St. Vincent On Her New Album – Interview + Videos

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Annie Clark. Photo: Renata Raksha/Courtesy of the artist

Teased late last year in a series of cryptic , the forthcoming self-titled album from is one of the most anticipated of 2014. In a conversation with All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, singer and guitarist Annie Clark gets into the stories behind the new record, .

Though her look on the cover suggests an evil overlord, Clark says the songs on St. Vincent were born in vulnerable moments — a chemical-induced hallucination starring a dead civil rights activist, and a standoff with a snake in which she literally couldn’t have been more exposed, just to name a few. Read an edited version below, or click the audio link to hear the full interview, including exclusive previews of brand-new music.

Q: You start off this new record, basically, by taking your clothes off and running around the desert. It almost seems like a true story, the way it was written and sung.

A: It is, in fact, a true story. It’s a song called “Rattlesnake.” I was in far, far West Texas, at a friend of mine’s cattle ranch, a place that’s been in her family for years and years and years. And I was walking around, and I was alone, and I thought that it would elevate the experience to take my clothes off and be one with nature and all these things. Of course, I’m such a city girl that I don’t know anything about nature without Google at my fingertips — but I was feeling inspired. So I took my clothes off, and I was having this commune with nature, when, all of a sudden, I heard something. I stopped and I thought, “Okay, maybe that’s the wind. Maybe that’s just a little squirrel scampering through the brush.” And then I heard it again, and it was very distinct: It was a rattle. And I turned my head just slightly, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a rattlesnake. And I just took off running.

Q: Did the making of this record overlap with Love This Giant, the project you did last year with ?

A: I went and did a year of touring on my last record, Strange Mercy, and that bled right into touring Love This Giant with David. And then I had a little window of time, October to December, and I thought I was going to take that off and just learn how to make soup or whatever — I mean, just be a person. But I did not do that. I got home and I started writing this record about 36 hours after I finished a year of touring.

Q: Workaholic, Annie?

A: No, never! I just can’t think of anything better to do. … Being on tour is sort of like being in the midst of a tornado, and then all of a sudden you’re dropped down and everything is sort of askew in pieces around you. I mean, I love it. I don’t mean to paint it like it’s a bad thing; it’s not at all. But I think, actually, the healthiest thing for me to do was to try to process the past year and a half’s worth of experiences. I’d been collecting ideas, and had melodies that I woke up singing in dreams. I had all this stuff that really wanted to finally have a chance to get down on paper.

Q: When I listen to your records — and this is a good thing — I have a hard time distinguishing the sounds. You know, I don’t know if I’m hearing a guitar or a synth. And I think of you as such a fantastic guitarist. Is that a line that you’re intentionally blurring when you play?

A: I love playing guitar, and I’ve been playing it for more of my life than not — but I’m not as interested in kind of recreating the old lexicon of rock guitar. It’s great, and it’s an amazing history, but I’m interested in what else a guitar can sound like. And I think that’s the general vibe on this record. It’s all organic sounds; it’s all people playing in a room for the most part, especially the rhythm section. But the sounds get processed to the point where they sound inorganic, so you get kind of the best of both worlds: You get the feel of a human, but the sound of a machine.

St. Vincent – Digital Witness (OFFICIAL AUDIO)

Q: It’s funny you mention the lexicon of rock ‘n’ roll. I think about the average 18 to 20-year-old listening to music now, and so little of it is guitar-driven music. So much of it is layers and textures of all sorts of sounds that have no point of origin.

A: Yeah, I think that most of the music that people listen to today is probably not the product of three people in a room, “just feelin’ it” in a rock way. It’s more about creating worlds. A lot of it’s being made on the computer; I would venture to say that 99 percent of it is. … And I think we’re in a world where people feel like they can beg, borrow and steal from any genre and it’s fair game, and that’s exciting. You don’t want to get stuck in any one thing.

Q: You have a cut on the new record called “Huey Newton.” Tell us about that.

A: I was traveling so much last year on tour, and I was prescribed Ambien, which is a sleeping drug, just to help get over jetlag. So I was in a hotel room in Helsinki, and I took a whole Ambien. What happens if you take Ambien and you go to bed is that you sleep like a baby. But if you take it and for some reason can’t fall asleep, you just trip — I mean, you straight-up hallucinate. So I was in this hotel room, and I hallucinated that Huey Newton was there with me. And we really bonded; we kind of had a heart-to-heart.

