I WAS ALWAYS that GIRL GROWING UP who YOU could FIND DANCING DOWN SUPERMARKET AISLES.Florence Welch
If there were ever any doubts about Florence Welch’s self-possession as a performer, they were quickly dispelled during her set at the Met’s Costume Institute Gala last May honoring the late Alexander McQueen. Backed by her band, The Machine, her improbably red red hair loose to the shoulders, and her impossibly long, lean, five-foot-eight-inch frame draped in an orange-gold McQueen gown, Welch offered up powerful renditions of a handful of songs off her critically lauded 2009 debut album, Lungs, before closing out her set with a blistering cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” which she dedicated to McQueen. Welch then punctuated the tribute by running out into the crowd of assembled heavies, which included Karl Lagerfeld, Jay-Z, and Madonna, and sidling up to Paul McCartney, with whom she purposefully locked eyes as she sang, “Rebel rebel, how could they know? / Hot tramp, I love you so . . . ” Welch had never before met McCartney. But he, like most everyone else in attendance, was up and dancing—a testament to Welch’s ability to win fans in even the toughest of rooms.
It was the kind of moment—and the kind of instinct—that makes it easy to understand how so many people have so quickly become so enamored with Welch and her brand of dramatic, monumental pop. The Met gig marked a culmination of a season of high-profile command performances for Welch—she’d also been summoned earlier this year to sing at both the Grammys and the Oscars. Just five years ago, though, she was still an art-school dropout from Camberwell, in southeast London, who was discovered by her manager, Mairead Nash, while belting out an Etta James song in a bathroom at a club. At the time, Welch was working with a rotating cast of musicians as she developed a raw, nascent version of the widescreen art-pop sound that would later emerge on Lungs.
In reading descriptions of Welch, two terms appear over and over: pre-Raphaelite, which is usually used to describe the left-of-center effect of the way her shock of fiery hair frames her prominent features and cream-colored skin; and whirling dervish, which often refers to the bouncing, swaying hippie rain-dance she likes to do when she sings. But neither gets at the eclectic set of ideas and influences that seem to converge in Welch’s work: Lungs is a nuanced but unabashedly outsized record that draws on aspects of classic soul, confessional singer-songwriter music, and British art-pop and post-punk—Aretha Franklin funneled through Carly Simon and dressed up like Kate Bush; her lyrics read like extended journal entries; live, she seems like she’s leading a rapturous spiritual gathering that’s also a clubby performance-art piece; and her predilection for billowy boho tops, sparkly short shorts, and sky-high heels projects both an easy earthiness and a high glamour. Welch’s endearing eccentricity has also captured the attention—and affection—of the fashion world. Gucci designer Frida Giannini has said that Welch served as an inspiration for the house’s Fall 2011 collection; Giannini also created the costumes for Florence + The Machine’s most recent US tour.
Next month, Welch will unveil her as-yet-untitled (at press time) follow-up to Lungs, the first single from which, “What the Water Gave Me,” is a swirling, mounting, moody ballad in the mode of more elegiac tracks from her first album such as “Dog Days Are Over,” “Kiss With a Fist,” and “Cosmic Love.”
On a warm evening in June, director Baz Luhrmann, who helped stage Welch’s performance at the Costume Institute Gala, met the 25-year-old singer and her younger sister, Grace, at the Standard Grill in New York City’s Meatpacking District, where they were decompressing after having miraculously recovered Florence’s cell phone from the taxi in which she’d inadvertently left it behind.
BAZ LUHRMANN: Hi, Flo. How are you? Baz Luhrmann, intense interviewer, reporting for duty. [laughs] I’m holding a Gucci handbag, which I found in a taxi, and I was one of the crowd standing outside of the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District in New York City, where I saw this striking-looking woman with red hair shaking and trembling . . .
FLORENCE WELCH: In the gutter!
LUHRMANN: Yes, and wearing this fantastic gypsy velvet frock, and there was a lovely person with blonde hair sitting next to her going “Snap out of it! You can survive this! Pull yourself together!”
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I try to write lyrics so that they won’t age, which sort of leaves you with the big subjects—like death and love and sex and violence.Florence Welch
FLORENCE: Fortunately, I got my phone back—Grace called the cab company. But before we managed to track it down, there were all of these people standing around and buying ice cream and looking at me crawling around on the ground.
LUHRMANN: Now we’ve managed to get ourselves away from all that and quietly settled into a booth by the bar. Grace, I’m extremely impressed with the fact that you managed to recover the phone because when I was saying, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right,” I thought it absolutely would not be.
