Florence + The Machine
- © Alex Lake
- © Alex Lake
- © Elane Constantine
- © Elane Constantine
Florence and the Machine (styled as Florence + the Machine) are an English indie rock band that formed in London in 2007, consisting of lead singer Florence Welch, Isabella Summers, and a collaboration of other artists. The band's music received praise across the media, especially from the BBC, which played a large part in their rise to prominence by promoting Florence and the Machine as part of BBC Introducing. The band's music is renowned for its dramatic and eccentric production and also Welch's vocal performances.
The band's debut studio album, Lungs, was released on 6 July 2009, and held the number-two position for its first five weeks on the UK Albums Chart. On 17 January 2010, the album reached the top position, after being on the chart for twenty-eight consecutive weeks. As of October 2010, the album had been in the top forty in the United Kingdom for sixty-five consecutive weeks, making it one of the best-selling albums of 2009 and 2010. The group's second studio album, Ceremonials, released in October 2011, entered the charts at number one in the UK and number six in the US. The band's third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, was released on 2 June 2015. It topped the UK charts, and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, their first to do so. Also in 2015, the band was the headlining act at Glastonbury Festival, making Florence Welch the first British female headliner this century.
Florence and the Machine's sound has been described as a combination of various genres, including rock and soul. Lungs won the Brit Award for Best British Album in 2010. At the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, Florence and the Machine were nominated for Best New Artist. Additionally, the band performed at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards and the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert.
The name of Florence and the Machine is attributed to Florence Welch's teenage collaboration with Isabella "Machine" Summers. Welch and Summers performed together for a time under the name Florence Robot/Isa Machine. According to Welch, "The name Florence and the Machine started off as a private joke that got out of hand. I made music with my friend, who we called Isabella Machine to which I was Florence Robot. When I was about an hour away from my first gig, I still didn't have a name, so I thought 'Okay, I'll be Florence Robot/Isa Machine', before realising that name was so long it'd drive me mad."
In addition to Summers (keyboards and backing vocals), the current band members include musicians Robert Ackroyd (guitar and backing vocals), Chris Hayden (drums, percussion and backing vocals), Mark Saunders (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Tom Monger (harp). In the past, Welch has praised the Machine for understanding her creative process, claiming, "I've worked with most of them for a long time and they know my style, know the way I write, they know what I want."
In 2007, Welch recorded with a band named Ashok, who released an album titled Plans on the Filthy Lucre/About Records label. This album included the earliest version of her later hit "Kiss with a Fist", which at this point was titled "Happy Slap". She signed a contract for Ashok with a manager, but feeling that she was "in the wrong band" she resigned, which cancelled the contract. Florence and the Machine are managed by Mairead Nash (one half of the DJ duo Queens of Noize), who decided to manage the singer when an inebriated Welch followed Nash into the toilets at a club and sang Etta James' 1962 song "Something's Got a Hold on Me".
Florence and the Machine released their first album Lungs in the United Kingdom on 6 July 2009. The album was produced by James Ford, Paul Epworth, Steve Mackey and Charlie Hugall. Much of the material on the album was written as reaction to what turned out to be a temporary break-up with Welch's former boyfriend. Welch said, "He prefers me not to talk about it. It's funny then singing about it." The album was officially launched with a set at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, South East London. It peaked at number one in the UK and number two in Ireland. As of 6 August 2009, the album had sold over 100,000 copies in the UK and by 10 August it had been at number two for five consecutive weeks. Following its 25 July 2009 release for download in the United States, the album entered the charts at number seventeen on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart, ultimately peaking at number one. The album was released physically in the US on 20 October by Universal Republic.
"Kiss with a Fist" was released as the album's lead single on 9 June 2008. The track was featured on the soundtrack to the films Wild Child, Jennifer's Body, and St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, as well as in the television series 90210, Community and Saving Grace. Follow-up single "Dog Days Are Over", released on 1 December 2008, was recorded with no instruments in a studio the "size of a loo". The song was used in the American television series Gossip Girl, Covert Affairs, in the British television series Skins, and in the theatrical trailer for the 2010 comedy-drama film Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts. "Dog Days Are Over" was also featured in the Glee episode "Special Education", where it was covered by Jenna Ushkowitz and Amber Riley. "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" was released on 22 June 2009 as the third single from the album. A small part of the song's melody, as well as the lyric "How quickly the glamour fades", were lifted from New York band Gang Gang Dance's 2008 song "House Jam" without credit on the Lungs liner notes. Members of the group noticed this and brought it to the attention of Florence and the Machine's label. Island Records acknowledged infringement and agreed to pay Gang Gang Dance a share of the song's publishing royalties. Welch agreed that she erred and said her intent was to pay homage.
