The Dream World of St. Vincent

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Annie Clark of St. Vincent

It’s thunderstorming in Barcelona, so Annie Clark – who performs as St. Vincent and who “really, really, really” wants to go to the beach – is forced to make other plans. “You visit a lot of museums and aquariums when you’re on tour,” she says, crossing the rain-slicked plaza of the Museu Blau, a natural-history museum overlooking a stretch of the Mediterranean that’s currently the same desolate gray shade as the sky. “I watch a lot of Sex and the City on tour, too,” she adds. “Not that I watch it watch it, but it’s on TBS, so it’s always fucking on.” Clark is all black from the neck down – suede ankle boots, skinny jeans, scoop-neck tee, biker jacket – and polychromatic up top, with huge green eyes and stralavender-blond curls escaping from a cobalt-colored hat, its brim ample enough to keep her cheeks dry. The Blau resembles a vast slab of soil that someone dyed blue, stabbed with shards of broken terrarium and set upon a pedestal. Clark suggested that we come here, but she is unfamiliar with the place. “What kind of museum is this?” she asks. “Oh. OK.” She says she never really went through a science-buff period: “I had a brief shark obsession, but didn’t everybody?”

What about her music, dude?

Inside the permanent exhibit, contemplating some trilobite fossils, Clark says, “It’s crazy to think about the tiny fraction of time that we’ve been on the planet.” She revises that statement: “That we’ve been a pox on it.” We head into a gallery marked Evolución, where a primate skeleton stands beside that of an early man. “I went to the Creation Museum, in Kentucky,” Clark says. She identifies as a “reformed” Catholic and intended the visit as a lark: “I thought it would be a fun adventure, but it kind of darked me out. They tell you the dinosaurs died in the flood.”

One of Clark’s preoccupations on St. Vincent is the persuasive power of cult leaders and how such figures parallel pop performers. “It’s kind of the flip side of the same coin,” she says. Pushing her sound in a more danceable direction, she says, represented an attempt to “democratize” her concerts: If people didn’t move, performances would be incomplete. For the tour, she hired the choreographer Annie-B Parson, who developed a set of mechanistic movements for Clark and her band to perform on cue, in a winking acknowledgment of the artifice that goes into seemingly spontaneous performances. (It’s also, of course, a nice bit of stagecraft.)

What about her music, dude?

Clark moves on to regard a deep-sea spider crab, preserved in a jar. “The thing that really depressed me about the Creation Museum is that the tickets aren’t cheap,” she says. “They’re, like, $25, and yet there were buses pulling up from all over, full of these people who didn’t look like they had $25 just lying around. It seemed predatory to me.” She frowns. “Why would you want to control people like that? Would you even want to? I’ve thought about it a lot, and I wouldn’t. To have people live in this weird little art world you’ve created? Fine. But to make them believe some bullshit and build their lives around it? Unh-unh.”

Religion hangs over St. Vincent’s lyrics, where she pits salvation against desire and divine fervor against earthly love. Its role in her life is similarly spectral. Clark’s grandmother baptized her in a kitchen sink “with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in another,” Clark says, adding that her parents weren’t remotely devout, but “they decided that it meant a lot to her, and it wouldn’t do any harm.” Clark was born in Oklahoma and grew up in the middle-class Dallas suburb of Lake Highlands. Clark’s dad worked in finance; she thinks his job involved “stock-y things,” but isn’t certain. “My parents separated when I was three, so I didn’t really grow up with him as much – just Christmases and summers,” she says. Money was tight: Clark’s mom was a social worker, “supporting three kids on her salary, for a long time,” she says.

Clark’s creative side manifested early. “I remember submitting a comic about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to some contest,” she recalls. (She didn’t win.) She describes herself as a shy child who suffered anxiety attacks, stemming from what she characterizes as profound existential dread at the “vastness” and chaos of the world. “When I was six or seven, I started to have really intense anxiety, and I didn’t have the tools to even know what it was.” Such attacks still overcome her, though less often, and she still finds the sensation hard to articulate: “It’s always been this little buddy of mine; it informed my entire worldview. There’s general anxiety, and then there’s panic attacks, where I have really catastrophic thoughts, where I’m not in control.” This is where art came in. “When you’re forced to deal with something big that you don’t understand, you try to find ways to interpret the universe in a way that can make you feel safer or alleviate that crazy. For me, it was music.”

