The calm before the storm: an interview with Florence Welch
After the magnificent theatricality of “Ceremonials”, the third Florence + The Machine album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” seems very restrained and personal.
Florence Welch told Emily Mackay how she managed to overcome many demons, resigned to her own vulnerability.
More recently, the creators of the comic book Phonogram have published a new series called The Wicked – The Divine. They have the main postulate that music is magic that changes routine, goes to a new level: in our world, pop stars are gods chosen from among mere mortals and endowed with incredible miraculous power. What’s the catch? As soon as a person becomes a deity, he has only two years to live. All the “gods” in this series resemble real performers: Bowie, Prince, Rihanna.
The sun goddess Amaterasu looks suspiciously familiar. Fiery hair, bright make-up, wide white skirts and sleeves … “Oh my god, what is it … ABOUT WOODS!” Florence Welch goes into a screaming whisper when I show her these pages, sitting next to her in her kitchen. I also tell her about the “two years remaining” rule.
“That makes sense,” she says, carefully flipping through the pages. Probably, it will seem quite natural to many of you that Amaterasu is Florence. Her first two albums, “Lungs” and “Ceremonials”, with their hurricane songs, catharsis songs, polished sound, vibrant theater clips and gorgeous photo shoots, created a memorable image of the frantic Celtic goddess, the queen of destructive passions.
However, as in the comic books “The Wicked – The Divine”, divine power charges a mortal man, significantly reducing his human life. Amaterasu’s book is seventeen-year-old Hazel Greenway from Exeter. Almost like Florence Welch … although Florence is 28, and she is from Camberwell. In her new album, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” Florence sacrificed superpowers, while acquiring a new, more mundane, but more useful force in everyday life.
“We had performances between the Ceremonials tour and the release of this album,” she says, “and I still wore these dresses. I felt weird … It seemed to me like the grandiose sound of Ceremonials. When you put on a long dress and a wrap, it dictates to some extent how to behave on stage … on the other hand, it was a kind of protection, a way to cope with the scale of what is happening. I liked all this, but it was difficult to continue in that spirit. ”
After the end of the “Ceremonials” tour, Florence had a year to rest and gain strength to record the next album. Breaking out of the endless cycle of concerts, she felt bewildered. She needed to rediscover herself, to understand who she was off-stage. A difficult relationship brought even more confusion to her state of mind, and she decided to temporarily hide from the world in the place where we met: a charming London house and a small fairy garden with a dense hedge and lush roses.
The cozy rooms are filled with antiques, massive wooden furniture, various trinkets, a pile of books and magazines and butterflies in glass vessels. There is also a solid desk, drowning in papers, and a collection of crowns, for one of which I accidentally clung to. A dragon tail embroidered with sequins was found in the toilet, which must be tied around the waist.
“When the tour ends … it’s hard to understand what you really like,” she explains. “You are so significant (wide-handed, in the style of the goddess Florence), but here in this house everything is different. I tried to figure it out, for example “Do I like parties? I attend a bunch of parties. Do I want a relationship? It doesn’t work out for me. What then? What am I looking for? I had to analyze my feelings for the first time in my life. I couldn’t just distract from everything and give another concert.Generally, concerts have a magical property “to take any load off your shoulders. If the performance turned out to be good, no matter what happened, no matter what happens in your personal life – this is a real release from internal demons, completely updating me.”
In an interview given shortly before the release of “Ceremonials,” Florence said that the songs “Seven Devils” and “Shake It Out” are about expelling their own demons, that they are some kind of spells that can expel the passion for self-destruction, which is part of her nature and which she called the Robot-Chaos during the “Lungs” period (echoing the original name of the group – Florence Robot and Isa Machine). She also reflected that it was time to choose: either to continue to exist in this chaos and indulge her desires, or to begin to grow up. Now tired Florence is becoming shy at parties and award ceremonies, wondering to herself: “But I always liked it, didn’t it?”