It’s been difficult to miss Annie Clark’s latest album campaign. Dying her locks a lilac shade of silver and donning Isabella Blow-inspired futurist finery, the artist known in her liner sleeves as St. Vincent has reinvented herself as something of a near-future cult leader. The cover of her self-titled new album alone is striking enough to reach iconic heights, occupying a space somewhere between a high fashion centre-spread and a B-list sci-fi movie.
“Music and art to me are things that never feel demystified,” Clark tells us in the club bar of a West End restaurant. “I don’t know anything else like that. If one thing is fit to worship then it’s music.”
However honest, genuine and down-to-earth the Texan native comes across in virtually every interview, Clark continues to showcase a fascination with the darkness that lies beneath all of us. On Strange Mercy, the musician delved into the eerie Lynchian world of suburbia, portraying a “housewife on barbiturates and white wine”. This time round, it’s a near-future cult leader. “I guess everything’s a cult, just some things have more members than others,” she laughs, before pausing for thought. “Every time I write a record, a different archetype emerges. The most interesting thing about futurism is the ‘black mirror’ aspect, where things are just near enough to be recognisable but with a strange twist.”
Other than the record’s technophobic lead cut “Digital Witness”, the aesthetics are pretty much where the dystopian concept ends. Instead, the music of St. Vincent was metabolised from Clark’s mind wandering during her ridiculously busy past few years. “Whilst I was touring my last solo record, Strange Mercy, the shows were getting darker and more violent. I started stage-diving and it got really intense,” Clark says, referring to such events as at the BAM gallery in Brooklyn. “But then I went straight from that into the Love This Giant tour David Byrne], which was more joyful and what you could call ‘existentially absurdist’. It felt like I was inhabiting two completely different realms, so I brought the energy of both to what I did next, and that was manifest in this record”.
This sonic clash has resulted in Clark’s most diverse effort to date, where the detached retro-futurism of singles “Digital Witness” and “Birth In Reverse” stand right next to the sincere and heartfelt “Severed Crossed Fingers” and “I Prefer Your Love”, the latter of which Clark describes as a “song about unconditional love” written for her mother who recently recovered from a serious illness, but one she hopes “transcends” this biographical fact. “I went into making this album with a lot of confidence,” Clark says. “The highs are higher and the lows lower, dynamically at least.”