After the release of Lungs, "Drumming Song" and a cover of The Source and Candi Staton's 1986 song "You've Got the Love" were released as singles, the latter of which also went on to become part of a mashup titled "You Got the Dirtee Love" between Welch and English rapper Dizzee Rascal. The two performed the mashup together at the 2010 Brit Awards on 16 February 2010 and the recorded performance was subsequently released as a single the following day.
On 5 January 2010, "Hurricane Drunk" was originally announced as the next single from the album. However, on 3 March a re-release of "Dog Days Are Over" was announced on the band's website; it was released digitally on 11 April 2010 and on 7" vinyl the following day, coinciding with the release of a brand-new video. "Cosmic Love" was released on 5 July 2010 as the sixth and final single from Lungs, with a music video having already been shot. The song was featured in several American television shows, including Grey's Anatomy, The Vampire Diaries, V, Nikita and So You Think You Can Dance. The band also made a guest appearance in the 7 February 2011 episode of Gossip Girl, titled "Panic Roommate", where they performed an acoustic rendition of "Cosmic Love". On 12 May 2010, it was announced that Florence and the Machine would provide a track called "Heavy in Your Arms" for the soundtrack to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, the third film of The Twilight Saga. Eclipse was released in cinemas on 30 June 2010, with "Heavy in Your Arms" playing during the end credits. The music video followed on 7 July 2010. An exclusive remix of "I'm Not Calling You a Liar" is featured in the 2011 video game Dragon Age II as "I'm Not Calling You a Liar (Dragon Age II: Varric's Theme)", produced by the game's composer Inon Zur.
Initially, Welch considered offers from the band's record label to record their second album in the United States to work with writers and producers in Los Angeles, but ultimately decided to record the album in the UK. The first demo session occurred in January 2010 with Welch and Paul Epworth at a small London studio. Numerous producers expressed an interest in working on the album but Welch rejected the offers because she wanted Ceremonials to be a better version of Lungs with a "more dark, more heavy, bigger drum sounds, bigger bass, but with more of a whole sound". For the rest of the year work on the album continued only intermittently as the band concentrated on an extensive tour of the United States, where Lungs had become popular. The majority of the writing for the album was done between January and April 2011, with recording taking place in April at Abbey Road Studios. Refinement took place at Epworth's own London studios while Welch recorded vocal tracks in various US studios, during days off from touring. The final recording session took place in July at Epworth's studio. Epworth co-wrote seven tracks. Several other British writers share credits on the album, including Summers, Kid Harpoon, James Ford and composer Eg White.
In June 2011, a cover of the Buddy Holly classic "Not Fade Away," which Florence and the Machine recorded for the tribute album Rave on Buddy Holly tied to Holly's seventy-fifth birthday year, was released and they performed Ceremonials ' setup track "What the Water Gave Me" at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California. In August 2011, the single "What the Water Gave Me" was released on iTunes along with an accompanying video on the band's website and YouTube channel. The video drew 1.5 million YouTube views in two days and the track received play on US alternative radio with strong support from Los Angeles radio station KROQ. The single "Shake It Out" was released over the internet in September 2011, with standard release 11 October. In Australia, the song was playlisted at Triple J and Nova radio networks and received strong airplay in Scandinavia, Italy and Canada.
The band's second album, Ceremonials, was released on 31 October 2011. It reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and number six on the US Billboard 200. On 12 January 2012, Florence and the Machine were nominated for two Brit Awards, with the awards ceremony taking place on 21 February 2012 at the O2 Arena, London. On 26 April 2012, the band released "Breath of Life", a song which was recorded as the official theme song for the film Snow White and the Huntsman. On 5 July 2012, a remix of "Spectrum (Say My Name)" by Scottish musician Calvin Harris was released as the fourth single from Ceremonials, becoming the band's first UK number-one hit. Welch has expressed excitement about putting new material together for a third album after the band finishes touring at the end of September 2012. Welch collaborated for a second time with Harris on the song "Sweet Nothing", released on 12 October 2012 as a single from Harris's album 18 Months. The song entered at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming their second collaborative number-one single.
In mid-2012, it was announced that Universal Republic Records was going defunct, moving all artists including Florence and the Machine to Republic Records making the label itself revived. In late August 2012, Welch told Style magazine that she plans to take a twelve-month hiatus before starting work on the band's next studio album, stating, "There's a big 'take a year off' plan. The record company have put no pressure on me for the next album. They've said I can have as long as I want."
In December 2012, Florence and the Machine were nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album for Ceremonials and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Shake It Out" at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. On 4 April 2013, it was announced that Florence and the Machine had written a song for Baz Luhrmann's film rendition of The Great Gatsby, titled "Over the Love", which was released on 17 April 2013 on SoundCloud.
