The following feature appears in the October 2017 issue of NYLON.
Annie Clark is not where she’s supposed to be. At the last minute, the artist known as St. Vincent decided that instead of trekking to a country store as planned, she wanted to stick closer to her studio in the hills of Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon. When I arrive at our new meeting spot, breathless from a steep climb, the first thing I notice is that neither of us is dressed appropriately for a rendezvous in the domesticated wilderness. Of course, in Clark’s case, this means looking pretty damn cool, in a sky-blue duster, gray sweatshirt, and leopard-print shorts, her trademark curly dark hair (which took a silvery lavender turn last album cycle) pin-straight and tucked under a Duran Duran cap. We make our way to a picnic table in the middle of a hiking trail that apparently enjoys more use as a bird lavatory. “Is this OK?” she asks, straddling the bench and setting down her mug of Yogi tea. It is. Anything to stop moving vertically.
“Up,” however, is a fitting direction for the 34-year-old Clark. Over the past decade, she has evolved from a clever multi-instrumentalist to critical darling to indie icon—her last record, 2014’s St. Vincent, took home the Grammy for Best Alternative Album. She’s a road warrior (with the bed bug stories to prove it), having toured for much of her life, beginning as a teenager when she was the tour manager for her uncle’s jazz duo, Tuck & Patti. And her latest album, MASSEDUCTION, is most definitely a career summit. It’s her Lemonade, her OK Computer—whatever reference conveys the urgency with which it demands to be listened to when it drops on October 13. “This one’s better,” she says of her fifth solo effort, nodding. “I was focused on writing the best songs I’d ever written.”
That goal comes at a cost, or so Clark’s body language seems to say on this late-August evening. She stifles a yawn, and cradles her tea. For the last couple of months, she’s been celibate and sober. Some of the monasticism she favors during recording stuck: An illness last March prompted her to quit alcohol altogether. “I loved my white wine,” she says. “But I just can’t stand the smell anymore.”