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St Vincent - Singer-Slash-Actor

Author: Jonno Seidler
Monday, May 18, 2009

3D’s Jonno Seidler speaks to indie singer/songwriter and Pitchfork crush, St Vincent.

“I did not just find people off the street and make them cry…” Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St Vincent, is defending her latest video clip, for new single Actor Out of Work. In it, we see Clark auditioning wannabe actors in a rotating casting call, managing to maintain her cool even as the out-of-luck performers burst into tears. “They were official actors,” she explains, “officially in Los Angeles and coming in to cry for me.” The average person finds being confronted with a cavalcade of human waterworks unnerving, and Annie was no exception. “At first it’s uncomfortable, like, you want to cry, and then you just want to sort of vacillate between the two, until you realise that this is what they do for a living,” she says, “but crying is usually a very personal affair, and just to see people busting out with tears on demand, there’s got to be something very wrong with the universe!”

To be fair, Clark was never one to stay on the right side of weirdness. She’s played guitar with the Polyphonic Spree (“I was there when everyone was wearing the same colour robes, so I didn’t get my own hue”) and been part of Sufjan Stevens’ band, but being a bandleader is an entirely different experience for her. “It’s more pressure, but it’s more gratifying too, because it’s your own music that you’ve spent countless hours on. But it’s way less intense to back someone else in a 25-piece band.” For her part, Annie’s created one of the most economically viable live groups on the planet, forgoing multitudes of musicians by recruiting multi-tasking individuals; “A woodwind player who plays everything, a violinist who also plays guitar, a bass player who also plays clarinet and a drummer.” She concedes that if somebody was to audition for her as, say, an awesome guitarist “I’d be like ‘that’s great, what else can you do-’” Clark’s band, aside from being “super-talented and so sweet”, also gives her “the most bang for my buck.” Obviously she saw the recession coming before the rest of us did.

St Vincent’s sophomore record, Actor, released worldwide last week, once again sees her in lyrical introspective mode, something she attributes to the fact that she was more into reading the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault than she ever was learning musical foundations at Berkeley. “I think I probably didn’t study as much has I should have, but art school is tricky, you can teach the systems of music but you can’t exactly teach ‘taste’, or ‘style’. I prefer to lose myself in abstraction.” That means recording tracks with titles like Laughing With A Mouth Full Of Blood, because “my label are really cool, they never try to censor me.”

WHO: St Vincent
WHAT: Actor through 4AD / Remote Control
WHEN: Out now