imagery, of fairytale flights of fantasy, and although much has been read into her lyrics, Florence says it’s usually simple. “Everything is about boys!” she laughs. “The whole album is about love – and pain. People see my lyrics as crazy, but to me it’s an honest, heartfelt album. I didn’t set out to be wacky. I just want it to be emotive.”
Florence grew up in Camberwell, south London, the oldest of three children. One of her earliest musical memories is standing on top of the trunk where her dad kept his vinyl collection, dancing with him to the Rolling Stones. She started singing along to Nina Simone and Dusty Springfield at home, expanded her vocal range with arias, then became a pre-teen skatepunk before getting lost in the Camberwell art college squat party scene. It’s an eclectic mix, but for her, the common thread is always the emotion. “Anything that has real feeling in it always excites me. Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Going To Come’, Eva Cassidy singing ‘Wade In The Water’, even Rhianna’s ‘Umbrella’ – I’m obsessed with music. I’ll play Beyonce, Lil Wayne, Bob Dylan’s ‘Hurricane’, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Going Down’.
Florence found her own space by going out to clubs and pubs, by singing onstage and in her bedroom. By the time she left school, she’d already written songs like ‘Kiss With A Fist’, and knew she wanted to make music but not how to go about it. So after a year working behind a bar she went to art school, making tents under the desk to sleep off her hangovers while trying to convince her tutors she was an installation.
It wasn’t until she wrote the haunting ‘Between Two Lungs’ that it all came together. Instead of percussion, Florence pounded the studio walls with her hands. She built the melody on the piano even though it’s not an instrument she knows how to play, and recorded the backing vocals first, before writing the top line. It’s bonkers and totally unconventional, but of course it is also glorious – a strange but yearning song about losing yourself in love. “I’d found my voice, and I just felt euphoric,” she recalls. “It’s been a real process of me learning that the way I wanted to do it was actually the right way. This whole album has been about having faith in myself.”
As for The Machine, it’s a flexible beast. It can go right down to Florence and a drum kit or a piano, but right now it’s a seven-piece band including long-term collaborators Rob Ackroyd (guitar), Chris Hayden (drums), Isabella Summers (keyboards) and Tom Monger (harp). “I