Clark, 41, is in the middle of a global run of shows that began in February, promoting her fantastic new album, St. Vincent. A few months ago, the surviving members of Nirvana invited her onstage in New York, where she lives, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony; she played guitar and sang lead on “Lithium.” And last week, she brought her transfixing brand of high-concept, high-energy art rock to the Saturday Night Live season finale, then left the very next day for some Australian gigs. All the trans-hemispheric schlepping has left her severely jet-lagged. “I’m off a 30-hour flight from Sydney,” she says. “I’ve got to be up front with you: My head feels like it’s floating above my body on a thin thread. I don’t even want to pretend to stop and read all the placards and stuff in the exhibits here, because I’m not going to absorb anything. I was listening to a Proust audio book earlier, and I got nothing from it. Nothing. Except that he might be a little hung up on his mother.”

What about her music, Dude?

In conversation, Clark is a good deal like her music: wry, erudite and free-associative. Over the course of her four solo albums and a 2012 collaborative LP with David Byrne, she has gone from a prodigiously talented, occasionally over-precious genre-juggler to an assured pop visionary – establishing herself along the way as a bona fide guitar god capable of wringing both virtuoso jazz phrasings and bracingly atonal disturbances from her instrument. She’s said that St. Vincent, which sold nearly 30,000 copies in its first week, is her first LP that truly “sounds like myself.” Byrne describes her songs the way people describe Talking Heads’: “I find them accessible, but if you look closely, they’re pretty strange,” he says. “There is a nice push and pull, some energizing tension going on there. It takes some skill to keep that balance.”

Too much rhetoric, dude. But no meaningful content.

A Catalan Singer With Many Brave And Treacherous Stories To Tell

Silvia Perez Cruz

Raul Fernandez Miro and Silvia Perez Cruz

Photo: Raul Fndz/Courtesy of the artist

“She has like a complete vision of music,” Fernandez Miró (left) says of Silvia Perez Cruz. “She’s not thinking just about vocals, about the voice. She’s thinking about everything.”

For Spanish singer Silvia Perez Cruz, stories are everything.

“Style is not what matters to me, but the result,” she says through a translator. “The song has to have a story that I believe in and I can make my own. I think I have that influence from my mother. My mother is a good storyteller, and she’s always believed that songs are stories.”

Cruz’s own story is pretty remarkable. The 31-year-old is a classically trained singer from Catalonia. She studied piano and classical saxophone, and has a degree in vocal jazz.

While still at the Catalonia College of Music in Barcelona, Cruz co-founded a flamenco group called Las Migas (The Bread Crumbs) with three other women. She says that none of them were the best players or singers, but that that helped them take a different approach to flamenco.

“I think that’s the best thing we did,” she says. “It was a sound that really did not exist in Spain, based on our limitations, which was to make a more accessible type of flamenco.”

 

 

 

Before long, Cruz was the buzz of the Spanish music scene. Javier Colina, a jazz bassist, invited her to record an album with his trio. Colina sent her a CD of classic Cuban songs with a note telling her to listen to the lyrics.

“Of course, he liked the melody and the harmony,” Cruz says, “but he selected them because of the text and the stories they told.” She says he told her, “Don’t study the songs. Listen to them at home. Let them keep you company until they stay with you.”

Again, it was the stories in the songs that were at the heart of the recording they made.

Time To Tell Her Own Stories

Finally, just two years ago, it was time for Cruz to record her own solo album. She asked guitarist and producer Raul Fernandez Miró, who’s worked with artists ranging from ‘s Lee Ranaldo to Spanish rapper La Mala Rodriguez, to help her.

“She has like a complete vision of music,” he says. “She’s not thinking just about vocals, about the voice. She’s thinking about everything.”

The recording they made, 11 de Novembre, earned Album of the Year nominations in Spain and France. That same year, one of her own compositions, “No Te Puedo Encontrar (I Can’t Find You),” won a Goya — the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar — for Best Original Song.

Silvia Perez Cruz sings in four Iberian languages, as well as French, German and English. She uses them all on her new album, Granada. She sings an iconic Catalan folk song called “El Cant Dells Ocells,” made famous by cellist Pablo Casals; a lied from the mid-1800s by Robert Schumann, and the Edith Piaf classic “Hymne a l’Amour.”

