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Florence + the Machine

About the video

Florence + the Machine is an elegantly orchestrated force to be reckoned with--like a gust of wind that starts out as a sweet and gentle breeze, then overtakes you, literally knocking you off your feet. The London-based pop-soul band fronted by the woman with the siren-like voice, Florence Welch, will alternately seduce then overthrow its audience, engulfing listeners in a tsunami-sized wave of sound. Following the runaway success of their debut album, Lungs, for which the redheaded songstress channeled her heartbreak into an eccentric mix of haunting yet romantic ballads, the group set up shop in Abbey Road Studios to record their sophomore release, Ceremonials. And we were there to document it.

Off the stage, Welch is surprisingly demure, shy even, but her playful, effervescent personality doesn't take long to shine through. For Ceremonials she turned down offers to work with well-known American pop producers, choosing instead to collaborate with long-time friend, producer Paul Epworth. The two set out to create a better version of Lungs—laden with a darker, heavier and more dynamic sound and feel that was inspired by the dueling power and vulnerability of tortured heroines like Virginia Woolf and Joan of Arc. When we stopped by Abbey Road, Welch and Epworth were deep in the recording process. They tend to record everything organically so as to not interfere with Welch's artistic process, then use synths and other effects to "turn everything on its head." They've used everything from recordings of crows, '80s 8-bit synths, delay pedals, and even a "seance style" recording session where Welch laid on the floor muttering and speaking in tongues. Their latest audio trick? A new audio effect Epworth found that sounds "like a zombie's face being mashed in," which apparently makes for a good kick-drum (musicians, take note). Welch also took us to the place where Florence + The Machine was first born: the small, bright, crowded South London studio where she and childhood friend, co-writer and keyboardist Isabella Summers used to record their "expensive sounding music" in the hopes of impressing the likes of Simon Cowell (we're willing to bet the famous contrarian is sufficiently impressed by now). Those humble beginnings provide a stark contrast to the larger-than-life performer Welch is today. Culminating in a breathtaking performance of "Shake it Out" at our Creators Project: New York event in DUMBO this October, where the band debuted several tracks off Ceremonials for the first time, it was clear what makes Florence + The Machine so magnetic. Welch likes to perform every song as if it were her last, placing herself "on the edge of complete oblivion," and we follow her there to that edge, hoping not to fall into that beautiful abyss.

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At a glance

Romantically orchestrated rapture.

Members: Florence Welch, Robert Ackroyd, Chris Hayden, Isabella Summers, Tom Monger, Mark Saunders
Location: London, United Kingdom
Profession: Musicians
Discography: Ceremonials (2011), Lungs (2009)
Selected awards and achievements: Shockwaves NME Awards “Best Solo Artist” and “Best Track” for “Shake it Out” (2012); MTV Video Music Awards “Best art direction in a video” for “Dog Days Are Over” (2010); UK Festival Awards “Anthem of the Year” for “You’ve Got The Love” (2010); ); BRIT Awards “MasterCard British Album of the Year” for Lungs (2010); Brit Awards “Critics’Choice” (2009); European Festival Awards “Best newcomer” (2009)
Photo courtesy of Bryan Derballa