GRACE WELCH: You live and you learn.
LUHRMANN: You’ve got a brother, too, right?
FLORENCE: Yes. We’ve got four stepsiblings as well. We’ve got Maddie, who’s 20. Sam is the oldest stepbrother. He’s 27 and married now. John’s here, living it up. He’s 26. And J.J. is my little brother. He’s 17.
LUHRMANN: So how does that pan out?
FLORENCE: They’re my mum’s husband’s kids. [The Welches also have a stepbrother, Nick, 26, on their father’s side.] Then me and J.J. and GRACE are siblings.
LUHRMANN: That’s a big extended family.
LUHRMANN: You and Grace seem very close. I mean, there she is when crisis hits, with crowds surrounding you, and there’s this mop of red hair . . . I mean, there were tears!
FLORENCE: I was going, “Fuck! Oh, god. Everybody’s going to be looking at me. The New York Post . . . Ugh . . .”
GRACE: I like that you went into the gutter, though. [Florence laughs] “All right, this will be my hiding place.” Smooth.
LUHRMANN: And by the way, I made a gag earlier about “Grace under fire,” but Grace is totally chill and together, whereas with you . . . Well, I’ll just say that with you, the drama is not just on stage . . .
FLORENCE: You know, people always ask, “What are you like offstage?” And I always say, “Well, I’m completely normal and mellow.” And then things like that happen and maybe I’m operating in a higher emotional state—and not like even in a helpful way. On stage, you can use your emotions. It’s the place where you can channel them. They have a purpose. But then offstage they just hit you . . . All that power that you can use on stage disappears when you’ve lost your phone and you’re in the middle of the street in New York City.
LUHRMANN: That actually reminds me of something that came up the other day during a discussion about different kinds of performers. I was thinking about your performance at the Met ball in the spring. I think a lot of people can be great singers, but what I thought came through in your performance—and in your voice—was this ability to push yourself beyond the barrier of fear. It brings to mind an image . . . Hold on, let me check my reporter’s notebook.
FLORENCE: Your notebook is a cocktail menu.
[A waiter arrives as Luhrmann studies the cocktail menu.]
LUHRMANN: Oh, gee . . . [to waiter] Penny Drop—I’ll have one of those. Can I have an El Gringo as well?
FLORENCE: I’d quite like a Penny Drop, too.
LUHRMANN: We’re going to work our way through the cocktail list. But jokes aside, I was thinking of you performing at the Met ball, and I remember seeing Paul McCartney up and dancing with this look of joy on his face, and you pointed to him and said, “Hot tramp, I love you so.”
WAITER: [Waiter returns] Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got a Penny Drop and an El Gringo.
LUHRMANN: This is going to be very bad . . . When did this turn into a cocktail-tasting session?
GRACE: She hasn’t been drinking for weeks.
FLORENCE: No, I’m allowed. It’s my day off. I don’t have a show today.
I think i just have a problem generally in life, of wanting more of everything—more emotion, more drama, more glitz.Florence Welch
LUHRMANN: The thing that I thought was amazing, though, about that Met ball performance was that it was a situation that could have been very intimidating, but you made us all forget our fears for a few brief moments and feel free and exultant. Do you recall that moment?
FLORENCE: No, because I think I was so busy fighting through my own fear and conquering the absolute terror I was feeling. But you have to completely power through it. I do remember Paul McCartney being there and thinking to myself, Oh my god. This is actually happening . . . At the same time, I remember thinking, I have to get back to the stage somehow. I have to turn around . . . It was just one of those moments where I realized that my life had become a very strange place. When you’re dressed up as David Bowie, with your eyebrows completely bleached, and you’re doing this kind of strange dance with Paul McCartney while singing “Rebel Rebel” in the middle of the Met ball, and Madonna’s looking at you . . . I was just thinking, It’s become a bit weird.
LUHRMANN: It was just the most bonkers, crazy, freeing thing. It was like watching a 1920s performance artist saying, “I will do the gestalt of the moment. I must free myself!”
FLORENCE: Well, I think it’s that sense of wanting to make people let go, because I get that, when you’re listening to music, you might be tired, or if you go to a show, you might want to give yourself over to the music or to the performance. It’s almost as if you feel as if you’re being taken care of by something else . . . You can forget anything, and actually being a part of a crowd, of a group, can itself be freeing.
LUHRMANN: I was thinking the other day, How did I come to know Flo? For awhile there, before we really got to know each other, it was Flo here, Flo there. . .
