Anne Clark, musician, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, also known as St. Vincent.
For all her onstage virtuosic flair — which existed in the form of stage dives long before she added modern dance and a giant pink throne — matching the words "extrovert" and "Annie Clark" feels a bit odd. Though she's played music for at least a decade, first as a touring member of the Polyphonic Spree and in Sufjan Stevens's band, then as a solo artist, St. Vincent has managed to craft a public image that is eloquent, thoughtful, and has virtually nothing to do with her personal life as Annie Clark. Questions from the press about her family — she grew up Catholic in Dallas as one of eight children, and has lived in the East Village for much of her career — or her friends or who she dates are shut down or nimbly redirected toward more "interesting" conversation; rarely do St. Vincent Q&As broach topics beyond her creative process, her gear (her signature axe is a Harmony Bobkat), or her artistic pursuits. She sticks to many of the same lines of dialogue in interviews (which explains why almost every feature about St. Vincent reads the same). Small personal details are pieced together over time, of course, but unlike many artists of her caliber, she's created an anti-cult of personality, a media-savvy mystery determined to keep all eyes on the art instead of the artist.When I suggest to David Byrne over email that Clark is a private person, his first response is, "Ha ha, that's an understatement."
"Despite having toured with her for almost a year I don't think I know her much better, at least not on a personal level," he writes. "We're more relaxed and comfortable around each other, for sure. You could call it privacy, or mystery or whatever — I know a few isolated things about her upbringing, school, and her musical likes and dislikes — but it's nice that there are always surprises, too. Mystery is not a bad thing for a beautiful, talented young woman (or man) to embrace. And she does it without seeming to be standoffish or distant."http://www.villagevoice.com/music/st...-terms-6441057That talent for controlling her own narrative without alienating anybody has become, more or less, the crux of her essence and success as St. Vincent. In 2009, Clark told the New York Times that she likes "things that are unsettling." Every subsequent profile, it seems, has extolled her ability to straddle two distinct identities, one warm and one profoundly unknowable. Her lyrics flirt with the candid and the esoteric without committing to either; a review of Strange Mercy lauded its "emotions that are as cryptic as they are genuine and affecting." She creates a dystopia in the video for "Digital Witness," then films a how-to clip demonstrating a soccer trick she learned in grade school for Rookie, a website for teen girls.
In conversation, Clark is a good deal like her music: wry, erudite and free-associative.She describes herself as a shy child who suffered anxiety attacks, stemming from what she characterizes as profound existential dread at the "vastness" and chaos of the world. "When I was six or seven, I started to have really intense anxiety, and I didn't have the tools to even know what it was." Such attacks still overcome her, though less often, and she still finds the sensation hard to articulate: "It's always been this little buddy of mine; it informed my entire worldview. There's general anxiety, and then there's panic attacks, where I have really catastrophic thoughts, where I'm not in control." This is where art came in. "When you're forced to deal with something big that you don't understand, you try to find ways to interpret the universe in a way that can make you feel safer or alleviate that crazy. For me, it was music."http://www.rollingstone.com/music/ne...ncent-20140623"I was just as into the politics as I was into the music," says Clark, "maybe even more. It was tough and confrontational. Kurt [Cobain] was such a feminist, and the scene was so radical, punk and queer." [...] Since her 2007 debut, St. Vincent's sound has grown bigger, but dread has remained a constant theme. Her recent single "Digital Witness" describes a nightmare world shorn of privacy. Contrasting her solo work with Love This Giant, her horn-splattered album with Byrne, she says, "I love David's absurdist outlook, but I have too much melancholy in my blood to ever be that lighthearted on my own."