Music News

St. Vincent's Annie Clark Talks about Reinvention and Epiphanies

Singer-guitarist Annie Clark — better known by her nom de indie rock St. Vincent — returns to town on yet another tour behind her acclaimed second album, 2009's Actor. We caught up with her via phone for a quick chat:

New Times: So Actor has been out for a while now — do you have a different relationship to the songs on the album the further away you get from writing and recording them?

Annie Clark: Yeah. Since Actor came out, we've been playing mostly the material on Actor, and I'm very pleased with how the arrangements have held up, but also grown, in the live context.

NT: How have they changed?

AC: Well, I mean, it was a relatively new band at the start of this touring cycle. I had been playing with [guitarist/violinist] Daniel Hart and [bassist/clarinetist] Bill Flynn for the past few years of touring now, but there's a woodwind and keyboard player named Evan Smith and a new drummer, Anthony LaMarca.

NT: Oh, wasn't he playing drums with Dean and Britta for a while?

AC: Dean and Britta, yeah, he was. So just any new band trying to play material, you kinda hafta get out there and do it and do it and do it and refine it. So I think it's just gotten to a much tighter, better place now after many months of touring, which is to be expected. Because the writing of the record, I wrote it mostly on the computer and then had people play the parts. It's not a record where I took ideas to a band and said, "Hey, guys, let's jam!" That's not the process at all. So it's kind of been backwards in that regard.

NT: A lot of musicians will say that as far as music is concerned, the art is in the writing and recording of material, and the performance that comes later on is more about entertainment. Do you see it that way, or do you think there's art in performance?

AC: I think there's plenty of room for art everywhere. I think there's art in the performance of the material. There's just different kinds of feeling when you're writing and recording and putting things together. That feels like, wow, there's a synthesis that happens and it feels new. It's like an epiphany and newness and actualization. And then when you go out and play it night after night, it's more like reinvention. But also, there's plenty of room for art just in how you present the stage and how you present the lighting and everything. But certainly the hope is that a show is entertaining.

NT: What is it that makes for an especially great, memorable show?

AC: You wanna be connected to the audience, or certainly paying attention to the audience, but you also have to make sure that your fingers go in the right place, that whatever's coming out of your mouth is on key and legible, and everything. So it's . . . I noticed with this record there seems to be fans in a real way. With the first record, a lot of times people come out and they haven't seen you before and they're really just kinda checking it out. And I think with a second record or coming to see multiple shows or having more of a long-term relationship to the music, I think there's more . . . I feel more embraced on all of these tours. It seems like people are real fans now. They're behind it more, instead of, like, "Well, I guess this one song's pretty cool . . . "

NT: There's more of an emotional investment.

AC: Yeah, and that's really powerful. That goes a long way.

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Michael Alan Goldberg