IT has been a long wait since her May 17 show was postponed, but American singer-songwriter and fiercely inventive guitarist St. Vincent at last plays Leeds Metropolitan University tonight.
Her self-titled fourth solo album, released in February, will still be the focus of a show that coincides with this week’s new single, Regret.
St.Vincent, whose real name is Annie Clark, is among the most fashionable names to drop in arty music circles, and her music has reached such a point that she feels confident in calling a record after her stage name.
“It’s self-titled because I was reading Miles Davis’s biography, where he said the ‘hardest thing for a musician to do is sound like yourself,” she says. “As an artist, you’re always growing, moving forward, but I think this record is a good distillation of the things that I’ve tried to aim for.
“That does come through experience. I’m lucky that in this day and age I’ve been able to do four or five records that have allowed me to grow, and that’s very rare now. People are more excited by my fourth St. Vincent record than my first, and that normally doesn’t happen in the States, where we’re drawn to the shiny new object.
“Sometimes talented people do well with their first record, but in the time they’re touring or writing the next one, fans have moved on to the next bus off the rank.”
St.Vincent has forged ahead, ploughing her own furrow away from such fickle pop tastes. “I was the last one left on the island ,” she jokes. Nevertheless, such an independent spirit has seen her prosper, leading to her 2012 collaboration with Talking Heads’ David Byrne, making the album Love This Giant together.
Now, her new album is her most assured yet with its mesh of distorted, aggressive electric guitars, ethereal vocals, synthesiser arrangements and relentless percussion. “I definitely feel different to seven years ago when I put out my first record (2007’s Marry Me). I’m confident; I know what I like; what I don’t. I know what I believe in; what I don’t,” she says.
“And the creative process is easier because my internal criticism has somewhat died down. You have to have enough chutzpah to trust a song; enough self-awareness to know if it’s any good.”
A spirit of freedom is necessary for St. Vincent’s songwriting to flourish.
“There’s another side to writing that’s just turning on the tap and not judging any of it that’s coming out as you write it,” she says. “There are areas of creativity where you’re not pre-judging. Instead you’re judging as you put the album together. You have to have that feeling of abandon when you’re making the record.”
St. Vincent knew “the groove needed to be paramount”, on the recording sessions in Dallas, so she enlisted the drummer from Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Homer Steinweiss, and frequent collaborator McKenzie Smith, from Midlake, to share percussion duties.
“I wanted to make a party record you could play at a funeral,” she says, bold to the last. St. Vincent plays Leeds Metropolitan University tonight.