ANNIE CLARK, AKA ST. VINCENT. PHOTO COURTESY OF TINA TYRELL
As myriad fans are acutely aware, Annie Clark, perhaps better known as St. Vincent, performs this evening in New York. The 29-year-old singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is presently touring in support of her third full-length, Strange Mercy, which has received universally glowing reviews. It’s garnered not only critical acclaim, but also commercial success: it peaked at #19 on the Billboard 200, making it her highest-charting album yet.
Clark carved out a little time while on tour last week to speak with Interview. Read on to hear from her about life on the road, letting go and the problem with reproduction.
NELL ALK: How does it feel to have Strange Mercy on shelves, receiving ample praise and charting well?
ANNIE ERIN CLARK: It’s really gratifying. It doesn’t feel like I crawled out of the woods and just kind of miraculously manifested on top of the pop charts. It’s been a nice, steady, upward trajectory. But, it feels great. You never know how these things are going to go. All you can do is make something that you like and feel proud of and then just hope for the best and try to get out of its way.
ALK: You’re becoming more and more recognized. What has the experience been like for you?
CLARK: There have been great perks. I’m really psyched that Phillip Lim dressed me for my fall tour. Little stuff like that. Sometimes a stranger will buy me a drink at an airport bar. Generally my day-to-day is pretty much the same. Just busy and working and on tour. And trying to put on the best show possible every night.
ALK: What’s your stance on fashion? Certainly you’ve spoken of it before, but tell me more.
CLARK: Fashion, for me, is anything that’s aesthetic and beautiful. Art, food, film. It’s something that I appreciate and really like. I love it. I think it gets tricky. I don’t get super caught up in the capitalistic side of it. It’s kind of a buzz-kill. But, the purely aesthetic side of it, to me, is really wonderful.
ALK: Speaking of aesthetic and beautiful, what inspired your latest album?
CLARK: I’ve always been pretty ravenous about pop culture, highbrow and lowbrow. The first song off the record takes its title from an Éric Rohmer film, called Chloe in the Afternoon. And then there’s quotes from Marilyn Monroe in the song “Surgeon.”
ALK: What about “Year of the Tiger”? Can I ask you about that year? I know you’ve kept pretty mum about it in the past. . .
CLARK: [laughs] Oh dear. You know, I took a sort of informal survey of a bunch of friends and what I found was [that] 2010 was a really rough year for everybody I knew, for some reason. It was for me as well. It’s just funny. You don’t often encounter specific years that are unilaterally bad for most people in your life. But . . . onward.ALK: Thank you for sharing that much. How has tour been treating you so far?
CLARK: The tour’s going really well. The level of excitement from fans is a new thing. The people seem to be more excited than ever. And there are more of them. The show is a bit harder hitting than anything I’ve done before. I’ve got a great band. A pretty heavy band at times. It’s sounding really great. It’s me plus three, four, people total.
You meet a lot of characters on the road. In a really great way. I think that’s one of the great things about being on the road. You’re able to have very brief but very meaningful interactions with strangers. Some bartender you meet in Pendleton, Oregon tells you and your band the crazy stories of her existence. You would not get that sitting at home.
ALK: Speaking of home, what do you like best about New York, especially given you grew up in Texas?
CLARK: I think one of the things I love about New York is that I don’t feel like a freak in New York. There are so many people. You can’t afford to be so myopic in New York. I feel like there are a lot of wonderful, likeminded people, artists and musicians. I don’t feel like a freak. Like I kind of did in Texas.
ALK: Tell about the role social media plays in your career, because you seem fairly active.
CLARK: I think it’s a great way to interact with fans. I think the thing that Twitter has over message boards and blogs is that, in some ways, it removes anonymity a little bit. When there’s total anonymity, people will say things they would never say. I think Twitter relies on a little bit of that public shame that civilizes us, that accountability that civilizes us. If you want to say something mean, you have to say it to everybody. I think that [aspect] definitely [is] an advantage.
ALK: Given the music video for “Cruel,” what’s your position on reproduction?
CLARK: [laughs] I think that only people who really, really, really want children should have children. At this point in my life, it couldn’t possibly happen. I don’t want children right now. I’m sure at some point I might. If I got to that point where I really, really wanted children, I’d totally have them. The world also has enough people. The planet will go on fine if I don’t procreate. In fact, fewer people should be procreating. We really should be thinking. Overpopulation is massive. We should thin it out, actually.
ST. VINCENT’S STRANGE MERCY IS OUT NOW. SHE WILL PLAY WEBSTER HALL TONIGHT.