On 4 June 2014, Welch told NME that the band's third studio album was in the works. In January 2015, a fansite posted a photo showing Florence and the Machine's upcoming album being mixed in a recording studio. On 9 February, the band played all the songs from the new album in full, amongst them "Ship to Wreck", "Caught", "Delilah" and the album's first single, "What Kind of Man" in a private London show. The next day, on February 10, the band released a short music video for the title track of their studio album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which also acted as the official album teaser, directed by Tabitha Denholm and Vincent Haycock and shot in Mexico. The single and album were available to pre-order subsequently on all popular online music stores. The music video is just under 3 minutes as compared to the 5 minute album version of the track. On 12 February, the album's lead single "What Kind of Man" was revealed on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show., followed by the release of music video later that day on band's vevo channel via YouTube. The band released a music video of another track called "St. Jude" on March 23, choreographed by Ryan Heffington and directed by Vincent Haycock, continuing the narrative from the previous video of What Kind of Man. On April 8, the album's second single titled "Ship to Wreck" premiered on Huw Stephens' show on BBC Radio 1. The accompanying music video was released a week later on April 13, continuing the storyline of past two videos. On 19 May, DJ Annie Mac revealed another new song from the record on her BBC radio show in name "Delilah".
The album was released on 29 May in Germany, 1 June in the UK and 2 June in the US. A deluxe version of the album containing 5 additional tracks was released on 13 May 2015. The album became their third number one on the UK Albums Chart, and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200.
The band has been confirmed for numerous European festivals in summer 2015 including Way Out West in Sweden, Super Bock Super Rock in Portugal and Rock Werchter in Belgium, among others. In June 2015 it was announced that the band would headline the Glastonbury Festival due the withdrawal of previous headliners Foo Fighters, after lead singer Dave Grohl fractured his leg on stage in Sweden. Florence and the Machine's Glastonbury set was critically acclaimed by numerous outlets. Welch thanked Grohl for his support following their choice as a replacement and wished him a speedy recovery, before performing a cover of the Foo Fighters' "Times Like These".
Florence and the Machine started off by playing a handful of gigs in and around London, and in August 2007, the band performed at the first year of the 1–2–3–4 Shoreditch Festival, performing alongside Lightspeed Champion on the MySpace Main Stage which was hosted by manager Nash's DJ double act, Queens of Noize. In May 2008, they supported MGMT on tour in Europe. The BBC played a large part in Florence and the Machine's rise to prominence by promoting her as part of BBC Introducing. This led to them playing music festivals in 2008, including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds and Bestival. Florence and the Machine were also part of the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2009 in January and February.
The group has supported the UK Teenage Cancer Trust, performing at a concert for the charity at London's Royal Albert Hall in March 2009. Florence and the Machine supported Blur for their 26 June comeback performance at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester. They played at the Lovebox Festival on 18 and 19 July. In July 2009, the group supported Duran Duran. During summer 2009, Florence and the Machine performed at a number of major festivals in the UK and Ireland, including the Glastonbury Festival 2009, Reading and Leeds 2009, Electric Picnic 2009 and T in the Park 2009.
Florence and the Machine played at Australia's Splendour in the Grass music festival in July 2010. The group drew one of the biggest crowds of the three-day festival. They performed in the natural open-air amphitheatre, which had to be closed off by security due to safety concerns as an unprecedented number of festival-goers rushed to see the performance. It is estimated that 28,000 people of the 33,000 people who attended the festival crammed in to see Florence and the Machine. The amphitheatre was reopened shortly after the start, once the safety concerns were allayed. In October 2009, the band's equipment and instruments were caught in a trailer fire during their European tour, forcing the band to use rented instruments to complete their remaining shows. Welch stated, "You could hear the harp's strings ping in the fire. Strange sound. We recorded it and I want to use it in a song."
On 27 October 2009, Florence and the Machine played their first official New York City gig at the Bowery Ballroom, and performed "Kiss with a Fist" on the Late Show with David Letterman. On 5 November, the band performed "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Welch stated although she would like to tour the United States, she is fearful of becoming homesick due to the time it would take to tour the country.
After the success of Lungs topping the UK Albums Chart in January 2010, seven months after the album was released, Florence and the Machine announced an eleven-date UK and Ireland tour called The Cosmic Love Tour in May 2010. Support acts include Babe Shadow and The Drums. Florence and the Machine performed at Oxegen 2010, T in the Park 2010, the Isle of Wight Festival 2010, Roskilde Festival 2010, V Festival 2010, and the San Miguel Primavera Sound 2010. In March 2010, it was that confirmed that the band's first headlining festival would be Latitude 2010, having been booked the previous September before achieving mainstream success.