FLORENCE: [The waiter returns.] Oh, wow!
LUHRMANN: [To waiter, looking at menu.] It says here “Russian Standard vodka.” Is that a good thing?
WAITER: It is.
LUHRMANN: It’s not soup, is it? It’s some sort of alcoholic concoction?
WAITER: Mm-hmm. It has Russian Standard vodka, our fresh ginger cordial that we make here ourselves, and fresh lime juice.
LUHRMANN: Oh. It sounds like it’s actually good for you.
WAITER: And the cheese you’re looking at is a taleggio, which is cave-aged, rind-washed cheese, and it’s got fruity, nutty notes, and the other one is a firm, cave-aged Italian goat cheese.
LUHRMANN: Wow, this is the most fun interview I’ve ever been party to. If more interviews were like this, I’d want to do more of them.
FLORENCE: If they just gave you cocktails at those interviews, it’d be a lot easier to just get everything out there . . .
LUHRMANN: Prepare yourself for drunken rambling . . . [laughs] But I think it was our mutual friend, Blake Lively, who said, “I’m going to see Florence + The Machine tonight. You should come.” And I couldn’t go in New York, so I went to see you in Los Angeles at the Wiltern, and Blake had set up for us to meet. I remember my crowd went and your mum and brother were there.
FLORENCE: Were they? No, it was Blake’s mum and Blake’s brother. Our mum wouldn’t come.
LUHRMANN: Wait, I am thinking to myself that you and Blake are so like twin sisters, but it was actually her mum and brother, wasn’t it? But I remember who came on stage, and there was this whirling drumbeat and this strange, whirling dervish choreography, and by the end of that night, all 2,000 people in the Wiltern were jumping up and down.
FLORENCE: What I really like seeing from the stage is people having their own moments, when people are doing some performance of their own. I like seeing people acting out the moves—like, if I’m singing “Cosmic Love,” I’ll sometimes see people in the crowd doing [mimes out with hands] “The stars! The moon!” I mean, I was always that girl growing up who you could find dancing down supermarket aisles. It’s that sense of not feeling inhibited. Dancing in supermarkets is my favorite thing.
LUHRMANN: Is that the title of your new album?
FLORENCE: Yes! [laughs] But it’s such a strange place because no one will look at you. Everything has such order and everyone is so focused on doing what they’re doing that no one ever pays attention to you spinning and dancing around supermarkets. It’s something you find in places like supermarkets and airports, where everything is really ordered. There’s something about those places that makes you feel really anonymous.
GRACE: One of my earliest memories is of being with Florence was in a Sainsbury’s in England. I remember her dragging me and running down the aisles. My dad had to go to the front and get them to page us. So they called out, “Would Grace and Florence Welch please come to the front of the store?” That’s one of my earliest memories of being really humiliated.
LUHRMANN: What you’re talking about, though, is something you see very often in children—that ability to get lost in things and in their own imaginations. How conscious for you is it now? How choreographed are your movements on stage? Do you have a basic plan and then it becomes organic? Some people stop discovering as many things organically because those kinds of things become a part of the culture of who they are and how people identify them. They have to start ordering it.
FLORENCE: I know what you mean. Those things become part of your schtick, so you have to include them more. But I feel like it’s almost as if you are just constantly refining the whole thing. If something feels good or fits, then it’s often just an instinctive thing, and after the show, you’ll go, “Wow, that was good.” And then from there it all just kind of evolves. I love performing outside because it’s as if the heavens are open and the elements become part of the stage show as well—you know, the wind and the rain and the thunder. It’s almost as if there’s a sense of invocation in performance. I was talking to my mum about it because she’s a lecturer and she came to the show last night . . .
LUHRMANN: You played Central Park.
FLORENCE: Yes, Central Park SummerStage. It was amazing. There were birds’ nests in the top of the stage! There was literally a nest above where my microphone stand was, and all of these birds were flying in and out of it and twittering.
LUHRMANN: How’d your mum take it?
FLORENCE: She’s only been to three of my shows.
LUHRMANN: Only three shows?
FLORENCE: Yeah, it frightens her.
LUHRMANN: She’s a big academic, isn’t she?
FLORENCE: Yes. She’s written a lot of books. She doesn’t listen to music, though.
LUHRMANN: At all?
FLORENCE: Not really, no. She listens to the music at the beginning of The Archers [a BBC radio soap], but that’s about it.
GRACE: I think it just makes her too nervous.
