Florence x Vincent
Photography by Vincent Haycock, Emma Holley
Two people at the top of their game.
An interesting, informal and intimate chat between two incredibly creative people. This is what happened when film director Vincent Haycock and singer/songwriter Florence Welch interviewed each other.
VINCENT interviews FLORENCE
What do you look for when you’re putting visuals to a song?
When I make music it’s very visual, and I think training in contemporary dance has really opened up music videos for me, because I see a lot of movement in them now. I kind of start choreographing in my head while I’m demo-ing. It’s hard to get music videos right, I think. You usually have only four minutes to get your point across. (Which is why I enjoyed our long form project because it gave us a lot of freedom.) But I guess I look for painterly visuals. I like things to be beautiful in an unsettling way.
Do you think of visuals while you’re writing?
A lot of my songs have characters and stories in them, so they do start to solidify as I’m writing. I even think of the ‘song’ as a character in itself. (To me he kind of looks like Nick Cave.) And he comes to me and shows me all kinds of dark and dangerous landscapes.
Has a visual ever changed the way you felt about the song after it’s been created?
I do really feel that the video we made for “What Kind of Man” elevated that song to another level. It was one of the most harrowing and emotional shoots, as I was still in the real depths of heartbreak. But it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. The visuals you created captured something I don’t think even the song itself could really express.
Is there a visual or story you have yet to make?
There’s a Julia Armfield short story collection called Salt Slow that I love. There’s a short story in there called “Stop Your Women’s Ears with Wax.” It’s about a female rock band whose music sends their female fans into a kind of homicidal trance. And not to spoil the plot but the band might shapeshift into crows as well? I read it recently and it was so evocative of the furious love of fandom. I think it would make a beautiful short film. And I think I could play a ‘half- woman, half-crow’ invoking young girls into a murderous frenzy quite easily.
Who would you love to collaborate with living or dead?
It would have to be Pina Bausch. She has held my hand from beyond the grave in everything I do. One of the last things I saw before the theatres shut was her Bluebeard at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. It was simultaneously sensual, soft, violent, haunting, harrowing. Women wrenching pas- tel gowns from themselves in a stage littered with autumn leaves. Climbing the walls, hanging like ghosts in the air. She speaks to the very heart of me and says something about the human experience that is indescribable in words.
Whose visual collaborations do you admire? Besides yours and mine 🙂
I think everything Solange creates visually is always so stunning. Her art direction always blows me away, she’s truly an extraordinary director and artistic visionary. I also have such a soft spot for anything Spike Jonze did with the Beastie Boys. The video for “Sabotage” still brings me so much joy.
When was the last time you fell in love with something and were able to attain it?
I’m not sure? I’m very acquisitive, which is something I wrestle with. I love stuff. I love vintage clothes and books and odd objects. I’ve never even flirted with minimalism. One of the only things we wrestled with stylistically on The Odyssey was the lack of patterns. That orange vest is maybe the only minimal thing I’ve ever allowed. So, I fall in love almost daily with some kind of doodad or dusty book.
When was the last time you fell in love with something you made but then had to let it go?
It’s a funny thing making stuff. As imaginative as you think your idea is, you can be sure that someone out there is having it at exactly the same time as you. Meditation has taught me that we are all tapped into one shared creative consciousness. And what you think is your “revolutionary idea” is actually something that’s bubbling up in this collective subconscious. So, you often have to let things go, because it went to someone else. But usually I think the idea that is meant for you will reach you.
What’s your single most favorite image?
I don’t really have one I don’t think. I’m a very sensorily sensitive person so I can sort of just enjoy going for a walk and looking around. I love old buildings, but also any kind of leftover industrial architecture, like water towers or gas- works. My old house where we shot “Ship to Wreck” had a big green gasworks at the end of it, and it looked like a cathedral to me. Gasworks green is still one of my favorite colors. But from art itself I’m continually inspired by Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series—any one of those could be my favorite image of all time.
FLORENCE interviews VINCENT
We did a video early on that referenced a Sam Shepard short story. Are there any books or plays that are influencing you right now?
I still read lots of poems and plays constantly. I find poetry really inspiring when I’m looking for inspiration. The simplicity of imagery that it evokes easily translates to filmmaking. The most recent poetry I’ve been reading is by Danez Smith. I really like Don’t Call Us Dead and Homie.
When you work with an artist, what is it that you want to see from their performance, what kind of artists are you drawn to?
I’m always drawn to honesty. I love when an artist will break their character or performance to show a “more raw” side, or perhaps a side we haven’t seen before. When we worked together on the first “Sweet Nothing,” I remember how different it was for you and I loved you taking on this new character. And then again in “Lover to Lover.” I also really admire when an artist is willing to be uncomfortable, or experiment. Which is why I’ve always loved our collaborations, I’m not sure you have ever said no to me.
We referenced Dante’s Inferno in The Odyssey. What’s your favorite classical image?
I’d say it has to be something from Caravaggio or Gustav Doré. Inferno, “Canto 29,” the image where the man is holding his own severed head has always stuck with me, someday I would love to re-create it.
What are you working on right now? Are you finding inspiration in the chaos?
I actually have been incredibly inspired. I think chaos/heart- break/pain is an obvious inspiration. The state of the world has really been heavy for me. Living in LA and seeing the suffering that people have been going through with BLM, the fires, and Covid has changed me in fundamental ways that I’m not sure will ever go back to the way it was before.
But out of this has come some great changes in how I live, spend my time and my motivation. I’ve used the later part of this time to actually try and remove the chaos around me and find peace with my family. We have been living in Montana and I spent the last three months adapting a short story by Jorge Luis Borges into a feature film, and I’m almost finished. Also, I have returned to writing my film about the internet/4chan and really enjoying getting back into it.
Whose direction do you admire?
I love so many directors. I really admire most directors, it’s such an impossible task to make something good — it takes so much patience and practice and time. So I would say I admire all of them, but if I have to pick a couple off the top of my head and, in no particular order, I would say I really love Paweł Pawlikowski’s last two movies Ida and Cold War. I loved Mati Diop’s film, Atlantics. I think my friend AG has been making some amazing art installation work lately, and lastly, I’m really excited for the new Dune.
What’s your favorite film of all time?
This is even harder than direction. An almost impossible question. I think it changes with my mood every year, but with- out much thought probably something like Paris, Texas or Apocalypse Now.
What album are you listening to right now?
Music without lyrics is what I’ve been after mostly. I’ve been listening to Nils Frahm and Alice Coltrane a lot lately. Jazz and quiet piano music seems to help my focus these days.
Who would you most like to make a music video with living or dead?
I think it would have to be 2Pac, Elvis, Nick Cave, John Lennon or maybe like Prince? Also, it would be amazing to make a video for Beethoven.
Your work is always visually stunning. What is your conception of “beauty”?
I think beauty is a mix of vulnerability and power. Raw emotion and magic mixed together. I think when things are only “beautiful” they become boring, passive. But when there is something harsh, within a beautiful context, it becomes really interesting to me. I like to find beauty in things that are maybe not on the surface obviously beautiful.
There were so many interesting time loops and a very nonlinear structure to The Odyssey. Was this something specific to our project? Or do you prefer working with a surrealist narrative?
I think I feel most comfortable working in a way where you can re-imagine real life. I’m always trying to find authenticity, use moments from my real life, or things I observe but I usually end up adding some surrealist things that augment it. I can never just settle for straight reality. I think I like it most when disjointed images are strung together to create a very different and new idea than they were individually intended for. Sometimes I do this very deliberately and sometimes I do it subconsciously, but I find myself always doing it.