The Cosmic Love Tour kicked off at Dublin's Olympia Theatre on 2 May 2010 where the group performed a new song called "Strangeness and Charm" and ended at London's Hammersmith Apollo on 15 May 2010. On 25 June, the group played the Glastonbury Festival 2010, where they performed "Strangeness and Charm" and a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" during their ten-song set. Their performance drew one of the biggest crowds of the day and one of the biggest in the Other Stage's history.
Welch and Dizzee Rascal's performance of a mashup version of the band's single "You've Got the Love" and Dizzee's single "Dirtee Cash", titled "You Got the Dirtee Love", at the 2010 BRIT Awards on 16 February 2010 was described as "a definite highlight of the evening". This collaboration was released as a charity single the following day, peaking at number two on the UK Singles Chart. She reprised the performance when she joined Dizzee on stage during his performance at the Glastonbury Festival 2010. Florence and the Machine opened for U2 on the North American leg of their U2 360° Tour in June and July 2011.
In an interview with New York Post 's PopWrap, Welch revealed that in the weeks and months prior to her 12 September performance at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, she was so nervous she lost sleep and cried. In addition, she struggled during the pre-show rehearsal with a move that required her to stand up on a rotating platform. The performance was directed by So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Travis Wall and had Welch performing with a host of hyperactive dancers. It was described as "both ethereal and downright joyous". After the performance, Lungs rose to number two on the iTunes albums chart and "Dog Days Are Over" rose to number nine on the iTunes singles chart. In addition, Florence and the Machine became the number-one search on Google and received 1,700 tweets per minute on Twitter. Florence and the Machine performed "Dog Days Are Over" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on 15 October 2010. On 20 November 2010, the band performed "Dog Days Are Over" and "You've Got the Love" on Saturday Night Live. They performed an online-only concert at New York City's Ed Sullivan Theater on 16 December 2010 as part of the Live on Letterman concert series. Welch and a number of other female singers opened the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards on 13 February 2011 with a tribute to an ailing Aretha Franklin. On 27 February 2011, Welch replaced pregnant Dido and sang her portion of Best Original Song nominee "If I Rise" (from 127 Hours) with A. R. Rahman at the 83rd Academy Awards. Two years of worldwide touring are scheduled to promote Ceremonials.
Welch led a tribute to Amy Winehouse by performing Winehouse's song "Back to Black" and the Annie Lennox-classic "Walking on Broken Glass'" during the VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul concert held in December 2011. The group performed in Times Square on 31 December 2011 for the 40th annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve special.
In July 2012 the group was forced to cancel two European dates after Welch sustained a vocal injury. She was able to recover and perform at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal on 3 August 2012. On 9 September, Welch performed three songs at the wedding of close friend Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Welch broke her foot leaping from the stage at the 2015 Coachella Festival but planned on continuing to tour.
Florence Welch has been compared to other female singers such as Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux, PJ Harvey, and Björk. During an interview, Welch cited Grace Slick as her influence and "hero". Florence and the Machine's style has been described as "dark, robust and romantic". Their music is a mix of "classic soul and midnight-on-the-moors English art rock". Welch stated that her lyrics related to Renaissance artists: "We're dealing with all of the same things they did—love and death, time and pain, heaven and hell." From 2008, Welch had a relationship with Stuart Hammond, a literary editor; their temporary split provided inspiration for much of the Lungs album. In 2011 the couple announced that they had broken up by mutual decision because of conflicting career demands; the break-up provided material for Florence and the Machine's second album. American singer Bridgit Mendler cited the band as one of her biggest influences.
Florence and the Machine won the Critic's Choice Award at the 2009 Brit Awards after coming third in the BBC's Sound of 2009 poll. As well as attention from the BBC, the band received significant support from NME magazine, who included them on their annual Shockwaves NME Awards Tour for 2009, along with Glasvegas, Friendly Fires and White Lies.
The Sunday Times described Welch as "the most peculiar and most highly acclaimed female singer of the moment" and "the latest in a line of great English pop eccentrics". AllMusic referred to Lungs as "one of the most musically mature and emotionally mesmerising albums of 2009". Spin magazine rated Lungs eight out of ten and wrote, "You've gotta hand it to the girl: She always makes you feel something." The magazine named it the eighth best album of 2009. In December 2010, Florence and the Machine appeared on one of Spin 's three holiday issue covers as Artist of the Year.
Florence and the Machine won the MasterCard British Album award for Lungs at the 2010 Brit Awards, having also been nominated for British Female Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Act. On 19 February 2010, Florence and the Machine won Best International Band at the 2010 Meteor Awards. The group led the nominations for the 2010 MOJO Awards, with four nods. They received a nomination for Best New Artist at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. In April 2011, Florence and the Machine were ranked 50 in the 2011 Time 100 poll, which annually lists the 100 most influential people in the world. American recording artist Beyoncé cited Florence and the Machine as an influence for her 2011 album 4.
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