Florence + the Machine singer has a head full of grooves

[3 November 2011]

By Randall Roberts

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — Florence + the Machine’s ethereal punk rock blues debut was one of the more unlikely breakthrough albums of 2009. It propelled singer Florence Welch (a virtual one-woman show) to gold status in America and pushed the redheaded 25-year-old onto magazine covers and best-of-year lists.

On her new album, “Ceremonials,” the British singer doubles down on the Voice that propelled her breakout power-soul single, “Dog Days Are Over,” by layering her vocals to create choir-like depth. The record, produced by Paul Epworth, is one of the most anticipated of the fall season, and came out Tuesday.

Florence, a self-professed music geek, recently spoke about her listening habits.

Q. How did you educate yourself in music growing up?

A. I went through a real grunge phase through friends I was hanging out with, and boys I fancied, and having all the brothers who were into skateboard music. And then I think what was really influential growing up in South London was there was a big college scene, and going to the adult college parties before I had even gone to art college — I was hearing Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Talking Heads, Tom Waits, Kate Bush, Motown, northern soul mixed with ELO and things like that.

And I was going to a lot of live performances, as well, at squat parties with garage punk art bands — and I think that really influenced me and my musical tastes around that time. A lot of time was spent listening to music with my dad in the car. We had tapes, and we’d be listening to Love and the Smiths and Velvet Underground — especially that Love song, “Andmoreagain.”

Q. What are you listening to these days?

A. Right now I’m really interested in the new Kanye and Jay-Z record, “Watch the Throne.” I’m a huge Jay-Z and Kanye fan, and there’s a song on it called “Lift Off” that has Beyonce on it, and it’s pretty amazing. While we were on tour I was running around San Francisco — I like to go running outdoors in new places because you can explore the city — and that song was playing as I was running up the hills of San Fran through Chinatown. It was amazing, seeing the trams, and suddenly you can see the sea and the bridges. It was just a really amazing moment.

Q. Is that how you hear a lot of music, while you’re running?

A. I listen to a lot of high-octane stuff, like Beyonce — “Countdown” is a really good one to run to. And I wouldn’t say I was an athletic runner. I’d say I’m more of balletic runner. I always end up doing a lot of leaps and jumping on park benches and doing twirls because I get so carried away with the music — dancing at street signs.

Q. Are you somebody who always has a song running through your head?

A. Constantly, constantly. I could never remember anything as a child apart from songs. I was really bad at math and organization, but music I could always remember. I could always remember a song as soon as I heard it on the radio, and that means that there were constantly songs stuck in my head.

Q. Were there particular recordings or music styles that you and Paul were listening to while you made “Ceremonials”?

A. Paul was really obsessed with things like ... Buttons and Suicide, so we listened to a lot of them. And we were listening to a lot of blues, like Freddie King. It was a real mix of this tribal electronic stuff and soul, which I think comes across in the record.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/150855-florence-the-machine-singer-has-a-head-full-of-grooves/