Florence + the Machine is the recording name of former Camberwell Art School student Florence Welch and her backing band. This song about a kiss was one of the first songs that she'd ever written and became the prototpe for her dark, quirky and intense sound. It came about when Welch was experimenting in a friend's home studio. Instead of playing the drums, she pounded the studio walls with her hands. The fledgling songwriter picked out a melody on the piano even though it wasn't an instrument she knew how to play, and recorded the backing vocals first, before writing the top line. Welch recalled to The Sun February 2, 2009 "When I hear it, I'm hearing myself learning how to make a song, piece by piece."
Lungs was Florence + the Machine's debut album. Largely recorded in a disused synagogue, it was produced by Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford, who helped shape the Klaxons' sound, Steve Mackie (formerly of Pulp) and Paul Epworth, helmsman for Bloc Party and Kate Nash.
Welch explained to Mojo magazine August 2009 the album title: "I've done a lot of gigs where it's just been me singing, and playing a drum. Drums are really important to me they're like the heartbeat of music, and I think of the voice as the lungs. If you strip it down to its bare elements, that's what it is, the lungs and the heart. The rest of the band is the body."
Lungs spent its first five weeks on the UK chart at #2 in the summer of 2009, denied top spot by the sales of The Essential Michael Jackson following the King of Pop's death. It finally reached #1 in its 28th chart week in January 2010.
The prosthetic lungs worn by Florence Welch on the album sleeve were designed and made by art-school graduate Orlando Weeks, the singer of the Brighton based indie rock band The Maccabees. "They initially needed an illustration," he explained to The London Times January 29, 2010, "but if it was a sort of Victoriana aesthetic they were after you'd be better off making them. You start with rawhide, soak it to get it malleable, then cut it, stitch it and stuff it. That was the first time I had worked with leather. If nothing else it means I got to appear on a #1 album."
Lungs won the coveted BRIT award for Best British Album at the 2010 London ceremony.
Welch borrowed the song title from a story in a pulp fiction collection called Brute.
Florence's mother, Evelyn Welch, is a Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary College. She said to Q magazine May 2010 of the lungs on the album cover: "This is a modern art reference. The idea of the 'inside' of the body being exposed 'outside' is very early 20th century. Dada and surrealism spring to mind."
And regarding Florence's pose on the cover "This clearly resonates with John Millais's Ophelia painting conjuring then-contemporary notions of fey beauty. Florence often taps into very 19th-century Victorian ideas about womanhood. The primacy is on femininity rather than overt sexuality. I think what we experience as a result is a magical, otherworldly persona."
Welch told the story of the song on her website: "That was the first song I ever wrote by myself, so it's crazy to me that it's on the album. I was still at art college, but my first guitarist, Matt [Allchin, of The Ludes], had left and I wasn't sure how I was going to be making music. I was still doing gigs, but I wasn't sure what was going to happen. It started with the drums, dum, dum. I've always been interested in the lulls between notes and the atmosphere that silence creates. It's all about the build, and the final release – the euphoria that you can get from music. But the silence around it, and the studio hiss – I love studio hiss!
It's a song being built by someone who has no idea how to play anything, and is making it all up as they go along. The title actually comes from an 80s pulp book I'd found in a second-hand shop. It has some great titles in it. It became about a kiss – the air you share when you're kissing someone. And the way it fills you up, and you don't want the bubble to burst."