Breaking Out: Florence and the Machine
Former choir girl wins Brit Award for her lively art rock after getting discovered in the loo.
The bathroom isn’t usually a place where a girl wants to draw attention to herself. But when Florence Welch found herself sharing sink space at a London club with Mairead Nash, half of the “it” Brit DJ duo Queens of Noize, she seized the opportunity (and acoustics) by belting out Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.” Nash was so impressed by the then-20-year-old art student’s soulful wail that she offered to manage her. Nature couldn’t have called at a better time.
Last December, two years after that fateful night, Welch scored the Brit Award (a U.K. Grammy) for emerging talent — and she hasn’t even released an album. Now, she says, the pressure is on. “It’s sort of abstract to win an award for something you haven’t done yet,” says Welch, who performs under the moniker Florence and the Machine. “It’s like, ‘Fuck. I really hope it’s good!’ ” To tide fans over until her album comes out later this year, Welch just released her debut EP, A Lot of Love. A Lot of Blood (Iamsound), which includes her two spunky U.K. singles — “Kiss With a Fist,” a playful garage-blues romp about liking it rough, and the propulsive uke-jam “Dog Days Are Over” — and a sparse, acoustic cover of Cold War Kids’ “Hospital Beds.”
Welch, a self-proclaimed “choir girl gone horribly wrong,” grew up in London with her ad exec dad and art professor mom, who was a regular at Studio 54 in the ’80s. “She never really glamorized it,” says Welch. “Friends of my mom will be like, ‘Yeah, it was amazing. We were in New York, trying to get into Studio 54, and all of a sudden someone was waving at us, Come in, come in! And it was Andy Warhol.’ But she’d never tell me this stuff!It’s like, ‘Mom! What the fuck?’ ”
Welch, meanwhile, is more open about sharing her own stories. “This album feels like a scrapbook of the past couple of years of my life. It’s been amazing,” she says, ticking off memorable moments like sharing a stage with MGMT at 2008’s SXSW and wowing the crowd at Reading. “If the backlash does come, at least I’ll be able to say, ‘I tried my best.’ “
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