St Vincent’s self-titled album took her to some downright bizarre places. Purple toilet costumes, dates with movie stars, front rows at fashion shows, and water pistol paparazzi stand-offs; they’re all images of the musician that appeared splashed across the whispering pages of celebrity gossip magazines. Probably the last place she thought she’d end up. It’s an astronomical rise to fame that would be more than enough to test most artists. St Vincent? She turned it all into an album.
Removing herself from the daily obligations of her New York apartment, Annie Clark set up temporary shop at the Marlton Hotel on 8th (oddly enough the uncannily named poet Edna St Vincent Millay once had the same idea) and set about trying to follow up her best record to date. “It was about holing up and having all of the small needs met,” she reasons, speaking over the phone from LA. “If I need food, I can get food – it’s right there. If I need coffee, it’s right here.” She also took up pilates, which provided a few indirect benefits, too. “I don’t know if they advertise this, but pilates made me sing better, and it made me come harder,” Annie announces gleefully, ever the master of throwing a clanger into general conversation with zero notice. “Seriously.”
Earlier on, though, it’s St Vincent’s turn to be taken by surprise, which, it must be said, is something of a rarity. “Oh… GOD!” she exclaims - with mild mortification - when asked to ponder a world populated by endless clones of herself. “Um. It would be very clean, like, super fastidious and tidy,” she starts. “All the buses and trains would be five minutes late. Five minutes late. Everyone would make plans to go out, and then it would be fine…” she laughs. “All of me would cancel, because they all started working on a song.” she laughs. “So no-one would ever go out.”
St Vincent’s hypothetical dystopia might not sound like an immediate winner (at the very least, shifting all the world’s time zones back to accommodate her promptness sounds like a logistical nightmare) but for just the one, lone, Annie Clark, her relentless artistic ethic and unwavering attention to the finest of details has proved her forte. St Vincent has always been a true chameleon between records, painting vivid archetypes to head up each of her creative eras. Masking sinister menace beneath a blankly innocent grin on her debut album ‘Marry Me’ set the precedent back in 2007, while its follow-up, ‘Actor’, was fairytale lightness charged by a surging undercurrent of violence. Sparse pop refinement, gaping teeth straining against latex, and housewives slipping sedatives into their ice-cold Chardonnay coloured the bleak ‘Strange Mercy’ four years on. And then her self-titled album – released three years ago – seemed to elevate things to a whole other level.
Sternly watching from her pink utilitarian throne, ‘St Vincent’ looked on as the digital and analogue collided in battle, mocking the endless mundanity of cosy everyday life (“take out the garbage, masturbate,” quipped ‘Birth in Reverse’) and yearning for a truer, rawer kind of connection that knocks down all the barriers we build around ourselves each minute for self-preservation. At times, she adopted the persona of a cult ringleader, and when she hit the road to tour the record, her physical presence – the analogue side of proceedings, so to speak - was placed in the firing line. She took a chunk out of her thigh when she slammed into a bannister during one show; at another, she returned to the dressing room with a blood-streaked face. Security guards were given hickies, and audience members had everything from hats to crutches stolen. All of the aggression that typically sits at the centre of St Vincent’s music, dormant or malignant, was exorcised right there on the stage, her body wielded as a weapon.
As featured in the October 2017 issue of DIY, out now.