St. Vincent chats about exploring a deeper, darker sonic landscape with Philly as her muse - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
St. Vincent chats with Kristen Kurtis on XPN Morning Show

This morning, Annie Clark — the master songcrafter and guitar virtuoso behind St. Vincent -announced her new album All Born Screaming, which will be released on April 26th. The album’s single “Broken Man” features Dave Grohl on drums and dropped alongside the announcement, and to share the news with Philly fans and the world, St. Vincent called in and had a conversation on the WXPN Morning Show. Listen to our chat above, and read what she had to say down below.

St. Vincent - Broken Man

Kristen Kurtis Hey, it’s Kristen Kurtis from the XPN Morning Show. I’ve got a very special guest on the phone today, and that is Miss Annie Clark. Saint Vincent, Welcome to the show. Good morning.

Annie Clark Good morning. What’s up Philly?

KK: Everybody in Philly is really excited to know that you’ve got a new album coming out. Just announced a few minutes ago All Born Screaming, record number seven to be released on April 26th. And we’ve got this new song, Broken Man from you, which I hear has a bit of a Philadelphia connection.

AC: There is a Philly connection. So, I worked on the creative direction of this record with my good friend Alex Da Corte, who is one of the best modern artists happening, who happens to also be my friend. And he’s Philly-based. And so we shot the video for Broken Man just outside of Philly. And it’s a very physical video, very physically taxing. And we wrapped the video in the middle of the snowstorm, and I am walking over to Alex’s place to, like, have a drink and kind of celebrate that we wrapped video, and I was so like actually broken from making the video that as I’m walking down the street, people are crossing the street to not have to walk by me. And this is in Philly, y’all. Like. Ya know.

KK: We see some crazy stuff here, so you must have looked really, really beaten down after putting all the physical effort into that video.

AC: I was legitimately broken.

KK: So really embodying the song Broken Man. And you just came to Philly because he’s based here?

AC: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I came to Philly because he’s based here and he has a great production team. Shout out to everybody who worked on the video. And then also, I came to Philly early on in conceiving of what the album world, the visual world, looks like to meet with Alex and we went to the Philly museum, and most specifically he showed me Duchamp’s final piece, which I had not seen, which is so violent and beautiful and messed up, blew my mind. And so all these things, we just go and see art together and then that informs the visual side of this record.

KK: I’ve only heard a couple songs so far, but I love what I’ve heard. There’s a real raw and it is a really, like, hard, dark kind of sound, which I love. And I think that the images that you’ve managed to capture with Alex, fit the sonic quality of what you’re doing so well. And I can’t wait to hear more, especially, seeing that you’ve referred to this also as a curated group of rippers that you’ve led through this. How did you know it was time to produce an album totally by yourself because you’ve co-produced the last ones?

"I wanted to go and find a deeper sonic lexicon, because sound is intention, and I wanted to go in there and be a mad scientist and basically just move a lot of electricity around." — Annie Clark

AC: Yeah. I needed to refine my inner weathervane and be able to be the first and final filter for all of the material I’ve made. I’ve been recording myself in my room since I was 14. Recording myself has been a part of my creative process from Jump Street—before, it was hella easy on like a laptop, so that’s always been part of my process. It’s always the way that I’ve thought about things and learned how to arrange was by recording myself and learned how to write songs by recording myself. But I think in this case, I wanted to go and find a deeper sonic lexicon, because sound is intention, and I wanted to go in there and be a mad scientist and basically just move a lot of electricity around. You know, whether it’s synthesizers or modular synths or, you know, you’re moving electricity around, running current through circuitry, and that has a soul. Like that has an inherent chaos to it. And so I was going, okay, I’m going to chase this chaos, and then I’m going to find moments in that chaos that really just light me up inside, that I can take and make whole songs around, or at least will be the spark of something that becomes a whole song.

KK: Awesome.

AC: So that was kind of my process in making it.

KK: And you’ve got some friends on the record with you, we know we can expect to hear Cate Le Bon and Josh Freese on the drums. I feel like this moment where you’ve got Dave Grohl, on drums for Broken Man may have been ten years in the making. I remember you fronting Nirvana with Dave and Krist Novoselic when they were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, like ten years ago. And I’m wondering if there’s a thread that we can pull from that moment to having Dave appear on your record now?

AC: Yeah, I mean, that was the first time I met Dave was then, and that remains one of the, surreal is such an overused word, I’m so sorry, but it is genuinely one of the most surreal moments of my life, was helping induct Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But yeah, and then Dave and I have been buddies, you know, ever since. So I just hit him up and was like, hey, can you come on over to the studio? I’ve got a couple songs that you are the only person who should play this material. You know, such a good hang. He drives over in his truck and he’s listened to the songs a few times and somehow knows them inside and out. And then, you know, we sit and he smokes Parliaments and drink some coffee and we just rap and share war stories and, and then he’s like, okay, cool. And goes in and plays the song perfectly. Like maybe, you know, maybe plays three times total. You know, I give him a couple notes here or there as needed.

KK: You gave Dave Grohl notes? I love it.

AC: Well, yeah.

KK: Of course, as you said, it’s just funny to think about two people who are absolutely incredible and at the top of their craft working together. I love the image that I’m getting right now. Thank you.

AC: Yeah. No, I mean, he’s the best. He was the only person who I could possibly hear on the songs.

KK: Well, I just want to ask one last fun question, while we anticipate the rest of the record coming out on April 26th, and I am really hoping that we’ll have some tour dates soon and we’ll be able to see you bring the embodiment of this record to life on the stage. But while we’re talking about Dave and you performing with Nirvana to help induct them to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and then you performed once again for those ceremonies for Kate Bush last year. If you, just a random fun question, if you had to vote for one of the 15 people who were nominated for this year, who would you vote for?

AC: Oh my God, I just got emailed the list. I think I probably ought to go with Sinead on this one. Rest in peace. But yeah, that’s a crew.

AC: It is a crew. And, you know, I’m hoping that someday when we get to 25 years past the release of your debut—so what is that? 2007 plus 25 years—We’ll be seeing you inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, because you are an incredible musician, and you’ve had a big impact on my relationship with music and a lot of our members as well. So thank you so much for taking some time to talk about the new album with me, and to give us some insight into the work that you went through to bring it all together, and we hope to see you in Philly sometime soon.

AC: Totally. Thank you very much. Nice talking to you. And I fucking love Philly.

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