GO WITH THE FLO
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE HEAD TO BYRON BAY TO HEADLINE SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS MUSIC FESTIVAL
After last year’s Met Ball Gala in New York, Florence Welch wound up at a pizza party. Oh, the party was held at Taylor Swift’s $20 million New York apartment. And Reese Witherspoon, Lena Dunham and Spike Jonze were also there.
Along with a slice of pizza, Welch was nursing a freshly broken heart.
“I’d been talking to Spike Jonze about relationships,” Welch recalls. “Taylor said, ‘Come over here, tell me all about it’. I ended up telling her about my relationship until five in the morning. And she gave me some really good advice.
“She’s really good at relationship advice, as you can imagine she would be. She’s very clever. She made some really good points.”
Swift and Welch bonded in what was the Englishwoman’s belated gap year. After two Florence + The Machine albums Lungs (2009) and Ceremonials ( 2011) prompted big sales (five million-plus combined) and heavy touring, Welch knew it was time to decompress.
The musician decamped to Los Angeles for a lost weekend with bandmate and co-writer Isabella Summers. That weekend ended up lasting most of 2014, involving hard partying, heavy drinking and LA explorations soundtracked by Neil Young records.
Welch, 28, says the year also involved a breakdown, but knows that word instantly creates headlines.
“I don’t know what I’d classify it as; I know ‘breakdown’ gets thrown around a lot. It was a confusing time. There were real highs and with that came the low.”
2014 was the first time in years Welch wasn’t living life according to a schedule.
“I’d come off basically a five-year tour that started when I was 21,” she says. “I was struggling to figure out who I wanted to be outside of that. When you’ve performed and given so much and it’s been up, up, up constantly, you never really have to face yourself.
“You don’t really get a chance to grow up, either. I had to face myself and some of the things I was dealing with ... is that a breakdown?”
Welch’s original plan for her year off was to write a third album without the pressures of touring to contend with.
“I thought, I’m going to have this nice life, maybe have a relationship, maybe I’ll party because I don’t have any work ...
“For some reason I couldn’t make it work. I realised I’d literally been swept up at the age of 21. S---, maybe I need to figure out how to be a human!”
She did get some songs written, so went to meet a potential producer, Markus Dravs, who produced the first two Mumford & Sons records.
“We’d never really hung out,” Welch says of Dravs. “I was a f---ing mess when we met to talk about him making the record. I was all over the place.
“The songs – some were like Ceremonials, some were totally bats---, some were very intimate.
“Markus said, ‘This is a big mess, come in and do a trial run’.
“So I went into the studio, he shut the door and said, ‘OK, we’re going to make the record now!’ If you want to know what a producer does, that’s what they do – he tricked me into making the record.”
The resultant third Florence + The Machine album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, lacks a
recurring Ceremonials theme: Dravs banned Welch from writing water references. Florence + The Machine, Splendour in the Grass, North Byron Parklands, July 25
Florence + The Machine is back with a new attitude and a new album.