LUHRMANN: What about your dad?
FLORENCE: My dad? Big music fan. My dad thinks that he knows everything about music. He once did an impression of my songwriting skills, which was him stamping the ground, trying to stamp out a melody. [laughs] That was his, “Well, you have a nice tune, darling . . .” But I think my mum finds what I do very frightening. She gets really scared.
LUHRMANN: Scared for you?
FLORENCE: Scared for me . . . I think mostly she just worries. She’s like, [in American accent] “You’re my baby and you’re up there in front of all these people! I want to protect you!” Our mother is American.
LUHRMANN: I guessed, because your accent changed.
FLORENCE: The thing is, she actually talks with an English accent, but it’s funnier for me in my head to make her talk with a really hard American accent.
LUHRMANN: So you’re singing on your mum’s home turf because she’s from New York.
FLORENCE: Yes. But she gets really scared, and then afterwards, I was really exhausted, and she said, “Well, how do you feel?” It’s interesting, though, because she does lectures in these big crowds, and when I went to see her lecture, it was as if I was looking at a different person. All of those qualities that make her engaging anyway as a person in conversation were completely heightened. She did this talk on fashion in the Renaissance, and made a pair of Renaissance gloves—one pair—sound interesting for an hour and a half. It was incredible.
LUHRMANN: She should meet my wife.
FLORENCE: She did a whole book on fashion in the Renaissance. Shopping in the Renaissance, too. She’s a wonderful lecturer. But she asked me how I was feeling after performing, and I said, “It’s about 75 percent believing what you’re saying and 15 percent ‘What am I doing?’ ” Is that right? My math is so bad . . .
LUHRMANN: So what you’re saying is that it’s more you know what you’re doing and less “What the hell am I doing?”
FLORENCE: It’s more like 75 percent “I really believe in this” and 15 percent “My god. What am I doing?” My mum is a very smart lady, and she said that she thought that was about the right percentage because anymore self-belief than that, you’ll become overconfident, but you also don’t want to be doubting yourself all the time. [To waiter, who has returned] This is delicious, isn’t it?
WAITER: It’s very refreshing.
LUHRMANN: My Russian Standard is delicious.
GRACE: It might be delicious because you’re drinking a tin of vodka.
FLORENCE: I feel amazing right now. My whole liver is going, “Oh, I’ve missed you . . .” [to waiter] Another Standard, please.
LUHRMANN: So were you playing new music last night? Because I know you’ve got this new album.
FLORENCE: We played a new song called “What the Water Gave Me.” The title is about a Frida Kahlo painting—that one where her feet are in the bath and all of her nightmares and dreams are in the bath with her. It got me thinking about the water and the sea. When I was growing up, there were these news stories that kept popping up in my life about children who would get swept out to sea, and the parents would dive in after them. I’d seen these news stories crop up again and again, and it made me think of this idea of the sea being this entity that needs a sacrifice—like, if it’s going to take your children, then you have to give yourself. It got me thinking about the power of water, like in Virginia Woolf, and that sense of really being overwhelmed by something. I also remembered this idea, I think from a childhood story, about a river that has to have someone drowned in it before you can cross it—like, if you see a river running smoothly, it’s because someone has drowned in it, and if it’s raging, it means that it’s still got bloodlust . . . It’s all very morbid. My dad always gets asked at parties, “What did you do to her?”
LUHRMANN: Did you grow up around the elements?
FLORENCE: We grew up in Camberwell, in southeast London. As kids, though, we did spend a lot of time in the countryside.
GRACE: We spent a lot of time here in New York and on Long Island.
LUHRMANN: Where on Long Island? I’m working on a project right now that’s set on Long Island.
FLORENCE: I can’t remember. It was our grandmother’s house. I remember these amazing gray beaches with this spiky seaweed that hurt your feet and stretches of gray coast with this huge abandoned gray house in the distance. It was a massive mansion—you know, one of those big wooden ones. But it was a ghost house. We had a house on the beach miles down, but you could see it well—this big gray house with shutters. It was incredible. And that sensation of the pain from walking on that spiky seaweed . . .
LUHRMANN: How much did you go back and forth between England and the States?
GRACE: Quite a lot, but not as much as our dad would have liked. Our mother was from New York, but she found more of a home in England, being an academic.
FLORENCE: Our mother is a Europhile. Dad wanted to live in America, didn’t he?
LUHRMANN: Is your dad English?
FLORENCE: Yeah, he’s English.
