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"I can't turn off what turns me on.": An interview with St. Vincent

Annie Clark is St. Vincent. Widely regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of our time, as well as one of the preeminent artist’s this generation, Clark, born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raised in Dallas, Texas, has been making music as St. Vincent since 2007. Her albums have been lauded by critics and fans alike. In 2013 she released “St. Vincent” and debued a stiking new visual element to her style which she has carried through to her new album, “MASSEDUCTION.” She will be playing in Milwaukee on Friday, November 17th at the Riverside Theater. This is our conversation with Annie Clark, AKA, St. Vincent.


Listen to the full, unedited interview below.


Justin Barney:  So, in the new album you have this song, “Fear the Future,” and I’m going back listening to your album, “Marry Me,” and there is something there in “Marry Me,” there’s a skepticism in the future, in terms of commitment, and also here we have “MASSEDUCTION,” and also there is this skepticism as well.

Why is there this skepticism in the future?

Annie Clark: Just at the moment it feels like there’s hot lava coming up from the sidewalk, where it’s moving incredibly, heightened device of time.

There’s that.

Justin: There is that.

Annie: I actually called the tour, “Fear the Future.” The song is obviously but a love song.

It’s like we’re standing watching the world burn, but all we have is each other. Let’s hold hands and jump off the building.

I called the tour “Fear of the Future,” because it made me laugh because it’s so on the nose. There’s some general anxieties and it reminded me of something you see on a billboard or something. It’s just so on the nose, it’s darkly comic to me.

It’s like we’re standing watching the world burn, but all we have is each other. Let’s hold hands and jump off the building.

Justin: To me as well. I love it. If “Masseduction” has a thesis, what would that thesis be?

Annie: It would be, I can’t turn off what turns me on.

Justin: Oh, I love that. What are some of those things?

Annie: I read this really good quote a friend of mine sent to me. The writer is Zadie Smith who talked about it and she says, “Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.” That seems apt and so almost everything I do is like looking through some photos….

Satisfaction, I was watching a Joan Didion documentary where she talks about “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” she talks about walking in and seeing a five year old child on acid.


She pauses, because the interviewer asks her, “What did you think?”

You think she might say something like, moralistic, but she’s at heart a reporter and a writer. To be a writer, it’s to be ruthless. She says she thought it was gold. To not take a certain level of… you can call it removed, you can call it beyond good and evil, whatever.


The things that drive me on are the speed of this perpetual dissatisfaction.


How’s that for you for an answer? I could’ve been like, “sex and drugs!” and “sex and drugs and money,” or whatever.

Justin: Perpetual dissatisfaction is much better.

Annie: It’s Glorious!

Justin: The thesis is you can’t turn off the things that turn  you on, is the implication there that you feel like you should turn those things off?

Annie: Sure, in some people’s minds. I think often times the biggest chasms in humanity happen when people aren’t honest about the human future.

So, that’s more of what I’m going for. There’s liberation about being honest about human nature. And being honest about… just being truthful about the human experience. Rather than trying to say well, here’s the box that we made, why doesn’t everything fit in this box?

Justin: Why do we have such trouble then? You know? I agree with this, I feel like it’s something I agree with too, but I feel like I and we all have this desire to want to be truthful and want to be honest, but also have a real difficulty following through those things.

Annie: I’m more honest in art than in life.

Justin: Right?

Annie: Exactly, I mean and that’s in some ways we do it. I don’t know how I think, or what I think or how I feel until I make something. Then it tells me who I am at that moment. I don’t know, I’m walking around, I have nothing in my brain. I’m walking around, I have the same six thoughts cycling through my brain. It’s only when I make something when I feel sense of liberation.

I’m more honest in art than in life.