Most of Lungs was written while Florence Welch the front woman and main person of Florence + the Machine was in the throes of a relationship break-up. She told The Independent June 27, 2009 that it was the first time that her heart had ever been broken: "It was a relief. I thought, 'I've always had it coming, but now I know it will never be this bad again.' It was a sad, manic time, but that sense of complete abandonment was intoxicating, too, like riding your bicycle too fast with your eyes closed." However once the record was completed, Welch and her boyfriend got back together. She admitted to The Independent that this made things difficult as, "half the album is about breaking up with him!" She added that this song, "is about seeing your ex and it feeling like something is physically attacking you. We listen to it now and I'm like, 'Erm... Sorry about that.'"
Welch wrote this song after listening to lots of hip-hop.
Welch plays the drums herself on this track. She told Mojo magazine August 2009: "I f---ing love the drums. I want to be a drummer in someone else's band. If you know anybody looking for a drummer, hook me up. I'll find the time. The happiness I get from singing, I get from behind a drum kit as well."
The song's music video was directed by Dawn Shadforth, who is best known for helming Kylie Minogue's iconic "Can't Get You Out Of My Head
" clip. She explained to The Independent
March 12, 2010: "The idea for a video always starts with the song. Quite often the artist has things they want to say and themes they want to follow. It's a very collaborative genre of filmmaking. In 'Drumming Song,' Florence wanted to dance; she liked the idea of choreography because it's not expected of her. I was thinking of a virginal character who is wanton underneath. I wanted her to be like a disco gargoyle."
Welch discussed the song on her website: "This is about when there's that electricity between you, and a boy, and it's completely unspoken. When they're standing in front of you and you can't breathe, can't think, can't do anything properly. I'm really geeky – if I like someone, I just become incapable. I remember with my first boyfriend, walking past the window of a pub, seeing he was in there and literally throwing myself on the ground and crawling on the floor because I was so scared! I feel things quite intensely, which is probably why the music is quite intense. If I really like someone, I like someone; if I'm sad, I'm sad.
I was listening to a lot of hip hop, and I wanted to make something that had that kind of beat to it. To me it's the most forward-thinking music around. No one else is moving forward at such a pace! Again, it's really Gothic imagery – fairy tales and Edgar Allen Poe stories. I'd read a lot of Gothic horror when I was a kid. Also things like Sylvia Plath – I've always been a kind of literary miserablist!"
The ex-boyfriend, whom Welch wrote much of Lungs about, was a guy named Stuart that she met through friends in around 2005. Stuart worked in a bookshop, Welch fell in love with him but by the middle of 2008, the relationship was over. The pair later patched things up got back together and according to an article in the October 30, 2011 edition of The Observer, he is now the literary editor of Dazed & Confused.