GRACE: He wished he went to New York more. He was really excited when they got married, to be able to spend time there.
FLORENCE: Because he thought that he’d get to go live in New York. My grandfather and my uncle were in the sort of Studio 54, Andy Warhol crowd. I think my dad thought, “Okay, this is going to be fun.” But my mother was much more interested in the Renaissance than she was in Studio 54.
GRACE: She read the dictionary back to front. That’s how I explained my mother to people as a child.
FLORENCE: She’s so clever, it’s mental. I think she does slightly wish that I’d gone to university, though. I think “waste of your brain” is something that my mother would say to me occasionally—I think it’s usually when I’m telling her something like that I can remember every outfit I’ve ever worn.
LUHRMANN: Hey, Flo. This is a shocking, probing question: How old are you?
FLORENCE: I’m 25.
LUHRMANN: Oh, stop it. How old are you?
LUHRMANN: Because you’ve got this incredible Irish-Manhattan-Camberwell skin, and, of course, you look 25, but you do seem a more lived-in spirit.
FLORENCE: I think I’ve always looked older than I am. I hope that’s going to work in my favor when I get older.
GRACE: We both look older than we are. I’m 22, but people always think I’m, older.
LUHRMANN: I would have thought you were about 27, Flo—not by your linear age, but by the poetry and the maturity of your lyrics.
FLORENCE: You know, it’s funny that we’re talking about age because I try to write lyrics so that they won’t age, which sort of leaves you with the big subjects—like death and love and sex and violence.
LUHRMANN: Those things that transcend time and geography.
FLORENCE: Exactly. I mean, you can’t just say, “Well, death is so out of fashion,” or “Oh, haven’t you got the new upgraded version of death?”
LUHRMANN: I like the big things, too—maybe that’s why we’re friends. [both laugh] But the funny thing is that although on the surface these sorts of subjects seem simple, they’re fundamental to being human. So it’s not really about just the subject of death or love, but how you attend to it.
FLORENCE: Love is horrible, though, isn’t it? I mean, when you’re in love, it’s like a sickness. Such madness.
LUHRMANN: Well, Florence, it’s time for me to bring out the snaps from the Chateau Marmont. But first of all, I have to check that you haven’t changed partners since they were taken.
FLORENCE: No, Stuart [Hammond, Florence’s boyfriend] is here. I wish I could get him to come say hello, but he’s at the Bowery.
LUHRMANN: Tell him to come over! We’ve got a couple of El Gringos and two Penny Drops waiting for him. We haven’t even got to the Blinker or the Georgia Crisp or the Virgin Smash yet. Now, how long have you guys known each other?
FLORENCE: We’ve known each other for maybe six years. But we’ve only been going out for about three-and-a-half or four. I was always terrified of him . . .
LUHRMANN: Is it mad love?
FLORENCE: It is mad love. We’re very codependent.
LUHRMANN: What about touring and all that? Because I know other people who do what you do, and that’s always an issue. You’re a circus, and the circus is always on the road.
FLORENCE: It’s quite hard, because you sort of work out a way of surviving on tour, don’t you? Be it through endless vintage-clothes shopping or endless shots of tequila. There are various coping mechanisms that you turn to. When Stuart arrives on tour, it’s almost as if you have to be like, “Darling, now this is what I’ve been doing to cope. I know you might think it’s strange, but please can you handle it? Because this is what I’m going to be doing a lot . . . ”
LUHRMANN: Look at this. [shows Florence a photograph from a party at the Chateau Marmont that they both attended] Stuart looks absolutely dapper there. He’s a stylish gent. Love your dress, too, Flo.
FLORENCE: I passed out facedown in the bathtub at that party. Luckily, there was no water in it.
GRACE: Look at your legs.
LUHRMANN: Look at those legs, Flo. I love the shoes, too. That was around the time when I kept running into you. I saw you at the Grammys. I saw you at the Oscars. I ran into you in Vegas at Jay-Z’s party. I remember you looked amazing—just very deft and beautiful and sexy. You were wearing these sparkly shorts and a sort of organza top . . .
FLORENCE: Performing in Las Vegas was like performing on the Titanic. It felt like we were on the ship at the end of the world.
LUHRMANN: So you performed that night?
FLORENCE: Yeah, I sang. It was like performing on a cruise ship. [Waiter returns.]
LUHRMANN: Water? No, thanks. We’re drinking Russian Standards.
FLORENCE: Just another Russian, please, sir. This vodka is great. [to Luhrmann] But I know what you mean about being on the road. I mean, just the schedule . . . I’m scheduled out of my mind.
