Annie Clark is, as a person, more polite than punk. “I tend to be kind of cerebral, I guess,” she explains. But the music she makes as St. Vincent—precise, ambitious rock full of airy vocal melodies and frenetic guitar parts—can be jarring, disruptive and often absolutely beautiful. As a result, her third album, “Strange Mercy,” contained some of last year's most forward-thinking rock. To figure out Clark's secret formula, RedEye called her up for a chat about moshing, music production and, um, “The Hunger Games.”
Your music is getting more abrasive, louder. Do you try to make it more difficult in that way, more intense for people to get into?
It's not about alienating the listener. It's just about doing something that feels exciting. But I think people want a challenge.
How much of it is thought out as “this is a pop song” versus “I'm experimenting with something I want to do?”
My goal is only ever to make music that I think sounds compelling. And that's not about superimposing stuff that doesn't need to be there. I'm only ever trying to make something that excites me. And if that happens to be challenging or that happens to be easy, that's not even really my concern. Ultimately I think I make pop music. But my version of what pop music is may be different than someone else's. There's no way to really gauge it.
Your Vic show is sold out. Have you ever snuck into a show, and do you have any tips for fans who want to sneak into your show?
I can't say I ever have. Not because I wouldn't want to. Hmm ... I’m not sure how you do it. There's so much security and all that.
Is there any similarly rock ‘n’ roll thing you've done at a show you've attended?
I used to go see Lightning Bolt a lot. And those shows were wonderful because they set up in the middle of the crowd and you just totally mosh and rage. And I just remember feeling so excited to hear the band pounding in my ears and feel people kind of elbowing you and that just was so much fun.
Do people ever mosh at St. Vincent shows?
Yeah. If I start it, they'll mosh.
It seems like you have a really wide range of artistic influences. You're always tweeting about music and books and fashion. Does that play into your music at all?
Of course. ... I'm always kind of collecting images and ideas from all over. Everything I read or every movie I see.
Speaking of which, recently you tweeted that you saw “The Hunger Games.” What did you think of that movie?
Yes! Oh my God! I actually loved it. I didn't know anything about it. I hadn't seen any reviews of it. I had not read the books. I basically knew nothing. And I just walked in and it was an action-packed thrill ride.
Another thing you've tweeted about before is Drake. What do you think of Drake's music?
Drake, oh my God! I listened to that record—his last record—for a time there it was the only thing I would listen to. Like, definitely about a month. Yeah, I really liked it. I thought it was great. My friend made, when I said that I really liked him, she made a kind of horrifying Photoshop of us together.
Do you listen to much hip-hop?
I do, sometimes more than others. I guess it's R&B, but I got really into The-Dream for a little bit.
I love The-Dream!
Yeah, I love The-Dream too. And Lil Wayne. I feel like there were lots of times in making “Strange Mercy” when I was like, “Oh, this should have a Dirty South kind of vibe to it.” Well, you maybe can't hear that ... Hip-hop production is some of the most exciting production, I think. I think in hip-hop production they're really not afraid to take chances and anything can be a snare drum and you can make a beat out of anything.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 11
Where: The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield
Tickets: Sold out
Kyle Kramer is a redeye special contributor.
Q&A: St. Vincent
St. Vincent (Getty / May 9, 2012)