THE RED BULLETIN: In June your new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful reached the number one position on the U.S. Billboard charts. Considering that British acts have often had a hard time cracking America, is success here something you’ve always aimed for?
FLORENCE WELCH: I don’t know. If things haven’t taken off in certain places, I’ve never really fretted about it. It’s not really my job to worry about that kind of stuff. I don’t care, I just want to sing and make music. It’s not my job to worry about the numbers. We’d been doing a bit of stuff in the States here and there, but it was more of an underground thing, and then all of a sudden it was like, “Oh my God!”—it was everywhere, and that was so strange, ’cause it happened so late in the game. So when I was doing U.S. tours, I also had to be in the U.K. making the second record. I was still touring the first album while trying to make the second one. I’m really grateful about what happened in the States because they seem to have really embraced it.
Not just the audience. Beyoncé cited you as an influence on her album 4. Has she ever told you that in person?
No, not in person, but I have met her, and I think she’s so sweet [laughs]. I’ve been listening to 4 a lot trying to figure out which bit maybe might have influenced her, but I don’t know, I can’t figure it out. Listening to one song, being like, “maybe this guitar part?” [Laughs]. I don’t know you’d have to ask her.
You once said that you’re not very good at expressing your feelings in real life, and your songs are a way to do that.
I think especially with people I love the most, I have a hard time with face-to-face emotional interactions. I don’t know if that’s why I perform, or if it’s because I perform—do you know what I mean? I feel maybe it’s because in performing, I have such a huge emotional outlet, and everything is expressed on such a grand scale, that when I try to express things in a small, face-to-face way, it almost feels fake. I feel like I’m not doing it properly, because you’re tearing yourself open in such a huge way it feels like there’s all these layers in front of me, and I can’t get past them—and when I’m on stage, they kind of open up.
Your passion for the supernatural and mystery runs like a golden thread through your career. Does that interest derive from your childhood?
I don’t know you’d have to ask a shrink! [Laughs]. I think it comes from a feeling of really wanting to be outside of myself, wanting nothing to ever be mundane or boring, wanting things to be magical all the time. When you are performing, you can almost create that magical landscape and you are free to indulge the childish side of yourself on stage.
Is it true you wanted to be a witch when you were a child?
Totally. There’s this amazing film from the 1990s, The Craft. I was obsessed with it. I’ve always been a total daydreamer. It was my way of dealing with things, I guess.
Does visual art have an impact on your work?
Yes, it really does—it’s a really important part of it, actually. Frida Kahlo has always inspired me, visually and lyrically—just her whole aesthetic, and how she viewed the world, and her clothes and everything. I also love the artist Ed Ruscha. He just uses massive, what he calls “hot phrases,” like “Went out for cigarettes, never came back” in this beautiful Ruscha font that he sometimes paints on beautiful mountain backgrounds.
We heard you read a lot. What’s on your bedside table?
It’s a book called One on One by my uncle Craig Brown. He’s a well-known satirist in England. It’s about meetings with prominent figures. For example, Janis Joplin befriends Patti Smith and she is treated to a sandwich by Alan Ginsberg. It’s more like snippet biographies, but they all connect. It’s really good.