LUHRMANN: I can tell you’re exhausted.
FLORENCE: I am exhausted.
LUHRMANN: Can I fluff your hair? [Luhrmann fluffs Florence’s hair] I’ll tell you something I’ve observed. I said this to the wonderful Carey Mulligan, who is playing in The Great Gatsby.
FLORENCE: I saw her the other day at the Bowery with Marcus [Mumford], who is in Mumford & Sons. I’ve known him for years.
LUHRMANN: I met Carey before she was in The Great Gatsby by accident at a party for An Education . She’d just had that moment of recognition and, suddenly, she was a public figure. So I said to her that achieving that kind of recognition is a little bit like being the bride in a wedding that’s never over. Because weddings are never really about the couple. They’re about everyone else—all of these people who want to talk to you, all of these people to whom you feel like you need to tend. There’s never enough of you, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who have your true interests in mind.
FLORENCE: It’s really important. But I’ve known most of the people in my group since I was singing to Grace in the bathroom, so there is this sense of coming up from insalubrious beginnings together . . .
LUHRMANN: Tell me about the insalubrious bits.
FLORENCE: There are loads of them, especially in America. You know what? Give me two minutes. I will tell you—I’m just going to the bathroom.
LUHRMANN: [Florence leaves to go to the bathroom] We’re having a bathroom break. Grace, you’re going to shut down this interview when it gets too late . . .
GRACE: We have a dinner with our family and Stuart’s family and our New York auntie. We have ’til 7 P.M. [The waiter returns.]
LUHRMANN: [To waiter, pointing to drink] What’s this one? I love this one!
WAITER: That’s the El Gringo. It has a little bite to it, a little smokiness. It’s smoked sea salt.
LUHRMANN: I’m all about the El Gringo. It reminds me of something.
WAITER: It’s like a tequila gimlet almost. A spicy margarita. We just use fresh lime juice in it. We don’t use candied things in it at all. Just spice and salt.
LUHRMANN: Very refreshing . . . Fantastic . . . Fantastic . . . So is Stuart coming?
GRACE: He’s not. He’s with some skater friends. [Florence returns from the bathroom.]
FLORENCE: He’s in the opposite direction. He’s at the Bowery. We have to go to Chinatown.
WAITER: Would you like another cocktail?
FLORENCE: We’ll have one more . . . We’re just starting.
WAITER: You know what you might like? It’s the Near Side. It’s delicious. It’s got vodka, Campari, grapefruit, and champagne. It’s very refreshing.
FLORENCE: Sounds like my family is going to have a whale of a time with me later.
LUHRMANN: Some folks have a very clear sound and vision for their work. I don’t want to give away your creative process, but do you think you can talk about it? What was on your mind going in to make a record?
FLORENCE: Well, Lungs was such a mix of ideas and musical influences. You know, I grew up around this big art college that was producing a lot of these amazing art-college punk bands. Then the only music I was listening to for ages was old soul. So I wasn’t listening to a lot of new music—especially indie music. I was listening to Nina Simone and Etta James and Billie Holiday and maybe a little Talking Heads and Joy Division, and then going to see these punk shows. So it was the really strange mix. I missed The Libertines revolution. I missed the whole White Stripes thing. So when I came to write songs, it was this mix of soul and garage punk. And then the musical aesthetic started really coming through, because I couldn’t play guitar. I initially wrote some songs with some male guitarists because I thought that was how you went about it. But it never fit, so I started playing on piano by myself, doing the drums by myself, and it was all very visceral because there was a lot of enthusiasm involved, but no skill. That’s where “Dog Days Are Over” came from. It was almost as if I hit on that idea halfway through making the record. And then, you know, the choral aspects—I’m obsessed with choirs, and always have been, because of that sense of overwhelming vocals. I think I just have a problem generally in life of wanting more of everything—more emotion, more drama, more glitz.
LUHRMANN: Did I mention that we’re friends?
FLORENCE: [laughs] I can’t just have one painting—I need to cover the wall in paintings. It’s the same with my music. I want to mix everything together to create more. Then, at the same time, I’m also obsessed with the pauses and having everything be so quiet that when the instrumentation comes in, it seems like even more. So it’s not about complete saturation. It’s about making choices.
This is an excerpt of the cover story. To read the full Florence Welch interview pick up a copy of the October issue of Interview.
Director Baz Luhrmann is currently working on his next film, The Great Gatsby.