Music Scene: Florence set to Big it up in Belfast

Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine
John Kearns

WHEN you chat to Florence Welch you quickly get the feeling that you're not dealing with an average pop star who is content to trot out some well versed and rehearsed promotional sound bites in advance of an impending tour or record release.

Florence and her finely tuned Machine, who play Belfast's SSE Arena on September 9, have been enjoying major success with their recently released third studio album

How Big How Blue How Beautiful, scoring number one on both the US and the UK charts. However, Florence herself seems more relieved than happy that the album is finally signed, sealed and delivered.

"I was just so glad to get the album recorded and finished. It was a really intense process and this one was a very personal record to make and I was so attached to it that it was actually tough to let it go. In a strange way once I had made the album I almost didn't want to release it – but of course the record label wouldn't have been too pleased!

"They said to mem 'Well now Florence, you did ask for about a million trumpet players on there so we would actually like to try and sell it!' So now it's out there. I've got it off my chest."

For someone who dives so deeply into their craft and allows their personal highs and lows to rise to the creative surface, I wondered does Florence achieves some kind of therapeutic comfort or well-needed catharsis from writing an album?

"Yes I suppose I do. For me writing songs is primarily something you do for yourself, you know? I mean they are like little talismans or spells that you make for yourself and they help to carry you through whatever it is that you are going through. Then it's a strange idea that other people will get to hear them to and that you have to let them go.

"The songs then assume other personas and people will make of them what they will and have their own interpretations of what they mean. Then when we play the songs on stage they seem to take on new lives again.

"That's actually the best bit for me because as someone who is a perfectionist I never think that an album is completely finished but in a live scenario I can change them and perform them a different way every time because it's all about being in that particular moment. I suppose that's when it all starts to make sense for me."

I put it to Florence that not only is she a self-confessed emotional stick of dynamite when it comes to her lyrics but she is also two different people. On one hand, you have Florence the mild-mannered, courteous, articulate and shy individual and then once she hits the stage she immediately transforms into Florence the devil-may-care rock 'n roll monster.

"I know!" she laughs, "I can't help myself and I have no idea where it comes from either. From broken bones [Flo broke her foot at a highly memorable Coachella gig] to disrobing... to generally stalking the stage, I seem to completely lose myself somewhere once the house lights go down.

"It's an out-of-body experience for me because I'm certainly not naturally the most domineering of people but there's something about the energy of live performance or maybe it's what I'm singing about that makes me feel that on stage is actually where I'm at my strongest. Maybe it's all just a release for my repressed nature or something."

Florence reveals that on this upcoming series of tour dates the fans can expect diverse and exciting performances. She's also keen to point out that the strength of the songs is of paramount importance.

"Every tour I toy with the idea of doing something minimal but again that got lost along the way, so while we will be doing a few stripped-back songs, we will also be really going for it with some really big production including brass sections and a lot more besides.

"I wouldn't want anything to get in the way though of the actual songs and it's important that we have a really raw live feel as well. I want to totally bring out the songs in a live way and really actually enjoy playing live music. That's what it's all about – having an organic live experience. "

Florence and The Machine have very fond memories of playing in Northern Ireland and the lady herself is perhaps opening her How Big tour in the perfect location.

"We've always had an amazing time over there, we really have. The fans have been so supportive and welcomed us with open arms. There has always been a real connection from the very start and we feel really at home there. It's a great place to start the tour. I couldn't think of a better place to have the opening night."

:: Florence and the Machine play the Electric Picnic, Stradbally, Co Laois, this weekend. The How Big How Blue How Beautiful tour opens at the SSE Arena, Belfast, on Wednesday September 9, moving to Dublin's 3 Arena the following night.


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