A proper noun for a band name? Dangerous. Just ask Darius Rucker, who will forever be known as "Hootie" to at least half of the 16 million people who bought Cracked Rear View, Hootie & the Blowfish's 1994 debut. And how many times do you think Peter Wolf's been called J. Geils by now, or Owen Pallett Final Fantasy? But fear not for Annie Clark, the curly-haired, doe-eyed patron titleholder of St. Vincent.
"I felt like it could make the music 10 times bigger than I am," says Clark, at home in Dallas just days before her first full-band tour behind her Beggar's Banquet debut, Marry Me. "Besides, Annie Clark just doesn't have the same ring to it."
Indeed, Marry Me seems bigger than the work of just another 23-year-old songwriter making her first record: It's an engrossing presentation of computer-savvy chamber pop or, as Clark puts it, "a modern take on the Great American Songbook." Hers is a fitting description: Eliciting the compositional trademarks of giants like Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington and Johnny Mercer and pairing them with a neoteric, experimental pop approach, Clark's progressive take on unwritten 1940s standards is both unconventional and comfortable.
After all, she's spent the past five years playing with Sufjan Stevens and The Polyphonic Spree. Marry Me draws on Clark's experience in America's two big bands, both musically and with regard to personnel: The Polyphonic Spree toured with David Bowie through Canada two years ago, and Bowie's longtime pianist Mike Garson plays on several of Marry Me's tracks. Former Man or Astro-man? and current Spree percussionist Brian Teasley plays on the album, as well as longtime Spree violinist Daniel Hart, who Triangle audiences should recognize onstage as the founder of Bu Hanan Records, Go Machine and, most recently, The Physics of Meaning.
Hart will join Clark on this tour, as well as a drummer and a bassist. With her first real band in tow, Clark's live show should begin to reflect more than just her striking voice and guitar. On record, she incorporates a small army of accompanying instruments that she plays herself—from organ to dulcimer to clavietta with plenty of stops in between. But she doesn't respond well to the "multi-instrumentalist" tag. She even downplays its relevance. "Yeah, I play some instruments," Clark says. "Give me something, and I'll make some music for you." —Rich Ivey
St. Vincent plays Local 506 Friday, July 13, with Scout Niblett at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8-$10.
STRANGE is back
Raleigh's STRANGE will return to the stage for the first time in a year in grand fashion: The quartet will open for Slint, back on the road for a handful of dates, to play their 1991 landmark Spiderland in its entirety at Cat's Cradle Thursday, July 19. "The future of STRANGE is new, more weirder music times ahead," says frontman David Mueller. Good to know.