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MIKE PESCA, host:

Vincent of Saragossa was the patron saint of vinegar makers, St. Vincent of Ferrer, the patron saint of plumbers, and St. Vincent de Paul, of course, the patron saint of charities, also, the patron saint of horses, I don't know if you knew that. We're joined in the studio by a whole different type of St. Vincent. Her name is Annie Clark, and if you've ever listened to St. Vincent's music, you might think, oh, this is, like, an 18-piece band. There is a dulcimer player. There's a guy on synthesizer. There's a little kid with a triangle crammed into a corner. But no, it's just Annie Clark. Annie Clark is playing tonight as part of the River to River Festival here in New York City. She joins me now.

Ms. ANNIE CLARK (Musician, St. Vincent): Hello.

PESCA: Thanks for coming in.

Ms. CLARK: Hi. Thank for having me.

PESCA: I've got to ask you all about the name. On the plus side, if you have a backup band, you can just call them the Grenadines, but why St. Vincent?

Ms. CLARK: It's actually a family name. It's kind of an old family name.

PESCA: So, as a last name in parts of your family?

Ms. CLARK: No, it was a middle name.

PESCA: A middle name? Like Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Ms. CLARK: Yeah.

PESCA: And so, how did it become a family name in the Clark family? Were they literary types, your parents?

Ms. CLARK: Um, they can read.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: So, they are literate types.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CLARK: Sure. Literate types. But no, I mean, it's old. It's back in the generations.

PESCA: You want to play a song, and we'll talk a little more?

Ms. CLARK: Sure.

PESCA: All right, what would you like to play first?

Ms. CLARK: I'll play "Human Racing."

(Soundbite of song "Human Racing")

Ms. CLARK: (Singing) Romeo, where'd you go? It's been years and still no sign, I'm keeping hope alive.

Juliet, how you been? You look like death, like you sure could use some rest From this place, human racing, and the faces of people who pound at your door.

They'll always want more. They want more.

Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, Bah, bah, bah, bah, da, da, Da, da, da, da, da.

Hummingbird, what's the word? Are you still your mother's child? Have you found yourself a flower?

Flower child, you're still wild. Under a harvest moon, Can we eat up all the fruits of our youth?

Tell the truth now. Your heart is a strange little orange to peel. What's the deal? What's the deal?

Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bow.

Mary, dear, how you feel? Are you lost without your lamb? You know, I think I understand.

Little lamb, what's your plan? Greener pastures in the sky? It's a shame you want to die, know why?

Just to find you've been blinded To the greenest of pastures. They're right here on Earth. For what it's worth, You're not the first to break my heart. You're not the first to break my heart. You're not the first to break my heart. You're not the first to break my heart.

PESCA: I always never know whether to clap or let them play...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: But I'm clapping inside.

Ms. CLARK: One clap sounds sort of...

(Soundbite of one person clapping)

Ms. CLARK: Just this slow, sarcastic...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: It can build, and the whole crowd...

(Soundbite of one person clapping)

PESCA: So, do you become St. Vincent? Is it - because there's this whole - there's a band called Destroyer, but it's really a guy named Destroyer, and you know, there's this band called Final Fantasy, but it's really a guy.

Ms. CLARK: Right.

PESCA: And then there's like that gray area. Bright Eyes, is it Connor or is it the band?

Ms. CLARK: Oh, yeah.

PESCA: Then there's St. Vincent, which is really just you. I mean, so are - do you become a different person when you're St. Vincent?

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Is it a persona? Or is it just the name of what you do when you sing?

Ms. CLARK: I don't feel like I become another person, or you know, I don't, like, light the incense and do a mantra or something before I - and, like, transform into St. Vincent. It's more, like, I feel like it gives me the freedom to do whatever I want, because I've named it something else.

PESCA: So, you are used to performing with a lot of people on stage. Like, weren't you a member of the Polyphonic Spree? Or is it - is it really a membership?

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: It seems like a weird, new, cult-like consortium.

Ms. CLARK: Well, I wouldn't necessarily call it a cult. I wouldn't call it a collective, either. It was just a big, big group of excited, rowdy Texans making some sunshine music.

PESCA: If I showed up with a French horn, would they let me in? Is there a vetting process to join the Polyphonic Spree?

Ms. CLARK: Oh, is there, like, an initiation or something?

PESCA: They seem to have a lot of members, like, more than in all the versions of Chicago combined.

Ms. CLARK: Yeah. Yeah, you could put two Chicagos together. No, there's just - that was their vision, you know?

PESCA: Was it fun? Or some of the quieter instruments, could you not even hear them?

Ms. CLARK: The quieter instruments, yeah, I mean, it's a little Darwinistic, I guess, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: So, like, the guy who decided to become the triangle player, he's screwed. What are you going to do?

Ms. CLARK: Yeah. Poor triangle player.

