“We called ourselves Team Perfect after we bonded over our love of ‘Nimrod’ when we first met and we recorded that in his kitchen after we’d decided it was the best album ever recorded.”
Florence Welch is talking about the Green Day cover EP she recorded with Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion) last year. It kind of puts in context how far she has come in such a short space of time. Back then there were no broadsheet, double page exclusives or countless magazine’s declaring the red-haired singer ‘The Greatest Thing to Soundtrack 2009’. It was just her and a friend (the original Machine) in a room making music, does that feel like another lifetime? Have things changed? “It didn’t change anything but it became annoying, definitely. I found it unnerving because I never wanted to be famous, I just wanted to sing and the thing that was so stressful about January was that I had nothing to show people what I could do besides a couple of singles. So it was great to be able to go on tour (Florence took the legendary opening slot on this year's NME Awards tour) and play to people, try and show them what all the fuss was about. So now I’ve played so many shows and the live show has developed into something great and I’ve done the album too I feel better about having won a BRIT award and all the other crazy stuff.”
That album ‘Lungs’ is out now, but how does a BRIT award, a thousand column inches and a barbed pit of possible backlash affect an artists debut album? “Well I was lucky in that when we went into the studio I already had ‘Between Two Lungs’ and I already had things like ‘Dog Days’ and ‘Girl With One Eye’. So I knew what I wanted from the album and it didn’t get distorted and become what I thought people would want or what would meet expectations.”
And what if the initial reaction is a negative one? That must play on a musicians mind. “I think you’ve just got to let it go and try to forget about it. I’ve made a record and a body of work that I’m proud of and that’s all I can do.” How about the flip side then. ‘Lungs’ is fantastically successful and popular, the name Florence is on everybody’s lips and everywhere you go dirty little men follow you, snapping pictures for tabloid newspapers. How would you cope with that? “I think it would send me a bit mad if it did. Honestly though, it’s not something I have given any thought at all. There’s no way of predicting what’s going to happen. It’s such a cutthroat world that one and I don’t think I’d fit in at all, I just hope the album does well and then I can hide behind the music.” Anyone who has heard ‘Lungs’ will know that there are huge walls of music for Florence to hide behind.
When you first hear ‘Lungs’ it’s noticeable how big and dramatic the whole thing sounds, “Yeah there’s a lot of layering involved and a lot of the lyrics start out from nothing. I’ll sit at a piano and start playing then hum a tune along, no words just a melody but then I ‘m always reading books and picking up phrases that I put into the songs until eventually you have a full song. I have scrap books and note books just full of craziness and I have to try piece them all together. When I have a basic idea for a song we take it to the rest of the band (The Machine) and that’s where the layering comes in. It can be hard explaining what I’ve done to the band so we end up trying to make a guitar sound like a cello or a string section.”
There’s a real sense of emotion in the songs isn’t there? “Yeah, I wanted to create an album full of soul. Something that can bring you all the way up and then bring you crashing back down again. It’s like the cover of ‘You Got The Love’ that we do. That came about when we were playing Bestival last year and were the last band on of the whole weekend in the dance tent. We wanted a great song to end the festival with and we cam across that almost as a fluke. As soon as we did it in rehearsal though it was the most amazing feeling and playing at Bestival was a real moment. I want to make music that is euphoric and uplifting but also sad. I’m always striving for that moment and I hope the music I make gives you that moment, at the edge just before you drop. I get a real rush when I’m singing and I wanted to try express that feeling of singing in the music."
How important is The Machine? It seems like a mercenary project. “It’s weird because it can shrink to like one, just me and a drum or it can go to like it is now where we have seven people. I don’t know how much bigger it can get. Maybe it’ll get like The Polyphonic Spree or Slipknot!”
Somewhat surprisingly Florence and Blur bassist Alex James are good friends: “Yeah about eighteen months ago I went to his farm to try some writing but nothing really came from it. He’s a really nice guy though. I can’t wait to go play with them. To go from being some girl he didn’t know turning up at his house to opening their reunion tour in two years is so amazing.” The important question is though, what is Alex James’ cheese like? “Really nice!”
You get the feeling that in a years time opening for Blur will be the feat considered small-fry for Florence, this really is a machine you can’t get in the way of.