St. Vincent is not Annie Clark's alter-ego. "It's more like an alter ... I don't know. Just an alter," says the ambiguous multi-instrumentalist and self-proclaimed nerd.
With her crazy black hair and carved cheekbones, she's an unassuming beauty queen. Or maybe she's a genius sound engineer, who built her own studio and used it to write and record her acclaimed debut album. Or maybe she's a girl wonder indie princess—only 24 and she's played with the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens.
Really, she's all three. That much is clear.
She is St. Vincent, whether you're using the name to mean a person or a band with one person in it. "All the good bug and animal names were taken, so I thought I might as well start in on the saints." She deflects the question about her moniker's meaning cheerfully.
Clark's a big fan of the New York Times crossword puzzle, a "rare joy," she says. There she was, scratching in answers. And there it was. Her face. In the New York Times. "That's worthy of a scrapbook alone," she says. "It gets its own scrapbook."
Her tone is light, high-pitched, her cadence halting. Hugely self-aware, she apologizes when she answers pessimistically, the road-weariness impeding on her otherwise pleasant demeanor. She's almost finished with this five-week leg of touring, but she's been on the road for the better part of a year. "I've been vagabonding—vagabondaging?—for a while," she says.
Critics adore her debut, Marry Me, which hit shelves mid-July. It's surprising to Clark that anyone likes the disc—not in a self-effacing way, she adds. "It's this little baby, this tiny baby that I spent a long time on and didn't think that anyone would hear," she says.
And every writer makes sure to note her age, because of her impressive résumé, achieved, she deadpans, through nepotism and greed. "I'm not that young. I'm not. For God's sake, I'll be 25 sometime. I'll even be 30." If she were to do it over again, she would re-write the press release to say she was 16. "Teen sensation. That would be impressive. You know what would be more impressive? If I had no arms. 'Armless Teen Sensation Makes Album Out of Brainpower.'"
No arms with which to play guitar, the instrument to which she's betrothed. "All of the other instruments feel like flings."
Have you had any time to work on more material? I ask, noting the warmth in her voice when she’s reminded of time holed up in her handmade studio with only caffeine to guide her.
"I have had time to stay at Days Inn. I've had time to become a real connoisseur of ... in bad hotels, they put the little coffee-maker and little individual coffee bags. I have my favorites now. That's something I never thought I'd be: A purveyor of bad coffee. But that's what my life is."
She laughs and excuses her cynicism. Her brain, she says, is a fried little egg this afternoon.