On eve of 'Ceremonials,' Florence Welch talks about 'Breaking Down'
On Florence Welch’s new album as Florence + the Machine, “Ceremonials,” the British singer expands the broader-than-the-heavens voice that propelled her onto the charts with her breakout power-soul single, “Dog Days Are Over.” Welch burst into American consciousness with a show-stopping performance of the song at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, then saw her debut album, “Lungs," go gold in America. Her pair of devastating performances on “Saturday Night Live” pushed the red-headed 25-year-old onto magazine covers and best-of-year lists, and drove anticipation for a follow-up album even higher.
"Ceremonials," which comes out Tuesday, is a bigger, heavier, more pop-friendly release and features anthems such as "No Light, No Light" that are as overpowering as "Dog Days Are Over." Welch recently described her approach on the new record as "incorrigible maximalism," and it's a pretty apt description.
But, as well, there are a few tighter, less bombastic songs, the best of which is "Breaking Down," a thrilling string-and-piano Roy Orbison-esque ode to fear that illustrates Welch's increasingly welcome sense of restraint.
We caught up with Welch via phone while she was being ferried around London to various appearances. Pop & Hiss will have more from our conversation in coming (dog) days.
I had a beautiful moment this morning as I was driving to work, the sunroof open, with your new song “Breaking Down.” How did that song come about?
It was funny. That was one of those songs that I just started humming and then the words came out. Often, I won’t know what I’m going to sing about until I actually step up to record, and you just have to follow this freeflowing train of thought -- these images of fear that you have as a child, something in the room, something for a child to fear, and then as an adult, that being there too as a creeping depression. It’s something quite sinister, but also something quite familiar. And I guess I just wanted to try and take that and turn it on its head, and make it something beautiful and uplifting as maybe a way to tackle it. It’s one of those sad songs with happy tunes.
You’ve mentioned your “incorrigible maximalism” as a way of describing aspects of “Ceremonials.” Were you ever advised to tone it down a little bit during the recording process?
No, not really. I was really given free reign. I didn’t have to compromise at all. They totally let me indulge my insanity. It was amazing.
I was curious about that, whether you felt the pressure of this recording. A lot of people are hoping that this record is very big. Did you have conversations with your record label about the direction?
No. I knew what sound I wanted to make, and the first song I made for it was "No Light, No Light," which is one of the biggest tracks on the album. I gave it to the record label and was like, "This is what’s happening."
-- Randall Roberts
Photo: Florence Welch leads Florence + the Machine at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on Nov. 6, 2010. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times.