompt to gain a new perspective. To me, a daily pull pairs well with my morning coffee.
An album of four songs–French lounge horror ballads–La Femme Pendu is inspired by women in horror cinema and created for “feminists, film freaks, and creatures of the night.” This is a powerfully bewitching pitch that speaks to my very soul! What can you share about your own, personal film freakiness and love of horror cinema?
For years I eschewed horror cinema because of my frustration with its prominent male gaze. This was when I conflated slasher with horror, and before I discovered prestige and folk horror and cultivated my preferences toward supernatural mythology. What I crave is a new genre of horror film that presents paganism and witchcraft with reverence instead of that same tired Christocentric villainy. Until that arrives, I’ll have The Witch on infinite replay.
My French is a little sketchy, and so I have my guesses, but can you fill us in on the women who appear in the songs of your album, and what it is about their roles or characters or experiences that fascinates you?
The characters referenced in each song are in some way repressed or restricted by the patriarchy. Rosemary by her deceptive marriage, Madame Blaylock from The Omen by her blind commitment to her young male charge, Tomasin by her struggle with puberty in a male dominated house, etc. Constriction by outside forces is the common thread among these characters; woman is free but everywhere she is in chains (until she chooses to go into the woods and levitate).
I adore the melancholic, moody 1960’s French feel of the album and how you’ve paired this style of music with these nightmarish concepts. It’s wildly unexpected; it’s a gorgeous sound and so much fun. How did the whole idea come about for you?
The lyrics were written by a Ouija board and the orchestration came to me through clairaudience. I wrote one at an airport and another in a post-surgical haze. The more I listened, the more the spirits spoke.
A little further exploration for fellow creatures of the night– if someone enjoyed any of the above-mentioned films or themes, what else might you recommend to them?
The music of Chelsea Wolfe and Kate Bush. The folk horror films of Jennifer Kent and Robert Eggers. Gothic fiction by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca du Maurier. The scent of tobacco. The taste of a sazerac. October mornings in New Orleans.
Ok, speaking of music and such….you may not realize, but I am a total Instagram stalker, and I see my longtime secret husband, Glenn Danzig showing in your feed quite often. What gives, lady? Just kidding! Sort of! But I feel we might be similarly obsessed and I’d love to hear more.
Danzig is the spiritual father of La Femme Pendu. Vampira may be her mother. Beneath the surface of the distorted guitars and shotgun percussion, Misfits and Danzig songs are perfectly constructed little romantic jingles that present a world of science fiction and horror. There’s something innocent and comforting about Glenn’s unerring commitment to his brand. Case in point: the decrepit Los Feliz house with stale Count Chocula in the kitchen cabinet.
Another confession: I heard your music before I realized I was familiar with your acting work, in series such as The Vampire Diaries and Warehouse 13, to name a few. (And now I’m a little bit starstruck, not gonna lie!) Did your music evolve from your time in the dramatic arts? Or was that a talent and an interest that you’ve nurtured from the very beginning?
I saw Phantom of the Opera on tour in New Orleans when I was a child and all my interests crystalized. Gowns, ghosts, gothic decadence, and the music of the night. I was a piano player and aspiring ballerina before television looked in my direction. A guitar was more portable than a piano, so that’s what came with me on the road to Los Angeles.
I have such stereotypical ideas about Hollywood and actresses. I’m kind of a hick, a real country mouse if I am being honest. And so when I peek at your social media and see things like references to cryptozoology, and photos with your Fluevogs, or posing with your goth ice cream cone, I guess I am just kind of blown away and surprised that movie stars can have the same interests that we do. (Please don’t laugh at me! Or you can, it’s ok.) I’d love to hear about some of your other interests and obsessions in this vein.
For as long as I can remember, my preferences have always leaned a little left of center. Trends are temporary, but intuition is enduring. Wear black, drink horchata, watch the moon, fold sheet music into paper airplanes and send them sailing into your neighbor’s window. People contain multitudes, and the more I lurk around the fringes of counter-culture, the more I find like-minded creeps who are kinder than you’d expect. They’re who La Femme Pendu writes her hymns for.
Images: Top photo–La Femme Pendu featuring the Deviant Moon Triomphes de la Lune deck; all other photos– Jackson Davis Photography