Reality as we know it never exactly is as it appears. For St. Vincent’s Annie Clark these opposing forces have a balance that can be created. No, the Manhattan based singer and guitarist is not also a physicists, but rather is captivated to say the least, with duality of contrasts both sonically and lyrically. With Actor, Clark’s imagination ties dreams with realities, as she began creating the album while watching her favorite movies like Badlands, Pierrot le Fou, The Wizard of Oz, Stardust Memories and Sleeping Beauty. From her apartment in Manhattan, SFCritic interviewed Annie Clark by phone before her show at The Great American Music Hall on February 8th.
SFCritic (SFC): Now don’t get me wrong you have a beautiful face, but what is the idea behind having a close up portrait for both album covers?
Annie Clark (AC): Well thank you. The idea was not to present it as a glamor shot or sexy. The idea was to be a kind of bizarre portrait where you don’t know what expression is being communicated. I was following the lead of album covers in the 70s, where people like Todd Rundgren and Bob Dylan, throw your face on it and put your name on it.
SFC: I remembered you joking about being the only girl on the bus while touring when you played at Bimbo’s last time you were in San Francisco. Do you feel like one of the boys on the road? What kind of shenanigans do you get into?
AC: I think I am more pragmatic, not that pragmatic is a male or female trait. I like touring. Honestly, all the guys who I play with are really sweet, and nobody is smelly or gross. Nobody takes their socks off in the van. It’s like boy scouts, and I’m the only girl scout on a camp out.
SFC: Do you find that in a male dominated rock industry that men remain surprised when you slash and rock out on the guitar?
AC: I try not to really focus on that. I don’t often think of my gender, so it surprises me when other people think about it.
SFC: That question arises from a past interview with you that I read where you were discussing being constantly compared to other females, though your inspirations might lie elsewhere and were not strictly limited to female musicians.
AC: Often if I’m I thinking “oh, I want to go after this sound” or I’m drawing inspirations from places it’s all over the map. It is true that often time people will just make that singular comparison. “Oh, she’s a female so she must sound like this whole host of contemporary females” when in fact you might have something more artistically inline with a male fronted band. I think that’s the simplistic, reductive comparison, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.
SFC: What intrigues you about contrasts? Whether sonic or physical?
AC: I think that’s how life is. The opposing forces are not fighting each other, but fighting to keep the equilibrium. We all are kind of involved in this thing playing out our roles in order to keep the equilibrium.
SFC: I’ve read that your music serves to create a world you wished existed. What are some things you wish could come to fruition in reality but only exist in your music?
AC: Oh. Oh dear. There is nothing that exists that couldn’t be found in my music, or throughout any other cases of music.
SFC: It’s not about the history of music it’s about your own personal score.
AC: I like the windy aspect. I like the sort of chasing the fairy tale. I was rereading some of the fairy tales I read as a kid, and when you’re a kid you’re like “oh they got eaten by the witch, ok,” but as an adult you’re like “whoa, this is a really creepy story, what’s going on?” That’s horrifying. Why do we send our children to sleep with images of witches boiling alive that’s bonkers. I also like that dichotomy, the magic, the mystery.
SFC: How did movies like Woody Allen and Snow White translate into music for you on Actor?
AC: Woody Allen is such a music fan there is music all over his films a lot of Genjo Rinehart, Charlie Parker, and American music from that era. Snow White, obviously that’s a musical, and with films like Disney Films there was something not only with the imagery, but with the literally the sound of your childhood or your first ideas of what magic is that’s kind of encapsulated in those scores. The sweeping orchestral thing, and the mellifluous melismatic melodies, I really love that kind of thing—it gets to my heart.
SFC: As you were saying in the case of Woody Allen is it the soundtrack or a scene that you grasp upon first that helped you create Actor?
AC: With each movie it was sort of different. Sometimes I would take a cue from the emotional resonance of a movie, and I would say “Ok, this is a complicated story about complicated people, how can I write my own story about complicated people or simple story about complicated people.” Some of it was, for example with the Wizard of Oz, I guess I won’t say which song, well no, I’ll just say it’s the intro of “Marrow,” was kind of like how could I rescore the scene where everything was texicolor. What is that like?
SFC: For the next album on that note is there any other mediums you are using for inspiration?
AC: Currently, I’m interested in music that isn’t so imposing that sort of invites you to have an imagination along with it, but as far as the next record will be I have no idea.
SFC: I know you’ve said you’d love to be in a Woody Allen film.
AC: I would but I think I would be a little too old to be a love interest.
SFC: Well that was my question, would you be the objection of affection, the crazed ex-wife, or whomever else you’d want to play?
AC: I would want to play Charlotte Rampling in Stardust Memories or Diane Keaton in
Annie Hall. Like I said, I’m twenty-seven he likes them a little bit younger.
SFC: I don’t think that’s too old.
AC: He’s probably seventy or so by now.
SFC: So, you’ve stated that the narratives of your songs are like film scores. Is there one that particularly resonates to a personal experience of yours?
AC: I think really all of them. I connect with the “Marrow” idea which is really inspired by the Wizard of Oz “if I only had a heart.” I wish I could build myself to be this impenetrable strong thing at all times. Really, I would say all of them. I’m sorry that’s not a good answer.
SFC: I saw that you performed with Andrew Bird while in France, and toured with Grizzly Bear, is there any chance of future collaborations with these groups?
AC: Nothing in stone. I don’t think I can say, but potentially yes! How’s that for an answer?
SFC: What is your greatest hope for your music?
AC: I just want to keep making music for my life, and never have to do a day job.
SFC: I heard about your past experience as a flower delivery woman. That didn’t go over so well.
AC: Yeah, I am woefully inept.
St. Vincent will perform at The Great American Music Hall on February 8th. Tickets are $20. Doors open at 7pm, and the show begins at 8pm. This article is republished from SF Station.