Originally published in
Pages
,
August 2010
Hit me with your rhythm sticks
Diamonds aren’t Florrie’s best friend, her drum kit is. While most girls would do kill for a brilliant cut diamond poised upon their finger, all this 21-year-old noisemaker wants between hers is her sticks. “You are either born with rhythm or you’re not. It can’t be learnt,” she says, resolutely. “It’s something you feel.”
You are either born with rhythm or you’re not. It can’t be learnt

Born in Bristol, UK, a six-year-old Florence Arnold was on a family holiday in Greece when she fell under the spell of percussion. “We went to a taverna each night to hear the same band play. I became totally mesmerised by the drummer, so on the last evening he asked me if I wanted to tap the hi-hat. I did a good job.”

Florrie asked for a drum kit for Christmas, and did her first gig the at school dressed as a fish. Why? “Because the song was about the sea. Everyone else danced while I was trying to play drums with a tail. I couldn’t reach the pedals.” She won a drumming scholarship to a private school, learnt the guitar too, and grew up on a diet of Avril Lavigne, Spice Girls and her dad’s Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley records.

By 17, she’d formed her own girl group, Fifi Saloon, and moved to London, where she gigged constantly for two years in numerous bands. Then she auditioned to join the house band for pop production house Xenomania, aka Brian Higgins and Miranda Cooper, and soon found herself playing on songs for Kylie, Pet Shop Boys and Girls Aloud. For a year Higgins showed her the ropes in the studio and now, Florrie stepping out as a solo artist.

So far deliberately unsigned (“I want to build a fan base and respect for my music first.”), she’s been busy giving her tracks away as free downloads on her website. Call 911, Panic Attack and Fascinate Me are near perfect slices of dazzling electronic pop. Sonic stories about that gooey feeling when you fancy someone, or want to dance, they are songs so sparkly it’s little wonder Florrie doesn’t crave precious stones. Each one also comes with effervescent remixes by Fred Falke.

The French connection doesn’t end there. Call 911 features on the latest mix CD by Parisian fashion and music label Kitsuné, courtesy of PonyStep and Jerry Bouthier. Plus she’s the face – and voice – of the new Nina Ricci perfume L’Elixir. In the advert she sings her special version of Blondie’s Sunday Girl, and wanders around a magical forest dressed as a princess. “The trees were white, the floor was pink and there was glitter in the air – it was crazy. I enjoyed pretending to be a princess for a week during filming but I had to wear these very high heels. By the end I was so blistered they had to cut holes in them.”

Despite being a wistfully beautiful blonde, Florrie has never been a girly girl so it’s only recently that she’s begun to get into fashion. “It’s an interesting world. I know I can’t rock up gigs in jeans all the time but I’m no Lady Gaga. I like classic fashion - Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face is amazing.”

Florrie makes funny faces of her own while drumming but she doesn’t care how silly she looks. “I’ve made the same faces since I was little, my tongue sticks out and I don’t even realise it, but it shows how much fun drumming is. I’m in the moment,” she says. “The drums are a boys’ instrument so I want to inspire girls to play the drums.”

Karen Carpenter, Sheila E, Meg White, Lori Barbero – the list of famous female drummers isn’t long, but it is mighty. If recent performances from behind her stand up drum kit - and her promises of more raw, mid tempo material to come - are anything to go by, we’ll soon be adding Florrie to this priceless list.

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