Lately it seems like all of the moments in Florence and the Machine frontwoman Florence Welch’s life are surreal. From being called on stage by childhood hero Billie Joe Armstrong to being portrayed on Saturday Night Live by Katy Perry, Welch is the darling of the music industry at the moment.
We spoke with her backstage at KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas shows in L.A. about some of those surreal moments, her 2012 plans and why, now that she’s single, she could play David Bowie in a movie.
You played the other night in Oakland with Green Day at a radio station show. Was it everything you imagined?
I got to live out my 11-year-old fantasies – I got to go on stage with Green Day. Billie Joe called my name from the stage. Dookie was the first album I ever bought. I covered the whole of Nimrod and he’d heard it. That was like the 11-year-old girl dreamed.
Gavin Rossdale also had amazing things to say about you. What does it mean to get that kind of love from other artists?
Bush and Green Day are bands I listened to when I was growing up as a grunge-y kid in London. These bands were such protection for me and were such a sense of identity and belonging to something. When you’re kind of an awkward teenage girl in South London, they kind of save you from the perils of being a pre-teen. That’s what Billie Joe said to me when I got on stage. He said, “Sorry for stealing your childhood” (laughs). ‘Cause when I met him after my set I said, “The first album I bought was Dookie, and Nimrod is, like, the best album ever.” So it just feels surreal and amazing. You can never imagine that kind of thing happening. It’s wonderful, but it is so far removed from your idea of what will happen to you in life.
Did you see the Saturday Night Live where Katy Perry played you?
I heard about that! I saw a picture. She looked good. They got the center parting and the green dress. I haven’t seen it, but I heard she did a really good job. It’s kind of amazing, but I love the Saturday Night Live people. We performed on there just the other day. They’re so friendly, and I really love Katy Perry, so I feel really honored. I saw a picture of her as me and I was like, “Yeah” (laughs).
If there was ever to be the Florence and the Machine movie, who would play you?
That would be a long and complicated film. Who could do it? Katy could do it now that she’s had some practice. I’d like to get [David] Bowie from his Ziggy Stardust stage and import him to do the film. I love that man.
Have you ever met him?
No. I have impersonated him, though, at a [Metropolitan Museum of Art] ball with bleached eyebrows. We were doing an [Alexander] McQueen tribute and, trying to encapsulate Bowie to perform “Rebel, Rebel,” I came out of the Temple of Dendur in Bowie’s Chinese cape, with full bleached eyebrows, [and I] walked out in this audience that included Mick Jagger, Madonna, Colin Firth. That was definitely the pinnacle of weird moments in my life, where I’m dressed as Bowie doing this dance with Paul McCartney. Iman was going, “Whew,” and I’m like, “My God, my life is so weird!” I’m coming out of the Temple Of Dendur, the most ancient Egyptian artifact, dressed as David.
Maybe you could do the Bowie movie?
Oh my god, I would love to do that. I’m down to bleach my eyebrows again. I tell you what, though – that didn’t go down well with my boyfriend. Girls love it. Guys, not so into it.
He has to understand, it‘s for the art.
I’m not dating anyone anymore, so I can do whatever I want to my face.
What is coming up in 2012?
I’ve seen the diary all the way to 2013, actually terrifying. But it’s basically a lot of touring – coming here, going back to the U.K., coming here, Europe. Then the festival season starts, then I get institutionalized (laughs). Then the musical.
Any of the new songs you‘re surprised by how people are responding to them at these radio shows?
I think “Spectrum” is going down really well, and it is a grunge-y, punk-y audience, and “Spectrum” is in part a disco song. But we play it hard, and it’s a real euphoric, wailing tune. It’s kind of like a total house anthem, in a way, but it seems to be going down really well. We’ve got all the grunge kids going mad for disco house raves.
Growing up, I always wanted to be in punk bands, so I’m really enjoying the harder, heavier element. It’s always been my dream to have people moshing at my gig, kind of that really feral element of the music coming out more. I love crowd-surfing. We had the whole crowd jumping up and down in unison. It was amazing.