The hype machine has spit out another gorgeous young blonde with a knack for catchy electro-pop. George Morahan talks to Xenomania protégé Florrie
When Florrie Arnold first entered Xenomania’s country mansion HQ, she was starting as the new in-house drummer and amazed at the scale of operation in the Mecca of 21st century pop. Two and half years and a number of well-received singles later; she is now being touted as the über-production company’s latest chart starlet.
“I think when I came to Xenomania, I was thrown in at the deep end. Two weeks after I had started, I was drumming on [Girls Aloud’s smash-hit] ‘The Promise’.” In her first few weeks on the job she had not only met the chart-topping girl group, but also icons such as the Pet Shop Boys and Johnny Marr. Such rapid change had to be taken in stride as she focused on the transition from anonymous drummer to singer-songwriter.
“I’d be writing these songs and I’d want to sing them myself,” she laughs. “It was a drawn-out process, I would demo the tracks and then I would play them to Brian.” Brian Higgins, Xenomania founder and the mastermind behind many of the songs playing on your radio right now took Florrie under his wing two years ago and exerted a great influence on the 22-year-old Bristolian.
“Brian has an amazing ear; he will hear things that I wouldn’t notice. I think he has a unique talent as a producer’s ear which is not something you can learn to have.”
Having been in various bands since leaving school, Florrie was no stranger to writing and performing, but her professional music career has originally been exclusively as a drummer. It seems logical that going from the shadows to becoming the focal point on stage would be a daunting proposition, but apparently it hasn’t even fazed Miss Arnold.
“The drummer is like the backbone of the band, but I guess there is more pressure on me now. I don’t get as nervous out front as I did when I was drumming.”
While she is unconcerned about the rigors of live shows, Florrie tries to avoid the talk of her spearheading Xenomania’s latest wave of attack on the pop charts and the added expectation it puts on her. Florrie is the most prominent among a new breed of Xenomania acts that includes the likes of Jessie Malakouti and Alex Gardner, but her “quietly confident and driven” nature allows her to focus on her own work rather than fretting about her competition.
“I don’t take a lot of notice of other stuff going on,” she insists. “I just like to work with other musicians and make the music I want to make. It may not fit a mould or go to number one; but I like to think there is something different about it.”
It seems that Florrie has truly embraced the Xenomania ethos; the one that preaches innovation and originality in the face of pop music’s inferior reputation, of formula and naked profiteering, to more storied genres.
“I think our style of music is quite adventurous. You can’t pin Xenomania to one singular sound, because it’s constantly evolving, and I’m perfectly happy to do that.”
Such an aspirational approach to writing mere pop songs is the key to the mass acclaim garnered by Xenomania. However, people will look at the songs’ agents, such as Florrie, and see a blatant attempt to follow in the footsteps of similar, popular acts such as Little Boots and Ellie Goulding, but it’s not a problem that she dwells upon.
“I think as long as I have fun, I’ll be happy. That’s the reason I’m doing it; to make music that people want to listen to and to enjoy myself on stage.”
Away from the music, her appearance in a commercial for Nina Ricci perfume, she assures O-two, was a one-time thing. “I’m definitely not a model, not for me,” she claims. “I was dancing around dressed as a princess, which isn’t how I am. It was a very dream-like scenario.”
The clip, scored to Florrie’s cover of Blondie’s ‘Sunday Girl’, was shown in 56 countries last year and has been deeply beneficial to Florrie’s fledgling career, but it remains that Florrie will more likely be seen on Popjustice rather than in the pages of Vogue.
Having grown up with a “Beatles nut” for a father and an anachronistic taste for 50s singers such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, Florrie has always had a taste for music outside the trends, which can only help when working at Xenomania. Yet, like most young girls circa 1996, she also loved the Spice Girls, showing an understanding of and a respect for pop’s vivacious essence – a requisite quality for someone creating a career out of making that song that’s stuck in your head.
Florrie plays at The Academy 2 on February 26th.