PESCA: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: So, let me ask you about the creative process. So, sometimes when you're live, you have people helping you, but sometimes, like on one track of the album, "Jesus Saves, I Spend" - which is good - it starts off with the whole bah-bah-bum thing, you saying it, not a drum. How do you decide to go a cappella on that instead of putting an instrument...?

Ms. CLARK: (Singing) Bah, bah, bum, bum.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. CLARK: Yeah. I - I remember recording that in my bedroom, and I think that I was trying to emulate a trumpet, but I didn't - I don't play trumpet, and I didn't have one, and I think it came about by, you know, oh, well, there's nobody else here. Eh, I'll just, you know, I'll just get those bums down, emulating what I wish it were.

PESCA: What about the fact that these days, you know, with all the computers you kids have, you could try so many different sounds and so many different things, how does that affect the songwriting process?

Ms. CLARK: I feel like my songwriting process is inextricably entwined with computers. You have this - you get this shocking self-awareness from pretty early, because you're playing and you don't just have the luxury of hearing what you think you sound like in your head. You listen back to the tape and you're like, oh, dear, we've got to go back to the drawing board or whatever, and you also have the luxury of being able to track as many things as you want, fully orchestrate and arrange something without ever having to call on anybody else.

PESCA: Well, take another sip of that iced coffee, and perhaps you will favor us with another tune, another ditty?

Ms. CLARK: Sure, yeah. OK.

(Soundbite of song "Paris is Burning")

Ms. CLARK: (Singing) De, de, de, de, de, de, de, de, oh, no.

I write to give word the war is over. Send my cinders home to mother. They gave us a medal for our valor. Leaden trumpets spit the soot of power. They say,

"I'm on your side when nobody is, because nobody is. Come sit right here and sleep while I slip poison in your ears."

We are waiting on a telegram to give us news of the fall. I am sorry to report dear Paris is burning after all. We have taken to the streets in open rejoice, revolting. We are dancing a black waltz. Fair Paris is burning after all.

Oh, no. Oh, no.

Enclosed in this letter, there's a picture, Black and white for your refrigerator. Sticks and stones have made us smarter. It's words that cut us under our armor. We say,

"I'm on your side when nobody is, because nobody is. Come sit right here and sleep while I slip poison in your ears."

We are waiting on a telegram to give us news of the fall. I am sorry to report dear Paris is burning after all. We have taken to the streets in open rejoice, revolting. We are dancing a black waltz. Fair Paris is burning after all.

Oh, oh, oh. Oh, oh.

Dance, poor people, dance and drown. Dance, fair Paris, to the ground. Dance, poor people, dance and drown. Dance, fair Paris, ashes now.

Dance, poor people, dance and drown. Dance, fair Paris, to the ground. Dance, poor people, dance and drown. Dance, fair Paris, ashes now.

Dance, poor people, dance and drown. Dance, fair Paris, to the ground. Dance, poor people, dance and drown. Dance, fair Paris, ashes now.

De, de, de, de, de, de, de, de, oh, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of one person clapping)

PESCA: Clap, clap, clap.

Ms. CLARK: And the clapping.

PESCA: Yes, all right. Hey. I want to ask you a serious question.

Ms. CLARK: OK.

PESCA: What was it like being in an Iron Maiden cover band in high school, junior high?

Ms. CLARK: Junior high school.

PESCA: Yeah.

Ms. CLARK: It ruled!

PESCA: Yeah?

Ms. CLARK: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CLARK: Are you kidding?

PESCA: What was your favorite one to - "Number of the Beast"?

Ms. CLARK: That's a really good one. Um, I think...

(Soundbite of song "The Trooper")

Ms. CLARK: "The Trooper," I think, was my favorite.

PESCA: Ah...

Ms. CLARK: It sounds really lame on an acoustic, but I love that music.

PESCA: It's good stuff.

Ms. CLARK: And ironically, it's - love it.

PESCA: Hey, Annie, I want to thank you, and the whole band, St. Vincent, for stopping by.

Ms. CLARK: Thank you so much.

PESCA: I want to thank you and the fellas. Annie Clark is St. Vincent. She is performing at the River to River Festival. The two rivers in question are, what, like the Hudson and the East? Is that right? Anyway, thank you very much, Annie.

Ms. CLARK: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song "Now, Now")

Ms. CLARK: (Singing) I'm not your mother's favorite dog. I'm not the carpet you walk on...

PESCA: Yes. We can confirm. Hudson and East are the rivers in question. A couple interesting nuggets about Annie Clark, the delightful and talented Annie Clark. The album, "Marry Me," its name comes from an episode of "Arrested Development." She is also playing a song, she promises tonight, with a reference to the "Golden Girls" in the lyrics, and possibly, based on my suggestion, the next album will be titled, "Let it be, Arthur." She says she's taking it under advisement. Let's hope so. That's it for this hour of the BPP. We are always online at npr.org/bryantpark. I am Mike Pesca, and this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

(Soundbite of song "Now, Now")

Ms. CLARK: (Singing) I'm not anyone you'll see...

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