St. Vincent on Women in Entertainment: "We Need More Voices in the Room"

St. Vincent 
Photo: Jared Siskin

Annie Clark is in her element. When I first meet the singer, better known by her moniker St. Vincent, in downtown Manhattan, she's clad in Adam Selman, seated akimbo in the center of an art installation. It's inspired by the Memphis design movement and avant-garde surrealism, which she curated for the House of Peroni, a three-day pop-up showcasing artists from various disciplines, including dance, sculpture, and film.

"I love me some Fellini," she says, with her deadpan candor. A budding filmmaker herself (she recently directed her first horror short, The Birthday Party, and is slated to direct the female-led adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray), Clark often draws upon the revered director's neorealist style, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.

Ahead of her partnership with Peroni and fifth album, Masseducation, due out on Oct. 13, Clark sat down with InStyle to candidly discuss drinking (naturally), her burgeoning film career, and inequality in Hollywood.

Are you a big drinker?

I go in and out of it. I went through a phase this year of being completely monastic, so I'm quite a lightweight now—one beer and I'm good to go.

What prompted your monasticism?

I just had so much work to do.

Indeed. You've got a new album out next week. From what's been released so far, the lyrics seem very personal. Are you concerned that people are going to read into them, à la Taylor Swift?

That's going to happen on some level, no matter what—since there's high-profile romance involved, there's an implicit level of additional intrigue. And that's fine. Nobody knows what the songs mean to me but me. Songs will go and mean whatever people will Rorschach test onto them. I was thinking about it, and I don't care what Tom Waits was thinking about when he wrote "Downtown Train". I don't care if it was real, if it literally happened, or if he just imagined the whole scenario, because it's a powerful song.

St. Vincent
Erik Melvin

Fair point. What inspired the album artwork?

I like when things are sexy and beautiful, but also totally absurd. And we live in really absurdist times, so it only feels natural to push that envelope. I like to describe the aesthetic of this album as "sexy Pee-wee's Playhouse."

Is that also why you chose to name your upcoming tour "Fear the Future"?

I have a morbid sense of humor, and I just thought it was funny. It's so on the nose. It feels like everyone has their finger on the button these days.

2017 has been a rough year for everyone. What keeps you up at night?

The overgrowth of patriarchal toxicity that needs to be dismantled brick by brick.

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Women can be subject to considerable gender-related abuse in Hollywood, especially considering the New York Times sexual harassment exposé on Harvey Weinstein.

Oh, that was no secret.

It's pretty significant that he took a leave of absence, though.

He stepped down? Yes!

Have you faced any gender barriers breaking into the film industry?

I personally don't feel that I've been the bearer of a tremendous amount of victimization, simply because it's so absurd to me that I probably wouldn't recognize it if I saw it. Other people's sexism isn't my problem. The larger point is that we need people telling their own stories. We need more voices in the room, because that's the authentic human experience. There is no universal point of view. Even when you're talking about being the voice of something, that's a fraught notion, because there shouldn't have to be one voice for an entire community of people or group of people. The point is that it's a plethora—it's a multitude. That kind of variousness has been afforded to some because of their identity, but we need it to be afforded to everyone. It's not just about getting a seat at the table and suddenly becoming the voice of people of color, or the voice of LGBTQ—there's not one f-cking voice.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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