10 minutes with: St. Vincent

Published

By Imants Latkovskis

Bold and electrifying, the American multi-instrumentalist’s fourth studio album just hit the shelves. The self-titled record sees the singer transformed into a white-haired near future cult leader as she explores darkly futuristic themes and manages to find her true sound.

Glasgow Guardian caught up with St. Vincent to catch a glimpse into her new album and the creative process behind it.

Guardian: How would you describe your new album and why did you choose to self-title it?

St. Vincent: I would describe it as a party record you could play at a funeral. And I self-titled it because I was reading Miles Davis’s autobiography, and in it he talks about how the hardest thing for any artist is to sound like yourself, and I think I sound like myself in this record.

Guardian: What drives your lyrics? Do you see yourself as telling a story or invoking emotion?

St. Vincent: Sometimes the universe just gives you a freebie in terms of song material. Like “Rattlesnake” was a true story and all I had to do was report it and report the facts. And sometimes it’s so easy and nice to write your life. And sometimes you’re not really sure why certain words or combination of words have meanings, but you’ve put them together, you’ve ordered them that way out of all the possible combinations, so there must be some subconscious meaning that they have.

Guardian: Your songs have an almost overpowering quality to them, is it important for you to get something out of the listener, to overwhelm them or make them feel a certain way?

St. Vincent: You can’t really make anybody feel anything. I’m fairly myopic when it comes to the creative process, I just have to trust my own ears and realise that if it means something to me and makes me feel a certain way, then it might mean something to someone else by the transitive property of humanity. I just try to go after the sounds in my head and make them tangible instead of manipulating someone’s feelings per se.

Guardian: Your music has been described as teetering between happiness and madness, would you agree with that?

St. Vincent: I see those two things as somewhat intertwined. No one ever really feels just one way about something. Rather we see things in a kaleidoscopic view of everything in our lives, so it only makes sense to me to put sometimes conflicting emotions into one song because I think that’s honest.

Guardian: Your videos have a very distinct, ominous style, do you always know how to visualize a song straight away or is it more of a process?

St. Vincent: I’ve worked with a number of different directors for the videos I’ve made. It is always a process, a matter of seeing if a video connects with the song and then having a dialogue to make tweaks and things like that. On this record, I’m going for this near-future cult leader archetype look.

Guardian: What kind of stuff inspires you?

St. Vincent: Everything. Sometimes you just have to write your life, other times you’re influenced by all the art that has come before you and you just try to get your own feel.

Guardian: If you had to sum up your musical process in one word, what would it be?

St. Vincent: Work. A serious part of it is that somehow you are able to make music which is essentially constructing a beautiful castle out of the ether. Essentially, if you want to get hit by a train, you have to go stand on the tracks. So I would say work is important: dedication, devotion, worship.

St. Vincent will be playing in Glasgow on May 16.