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Interview:
Florence and the Machine stay on top of the pressure
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Florence Welch acknowledges there was a bit of apprehension as she went into the studio to make "Ceremonials," the second album by her band Florence and the Machine.

"There's always that kind of thing with any record," says Welch, whose group was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2011. "Now people are saying to me, 'Oh, the third one, that's the tough one. That's the really difficult one.'

"The difficult third record? What about the difficult second record? And the first one was the hardest one of them all! So when does it ever get easy?"

Welch and company have certainly made it look easy, however.

Both of the British septet's albums -- "Ceremonials" and 2009's "Lungs," have debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. and sold more than six million copies worldwide. In the U.S., "Lungs" hit No. 14 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum, while "Ceremonials" -- which has already spawned five singles -- has gone gold.

Welch, meanwhile, has embraced the idea of being both a star and a frontwoman -- and the responsibilities that come with it.

"The big thing is the amount of discipline that I have now that I didn't used to," explains Welch, who started the group in 2007 with keyboardist Isabella "Machine" Summers. "This life kind of takes you up and puts you down; you have to be prepared for it because your time is not your own anymore.

"When we started, if we drank half a bottle of vodka on stage or something, who cared? There wasn't a sense of longevity to it. It was very much of the moment, because every gig could be your last gig.

"But right now I think we're at a state where hopefully there will be longevity in it, and I feel much more of a sense of responsibility to the fans and to the show. And my health is much more important to me as well. We're just becoming much more interested in our craft than in getting wasted."

The best-laid plans don't always work, of course; a vocal cord injury forced Welch to bow out of a pair of concerts earlier this summer in Spain and Portugal, but she recovered in time for a North American tour that's built off not only her commercial success but also a string of shows last summer opening for U2, including at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

"It did feel like you're going out for combat, in a way," she recalls. "You feel kind of anonymous because of how big it is, but at the same time you've got kind of free reign to do what you want. It's like a festival, really. There's something about the atmosphere at those big stadiums that's so electrifying. You can see the sky. It's almost like it's easier, in a way."

By contrast, Welch says, her own shows are decidedly more intimate, designed to showcase the nuances of the Machine's baroque, electronic-tinged pop, which is distinguished by Tom Monger's harp. That, she explains, means more focus on the sound than the shows, though there's an inherent drama to the group's arrangements that Welch also hopes to capture.

"I want it to be a representation of where I am as an artist right now," she explains, "so I guess there's not too many bells and whistles to it. We're trying to keep it a lot just about the music and showcase ('Ceremonials'), for people to really get involved in the sound and the feeling behind it.

"Luckily, I think that the two records seem to fit well together, and they're working well so far. And people are responding really well to the new (songs). That's a lovely feeling to shake it out and get that good reaction. It gives you confidence moving forward, I think."

Florence and the Machine and the Walkmen perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31 at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are sold out. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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