Interview: St. Vincent on cheerleaders, hip-hop 

click to enlarge St. Vincent aka Annie Clark

Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, is a study in dualism. The 29-year-old multi-instrumentalist sings with a fragile beauty, often while physically abusing her guitar, making it scream with uniquely harsh tones in songs that exemplify the fine line between order and chaos.

Over the course of three albums, she's made a name for herself as a talented performer and songwriter. 2007's Marry Me was met with widespread critical acclaim. 2009's Actor, inspired heavily by classic Disney films, widened her audience with songs that could provide the soundtrack to a modern-day Snow White. And last year's Strange Mercy, which reached #19 on the Billboard 200, was inspired by her effort to withdraw herself from a feeling of information overload. Ironically, in January 2011 she announced the release of the album on Twitter.

Clark has also garnered attention for her collaborations, working with Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Beck and Kid Cudi. Prior to releasing her own LPs, Clark was a member of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' touring band.

See Clark's baroque-pop creations when she performs at Deluxe on Thursday, May 10. If you can't make the show, check out the videos in this post showcasing Annie Clark's uniquely dark and tender visions.

NUVO virtually caught up with Clark during the Australian leg of her world tour and got some quick answers to our questions.

click to enlarge St. Vincent aka Annie Clark

NUVO: You've been busy lately! A few years ago, you spoke with NUVO about your desire to score music for film. Have you had an opportunity to do that?

Annie Clark: I have had more of my songs in television and films, but not the chance to do an original score yet.

NUVO: This tour is supporting your latest album, Strange Mercy, but given your passion for film, have you had time to see any movies lately that particularly affected you?

AC: A Separation was one of the best films I've ever seen. Big shout out to Film Forum in NYC!

NUVO: You've worked with an impressive cast of characters. And you sung a beautifully haunting version of INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart" in Beck's Record Club. Who would you love to work with in the future?

AC: I'd love to finish writing this piece for the Kronos Quartet.

NUVO: When will we be able to hear your collaboration with David Byrne?

AC: It will be coming out this fall!

NUVO: You made the rather brave choice to cover Big Black's "Kerosene." Steve Albini can be a persnickety guy - did you hear from him after your performance?

AC: I heard from [Strange Mercy producer] John Congleton that Albini liked it. This was hugely gratifying.

NUVO: You've mentioned listening to Matador Records in high school. Were you into Liz Phair? There's a similarity in some of your music, a balance of fragility and force, beautiful vocals and gritty guitar.

AC: I hadn't heard Exile in Guyville until about 2007. It's a great record!

NUVO: Speaking of fragility and force, your video for "Cheerleader" exemplifies both, as you seem to be on display in a contemporary art museum, then literally fall apart. I still wonder, though: Why don't you want to be a cheerleader "no more?"

AC: A cheerleader is merely decorative and has no real bearing on the winning or losing of a game. I'd rather be in the game than a passive onlooker. But honestly, I have zero against cheerleading or cheerleaders. It's just a metaphor with the right vowel sounds and right amount of syllables to be sung by that melody.

NUVO: You used GarageBand to formulate songs on previous albums, but for Strange Mercy, you've said that you put your computer away and focused on your guitar. How was that process? Easier? More difficult? Just different?

AC: Easier! Now I know why Neil Young always did it this way.

NUVO: You show the ability to get downright funky at the end of "Surgeon." Given that you've essentially produced electronic music with GarageBand in the past — and that you've referred to owning Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory — would you consider a more electronic or hip-hop bent on future albums or collaborations?

AC: I think one of the lessons I've learned from hip-hop is that you can be as adventurous as you want with melody and sounds as long as there's a good groove.

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