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Madeline Leman and The Desert Swells

When did Madeline Leman and The Desert Swells first start making music? We started playing together about three years ago. I’d been performing solo for a while and then these incredible Kiwi musicians fell into my lap. Fabian Hunter brought surf guitar to the table and The Swells were born. I’m in love with the energy of the band sound, I can’t go back.

What are your earliest musical memories? I grew up around music. I remember at seven making my mum learn all the songs from Les Misérables on piano so I could sing along. I also remember writing my first song at 16, feeling very proud and then realising I’d just ripped off Missy Higgins.

How would you describe your sound? We started out pretty country but then I realised that I don’t really identify with the masculinity of the country scene. So, I’ve started labelling our sound as ‘Femmericana’. We draw on the women of the ‘70s; Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, Carole King, etc. with hints of ‘60s surf, pop, folk, doo-wop and soul.

Tell us about Diva With The Fever Of Change. Diva With The Fever is about women in music being overlooked and yet overly looked at. I wrote it when I was feeling particularly fed up with not being taken seriously as a musician because of my gender. The message is ultimately empowering, I want women to feel strong when they listen to it.

What sparked the idea for Femmo Fest? Our upcoming LP Nobody’s Fool is a feminist concept album, so I wanted to practice what I preach. There’s such a gender imbalance in the music industry, so I decided to put on an all female and non-binary fronted festival to launch our seven-inch record and raise money for Girls Rock! Melbourne.

Madeline Leman and The Desert Swells will be part of Femmo Fest 2018, going down in The Tote Bandroom on Sunday September 16, with Ella Hooper, Leah Senior, Baby Blue, Zoë Fox, and more. You can grab the Diva With The Fever of Change 7-inch on the day, or stream it on Spotify and Bandcamp.