 

 

 

 

Once again, Fernandez Miró was her collaborator. For Granada, he says they chose songs with stories they liked, but they had to figure out how to unite such a wide range of material.

“I think that if you don’t know that they come from different styles, and they have different languages, I think you can imagine the record or you can see the record as a whole thing,” Miró says. “Which is something that we were looking for — not to be impressed by playing so many different styles, just to play them as the way that we want to play.”

One of them is “Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro,” a popular song from the Spanish Civil War. The words read, in part:

The black rooster was big, but the red one was brave

The red rooster is brave, but the black one is treacherous

Cruz learned the song when she was part of a concert to honor the remaining members of the International Brigades, who went to Spain to fight against dictator Francisco Franco.

“At the concert, these men were singing the song in their own language with tears in their eyes,” she says. “This song made a big impression on me. They stood up with their arms raised, and I thought, ‘These people have lived through so much. It’s good that I can sing and help them remember.'”

It’s just one example of the way Silvia Perez Cruz comes to understand the stories she sings.

 

Live Streaming Primavera Sound 2014 – Barcelona, Catalunya

Published on May 21, 2014

Primavera Sound and Arte Concert are joining forces to broadcast the three main days of the festival live from the Parc del Fòrum in Barcelona. The broadcast will include a multichannel programme of the most outstanding concerts on the four main stages from Thursday 29th to Saturday 31st May, especially designed for all those who cannot attend the event and want to be part of the festival by living it virtually in real time in every corner of the planet.

Primavera Sound y Arte Concert se unen para emitir en directo las tres jornadas centrales del festival desde el Parc del Fòrum de Barcelona. La retransmisión contará con una programación multicanal formada por las actuaciones más destacadas de los cuatro escenarios principales desde el jueves 29 hasta el sábado 31 de mayo, pensada especialmente para quienes que no puedan asistir al evento y quieran formar parte del festival viviéndolo a tiempo real y de forma virtual desde cualquier punto del planeta.

The 2014 installment Primavera Sound goes down this weekend in Barcelona, Spain. For those of you who can’t be there in person, fret not: the festival will webcast a number of performances live online.

The schedule includes Arcade Fire, The National, Kendrick Lamar, St. Vincent, Pixies, Disclosure, Cut Copy, Sky Ferreira, Sharon Van Etten, Chromeo, Mogwai, Warpaint, Jamie xx, Slint, Drive-B Truckers, Superchunk, Volcano Choir, and Real Estate, among others.

Video is currently being encoded and will be available soon.

All times in EST

Thursday, May 29th:
12:40pm – Real Estate (1)
01:30 – The Ex (2)
02:35 – Antibalas (2)
02:40 – Warpaint (1)
03:50 – St. Vincent (1)
06:30 – Arcade Fire (1)
07:10 – Charles Bradley (2)
08:10 – Disclosure (1)
09:15 – Metronomy (2)
09:35 – Holy Ghost! (1)
10:20 – Jamie xx (2)

Friday, May 30th:
11:50am – Yamantaka // Sonic Titan (2)
12:30pm – John Grant (1)
12:40 – Drive-By Truckers (2)
01:40 – Sky Ferreira (1)
02:40 – Dr. John and the Nite Trippers (2)
03:20 – Temples (1)
03:45 – Sharon Van Etten (2)
04:50 – Pixies (1)
05:55 – Slint (2)
06:10 – The National (1)
08:00 – !!! (1)

Saturday, May 31st:
11:00am – Jupiter Lion (2)
11:40 – Hebronix (2)
12:25pm – Islands (2)
12:30 – Jonathan Wilson (1)
01:30 – Superchunk (2)
03:50 – Volcano Choir (1)
05:00 – Kendrick Lamar (1)
05:55 – Sean Kuti & Egypt 80 (2)
07:00 – Mogwai (2)
08:25 – Chromeo (2)
09:30 – Cut Copy (2)

Artists

 

 

 

 

Published on Jan 28, 2014

Trailer de “Line-Up”, la película en la que se desvela el cartel completo de Primavera Sound 2014 en Barcelona.
Trailer of “Line-Up”, a film in which the whole line up of Primavera Sound 2014 Barcelona is revealed.