Interview with St. Vincent

Annie Clark, otherwise known as St. Vincent, recently spoke with Rosemary Welsch, host of WYEP's Afternoon Mix, about her new self-titled album. St. Vincent released on February 24th and has already received rave reviews. Inspired by a line in the Miles Davis autobiography which read, “the hardest thing for a musician to do is play like yourself,” St. Vincent approached a self-titled with confidence and abandon in order to create a sound which makes her sound like herself.

Clark remembers watching Pearl Jam and Nirvana on MTV around the age of 10 years old and realizing that she wanted to do what they were doing. “I don’t sound anything like Nirvana or Pearl Jam, but seeing that it was possible, you know, suburban kids with something to say that could find an audience was an inspiration.” Annie also spent a considerable amount of time on the road touring with her uncle, Tuck Andress, of Tuck & Patti, learning the technicalities and all of the work that really went into making a show. This experience might deter anyone, whether 16 or not, from pursuing their musical dream due to the amount of work put in, but it instead worked as an inspiration to St. Vincent.

“I got to see behind the curtain in a good way. I was learning about the technical side of things, what people really did on the road, but I got to see them play every night and move people to tears. I got to experience watching people with such a dedication to their craft and music with a capital ‘M’. Devotion. I just learned that that’s what it takes. There’s not some magic button that you press and become famous. It’s getting out there, it’s bringing the music to the people, and it’s about the work its about the craft and really honoring this really mystery, awesome thing that is music.”

Annie describes her songwriting process for St. Vincent as trying to make "dance music for a funeral," wanting to create music that was really groove heavy but had heart and empathy. “It was an interesting task. I’m always interested in the little juxtapositions and seeming contradictions in human nature, and the squalor in the grandeur that exists in the same moment, so I was trying to bring in that macro/micro perspective.”

While adding enough detail to her songs in order to make stories seem palpable but leaving enough ambiguity for listeners to fit themselves into the story, St. Vincent did a lot of reporting on her own life in this album, like in the song “Rattlesnake” which required no embellishments or exaggeration to the story. “Digital Witness,” the first single released off St. Vincent is a view into the way people react to the digital world, not necessarily serving as a statement of judgement but instead as a topic of curiosity.

“I don’t know where we’re all heading, I just simply want to tap the phenomenon. I think we have this whole other realm, this whole other vehicle in which to express the selfhood that we used to express with our outer and inner physical being. Now we have this theoretical 0’s and 1’s world where we can create our ideal selves. I think that in some ways that is incredibly powerful and exciting.”

Annie Clark looks at music with a sense of synesthesia, noting that St. Vincent portrays more primary colors which can explain why it seems to be more accessible than her past records. St. Vincent will be performing at Stage AE in April and you can check out the full interview with Rosemary Welsch below.