Q: When you’re in this thing, when you’re having this dream-state conversation with this political activist from the ’60s who’s now long gone, do you think, “This is a song”? Where’s the connection between the event and starting to work on a record?

A: I wrote the words to this song in probably five minutes, in a very feverish sort of state. And it’s so stream-of-consciousness. You know when you’re online and you go, “I really need to look up the Irish potato famine.” And then, next thing you know, you make a pit stop at the Black Plague. And then you’re like, “Oh wait, what is Kate Middleton wearing?” And then you’re like, “Oh! Huey Newton.” It was sort of meant to feel like that.

Q: Describe the cover art for us.

A: The theme is “near-future cult leader.” I’m wearing this metallic dress, and my hair, I look like I stuck my finger in a light socket. … The throne that I’m sitting on is inspired by the , which is very much about elemental shapes. The other inspiration was Jodorowsky’s , which is a movie from the ’70s that features all this really intense, bizarro imagery.

Q: Do you have a favorite song on the new record?

A: I have a lot of favorites, but I’m a fan of the song “Birth in Reverse” for a few reasons — one of which is that it totally reminds me of a song, and I wish that I could get Fred Schneider from The B-52’s to do his version of it. Fred Schneider, if you’re listening, I need a remix.

St. Vincent – Birth In Reverse (OFFICIAL AUDIO)

The Strokes: Their music is beautiful anger

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No great band is born without a struggle and no great records are born in a vacuum. For every artist whose ideas make your wig spin there are a huge pile of influences – from specks of color to swathes of sound – that delivered them to that point.

How can you not love a band that picked up the final piece of their jigsaw at an exclusive Swiss boarding school? As far as fairy-tale beginnings go, that’s up there with the very best of them. Julian Casablancas already knew Nikolai Fraiture, Nick Valensi and Fabrizio Moretti from school in New York, in fact they’d even played together a little, but it was Dirty Harry fan Albert Hammond Jr. who completed the picture. “My intention was always to take undergroundish, cool music and make it mainstream,” Julian said in 2009. “We haven’t achieved that”, but there’s so much they have achieved. Once described as having, “an indefinable quality of togetherness”, The Strokes redefined the idea of the gang, that indivisible unit with a look and a creative aesthetic so well honed it would shame AC/DC. It was Albert who said, “our music is beautiful anger”, and that’s as good a description of their needle-sharp looseness that you’re ever likely to hear. But what got them there in the first place?

As teenagers Julian and Nikolai were huge fans of LA scuzz-rockers Jane’s Addiction – legend has it there’s a live video of the band from 1997 that both are visible in. Julian was a huge fan of Pearl Jam and Nirvana while away at school, while he would later say the gift of a Doors tape from his step-dad would, “change his life. I had a sense I could do something like that.” Among Fabrizio’s first loves was Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, he considered the drums on ‘Billie Jean’ were among, “the greatest sounds ever recorded”, while Nick was all about Guns N’ Roses – another classic band-as-gang. Elder statesmen of Pop fans will note that the first record Albert ever bought was Billy Joel’s 1989 hit, ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’. Hmmm.

New York City Copped

The Ramones: the ultimate gang, beautifully ugly, masters of melodic dissonance. Blondie: Super-bright pop genius. The Velvet Underground: Nikolai and Julian’s teenage heroes. Talking Heads: their debut album, ’77’, was a sonic touchstone for ‘Room On Fire’. What’s remarkable about The Strokes is how quickly they became an integral part of the fabric of their city’s musical life.

All Mixed Up

“Between the five of us there’s this weird medley of influences,” Julian said a decade ago. He went on to mention Dayton, Ohio hyper-productive garage heroes Guided By Voices, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s awesome Replacements and another New Yorker, early-80s mega-pop titan, Cyndi Lauper. Triangulated somewhere in the middle – and to the left – of those three is Sonic Youth, whose 1994 single ‘Bull In The Heather’ directly influenced The Strokes’ 2003 single ’12:51′ (in fact, “I’m totally ripping it off,” Julian would later admit).

