Florence And The Machine – What Rock’N’Roll Has Taught Me

Florence Welch on bizarre rumours, deranged fans, and dressing like a Grecian space-witch

The ‘NME academy’ is more than just a learning experience
The January issue of NME was my first ever cover. I was terrified, but luckily there were other faces on there too. The NME Awards Tour with Glasvegas, White Lies, Friendly Fires and myself was insanity.


I was on first – it was so much fun but still really intense. It was our first proper experience of touring with a big crew and staging. We didn’t really sleep and we drank vodka for the entire time, but it was incredible. It was really nice to hang out with other bands and see the way that they operated. It took me a while to recover though.

Reading Festival is the best place to have your birthday party
On my birthday we had to get up really early because I had to do an acoustic set at Reading. I had this crowd of early morning festival-goers singing me ‘Happy Birthday’, which was amazing. Then the actual gig itself was so big. I had to keep looking at the band because I couldn’t look at the crowd.

I was just like, ‘There’s so many of you!’ They all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and there was a big present on the drum and I opened it to find that the band had got me a megaphone. Of all the people onstage I’m the last person that needs to be louder!

Climbing a lighting rig will make you cry
At Glasto I climbed about halfway up the lighting rig, so at Reading I thought I’d see how high I could get. I got to the top and thought I’d just hang around for a bit. I let go with one hand and everything. But I got banned from doing that because, apparently, my mum watched it from behind the sofa in tears.

None of the band can re-watch it, even though they knew I got down. My drummer Chris was like, ‘I thought you were going to fall. Don’t do that again.’ Who knows, we’ll have to wait and see.


Fans can give you the willies
There is a guy who has a tattoo of my face. It’s the picture of me with the gold hands. He comes to all the shows. It’s all the way down his ankle from his shin. I was just like, ‘That’s nice. That’s forever, right? OK…’ It’s kind of weird when people send letters to my house. I got one saying, ‘I found out your address, but don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone!’

But most of the letters I receive are lovely. People often send them to my mum because on Wikipedia or something it says that she is a professor so people send them to the university and she gives them to me. They’re always sweet. If I get dead cats or pants in the mail I’ll start to worry.

The bigger the costume the better
It’s as if when the music, stages and crowds got bigger the outfits became a part of the music itself. I use it as a form of protection. If I was standing out there in regular clothes I’d probably feel more exposed, so I guess the dress allows me to feel protected and also more involved in the show. For example, there’s this really strange new designer called Qasimi who created this incredible kind of Grecian-space-witch outfit that I wore at Shepherd’s Bush. It was a way for me to step out of reality and into something else.

Pete Doherty fans are hard work
When I supported Babyshambles in 2008 I was terrified because Pete fans are so hardcore! When I first came out they were screaming, ‘Who are ya? Who are ya?’ It was so scary. I was just standing there in a Manchester Academy full of screaming Pete Doherty fans, so I said to the band, ‘Let’s play all the songs as fast as we can!’ So we played thrash versions of our songs and I crowdsurfed and that seemed to turn them around. Some people who were at that show now keep coming to our Manchester shows – so it all turned out alright in the end.

The less money, the better the music video
The video for ‘Dog Days…’ is my favourite. Not only because it was our first, but also because of the people involved. I just made it on a whim. We went down to the woods and we only had one camera. I got my dad to put a clown costume on and my friend’s nephew to dress up as the baby clown while we decorated the woods. Dog walkers gave us the weirdest looks. It was really fun.

When people ask about ‘The Machine’ every five seconds, you have to invent one
My ultimate machine would probably be a half-organic heart held in a half-ribcage and then half would be machinery. There would probably be bird’s feathers and twigs in one half and the other half would just have rusty metal. It would generally have to be half real body parts and half machinery. It would probably make wheezy, creaky noises and drip blood. It wouldn’t be a useful or attractive machine, but it would be interesting.

You don’t feel famous when you’re famous
Hah, the ‘fame thing’ is all rubbish. If people know the album then they usually come up and say they like it. I guess it’s because if they know the album they feel like they know me and that’s cool. Because of that, when people do come up to me I don’t really feel like I’m famous.

Don’t believe everything you read
I was about to do this gig at the Union Chapel and people kept saying to me ‘I hear you’re going to build a forest in the Union Chapel.’ And I don’t know what they’re talking about, so then I’m under pressure to find a forest, because they’ve heard this on a blog!

I also heard that someone said my mum was Irish and my grandfather was the editor of The Irish Times. That’s not true – she’s American and my grandfather was definitely not the editor of The Irish Times. I know there’s some really weird stuff out there but I try not to look at it all because I think I’d go a bit mad.

Did You Know?
* Goose from Top Gun – aka actor Anthony Edwards – is, rather incredibly, Florence’s uncle.
* Florence’s dad Nick stars as Andy Warhol in the video for her cover of ‘You’ve Got The Love’.
* Florence is known to her close family as Flossie