Originally published in The Big Takeover (Issue 66, 2010)
“I love Taylor Swift,” Annie Clark, who records as St. Vincent, tells me half an hour after she’s finished performing an intimate 5-song set in front of a small crowd of Columbus, Ohio radio station contest winners. “I was in L.A. last year and I had a rental car. Somebody had left a burned CD of Taylor Swift’s Fearless in the stereo. One of the songs comes on and I’m driving in L.A. and all of a sudden tears start streaming down my face. I was like, ‘They got me!’ Her music is biologically engineered to just hit you.”
The charming 27-year-old Clark should know a thing or two about music that hits the listener. Her second St. Vincent album, Actor, released in May 2009, plays like the Sleeping Beauty soundtrack on serious hallucinogenics and is an intoxicating mix of dreamy pop, sleepy jazz, and moody chamber pop.
In a day and age where multiple radio singles are rare, Actor produced three – “Out of Work Actor,” “Marrow,” and “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood” – and all featured accompanying videos. Clark admits that making the “Laughing with a Mouth of Blood” video, featuring SNL’s Fred Armesin and Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, was mortifying. “I was more nervous about having to do that than most things in life. Carrie’s been a hero of mine. And Fred is hilarious. So them together, it was just really hard not to laugh.”
The success of those singles allowed Clark the opportunity to do something she loves, spending the better part of the year on road (“If I am home for any extended period of time, I start to go crazy.”). “The people coming out to the shows on this tour are really awesome and generous and music lovers,” Clark says. “That’s extremely gratifying.”
Interacting with fans is part of the intimate concert experience Clark enjoys providing to fans. “When you look down into the crowd and try to make a connection, people get excited,” the doe-eyed Clark, who looks like a character out of a Charles Dickens novel, says. “Sometimes it can feel very confrontational, people sort of look away like they were caught looking at you and they weren’t supposed to be. You don’t mess with someone because at that point that would be weirdly abusive.”
With the touring cycle for Actor complete, Clark isn’t sitting idly by. “I’m not really thinking about time off,” Clark admits. “I’m thinking about time off in terms of projects that I want to get done that are creative like writing or producing. I’m very excited about that.” I’m excited too, especially about the collaboration with David Byrne on a project that, according to Byrne’s blog, doesn’t have a defined timeline.
Hopefully, Clark’s 2010 will be as busy – and fulfilling – as her 2009 and she’ll continue to engineer weird and wonderful music that strikes listeners the way she was struck by Taylor Swift.
Before the interview with Annie at the CD101 studio in Columbus, I got a photo with her. Believe me, I was super excited to meet her and she couldn’t have been nicer but I was very nervous and afraid that the gum I was chewing might show up in the photo so I don’t look very enthusiastic.
If you want to see more photos of me with artists, you can follow Meeting the Band on Instagram.