From The Outfield

You’d have to have especially well-tuned ears to hear Bob Marley in The Strokes, but Julian always considered him a better chronicler of the human condition than even Bob Dylan. In the very late 70s and early 80s Boston’s new-wave crew The Cars nailed a particularly spindly-legged pop-punk whose echoes would crop up throughout The Strokes’ records, but can you hear the hits Albert’s dad wrote for Julio Iglesias or The Hollies? No? Are you sure…

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS – A Great Film By Two American Masters

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INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961

LLEWYN DAVIS (OSCAR ISAAC) is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles—some of them of his own making. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, scaring up what work he can find, Llewyn’s misadventures take him from the baskethouses of the Village to an empty Chicago club—on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul—and back again.

Brimming with music performed by Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan (as Llewyn’s married Village friends), as well as Marcus Mumford and Punch Brothers, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS—in the tradition of O Brother, Where Art Thou?—is infused with the transportive sound of another time and place. An epic on an intimate scale, it represents the Coen Brothers’ fourth collaboration with multiple-Grammy® and Academy Award®-winning music producer T Bone Burnett. Marcus Mumford is associate music producer.

Directors: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Producers: Scott Rudin, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake
Opening December 6, 2013 (limited)

Inside Llewyn Davis – Official Trailer [HD]

Inside Llewyn Davis – Official Trailer 2 [HD]

Black Keys, Band of Horses, John Legend to Play Super Bowl Week Shows + Auerbach’s Divorce

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The Black Keys, Band of Horses and John Legend are joining in on the Super Bowl action. AP recently reported that the three acts will perform at a series of special concerts for Citi cardholders in New York during the week leading up to the big game.

The musicians are joining a growing roster of acts performing in and around New York City as the region gears up for the Super Bowl at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on February 2nd. In addition to Bruno Mars’ halftime show at the game itself, the week will see performances by Foo Fighters, Imagine Dragons, the Roots, Fall Out Boy and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others.

The ex-wife of Black Key’s singer Dan Auerbach got an unusual divorce settlement

Divorce settlements are rarely pretty, but the one currently being negotiated between Black Keys front-man Dan Auerbach and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Stephanie Gonis, has gotten especially hairy. According to court documents allegedly leaked to TMZ, Gonis will receive more than $5 million in the settlement, along with a lock of Bob Dylan’s hair.

The report made no mention of exactly how Auerbach came into possession of the odd relic, but it was apparently referenced among the list of shared assets as “Bob Dylan Hair.” Gonis will also get to keep the couple’s Toyota Highlander and one of their shared homes.

Auerbach announced that he planned to divorce Gonis in February, but the divorce seemed to escalate in August when a series of shocking details were leaked to the press. According to TMZ, Auerbach claimed in court documents that Gonis had been suicidal and had attempted to kill herself twice in one day in front of the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Sadie.

In the first attempt, Gonis allegedly cut gashes in her legs and ankles while their daughter was present; in the second, she set fire to their house. In response, Gonis’ lawyer produced legal documents claiming Auerbach had been abusive toward her and alleging that the act of self-harm had been the product of that abuse. Gonis also alleged that the fire had been an accident, and not a suicide attempt.

Gonis said she had received treatment at a residential facility. A judge temporarily granted Auerbach custody of Sadie, while Gonis is allowed supervised visits. The judge added that Gonis’ additional parental rights would be revisited when she is able to convince the court she is mentally stable and not a risk to her child.

The disturbing allegations echo another rock musician’s very public split. White Stripes’ guitarist Jack White, who famously slammed Auerbach in an e-mail his ex-wife Karen Elson made public, is also involved in a custody battle over his children. Elson recently obtained a restraining order against White after accusing him of harassment.

“Wife fears for her and the children’s safety as a result of this harassment,” the restraining order said. It claimed White had reached out to Elson’s paralegal “in an inappropriate and aggressive manner.”

In addition to alleging White has a violent temper, Elson also claimed White pressured her to switch their children out of a class they shared with Auerbach’s child. In the e-mail, White wrote, “My concern with Auerbach is because I don’t want the kids involved in any of that crap. That’s a possible 12 f—ing years I’m going to have to be sitting in kids chairs next to that a–hole with other people trying to lump us in together. He gets yet another free reign to follow me around and copy me and push himself into my world.”