Once, during the haze that has been Florence Welch’s never-ending touring life, she had an especially wild after-party. She can’t remember when it occurred exactly or what went down during. “But I remember afterward. I lost a tooth! Well, I chipped it. But I don’t know how! There was a party. And there was a bill. I accidentally set fire to the hotel room with a tea light. And all I know is that the bar bill from the hotel was more expensive than the fire bill,” she says, a twinge of disbelief still coloring her voice. “That was the most extreme hangover I’ve ever had. Try imagining those calls in the morning.”
Welch — she of the critically adored, monstrously successful Florence and the Machine albums “Lungs” and “Ceremonials” — is only 25. But she has the war stories of an aging rock star. And in certain ways, she comes off like one, too — more 1960s Rolling Stones than Adele. It’s a mesmerizing wildness that you don’t see with groomed pop idols anymore.
And yet Welch’s joie de vivre coexists with a kind of well-worn pragmatism that comes with the weight of life and responsibility.
“I ended up deciding to drink less while I was touring,” she says. “It was for my voice. It’s really hard to sing and keep up the pace that we were going at. It’s OK for the first bits, when you don’t know where you’re going. But now that I have more of an idea of the longevity of it, I’d like to have a career like PJ Harvey or Bjork who are still producing albums and have these voices. I realized if I wanted to have a career like theirs, I’d have to temper my indulgences.”
The vintage rocker side of Welch comes, in part, from her dad, who made his career in advertising but tried his hand at music when he was young. He introduced little Florence to bands like Velvet Underground and Love — and it paid off. He got to live vicariously through his daughter when he drove her band’s van around Europe during their first tour. (Florence’s siblings and step-family, whom she’s really close to, often accompany her on the road and her sister works as her PA.) “We definitely didn’t have to tone things down when he was around,” she says.
Then there was her round of toasts with Beyonce backstage at the Isle of Wight festival: not quite a bender, but a memorable party moment for Welch nonetheless. “I was on just before Jay-Z and she passed me and went, ‘Ah!’ And I went, ‘Ah!’ And she was like, ‘It’s such an honor to meet you!’ And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s such an honor to meet you!’ Then she, Kanye and I went, ‘Cheers!’ and it was so surreal,” she says.
It’s difficult to get to the heart of a person during a blind date interview, hastily arranged at a South London pub. But seeing Welch light up when telling her stories, you get the sense that she’s happiest when doing things and going places rather than sitting still. In a revealing moment before our chat, she looked especially vulnerable during a seated photo shoot, which seemed to visibly tax her. When the photographer took the last shot, her shoulders slumped over, and her fingers, covered in chunky gold Baroque rings, curled into a ball. “Today has just been …” she sighed heavily and slouched her shoulders even further.
After becoming a global success very quickly after “Lungs,” Welch reportedly had a bout of depression. But today, she’s not in the mood for self-examination. And she’s not necessarily haunted by the demons and angels she sings about. “Though I do believe one can have them internally,” she admits. And she could care less whether her glass is half empty or full: “I’d rather drink the glass and figure it out.”
Florence and the (fashion) Machine
Welch on working with Lagerfeld
“Karl [Lagerfeld] photographed my promo shots. I had spoken about how I had been influenced by Art Deco artists, and we just began scrapbooking together. It was the strangest situation I’ve ever been in, cutting and pasting with Karl Lagerfeld. He does it all himself, sticking things down and basically making a mood board. And we took the inspiration for the photographs from that.”
Walking the walk
“When I sang [‘What the Water Gave Me’ at the Chanel S/S ‘12 show] it was incredible. There was a moment when I was walking out hand-in-hand with Karl and I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’ I don’t know how to walk. But it was a beautiful experience.”
Get the look
Nail Welch’s pre-Raphaelite style with these romantic colors and foolproof skin and hair perfecters.
The wind-swept hair
1. Erdem floral print silk headband, $140, www.netaporter.com
2. Bumble and bumble Hair (Un)dressing Creme, $33, www.bumbleandbumble.com
The natural glow
3. Benefit Sugarbomb Sugar Rush Flush face powder, $28, www.benefitcosmetics.com
4. Dior Diorskin Crystal Nude Natural Matte Skin Perfecter, $40, www.dior.com