What Is Going On With St. Vincent And *That* Interview Right Now?
The artist's PR team reportedly tried to kill an awkward interview - and all hell broke loose.
Most artists don’t like doing press. But St. Vincent, the massive indie pop act who has recorded a string of masterpieces in her time, really doesn’t like doing press.
Over the last few years, St. Vincent — real name Annie Clark — has developed a reputation as being one of the more intimidating artists to sit across from in a journalistic setting. And more time in the spotlight hasn’t sanded off her mercurial edges, either; this week, the performer has made headlines for a particularly embittered interview, a saga which has now descended into killed pieces, notes from PR teams, and republished articles.
It’s a long, complicated story, which is why I am here to break it down for you, blow by blow.
Why Does St. Vincent Hate Doing Press So Much?
Good question that it’s almost impossible to answer; I’d suggest that you ask St. Vincent, but she’d probably give you an icy stare.
In the past, she’s developed a habit of either ignoring interviewers entirely when they ask a question that she doesn’t like, or playing a pre-recorded message on a tape recorder in lieu of actually speaking. Back in 2019, while being interviewed by GQ‘s Molly Young, the artist turned the tables and asked a question of her own — “Do you like doing this?” And when Music Junkee‘s own Jared Richards sat down with St. Vincent, he described her as “intimidating”.
On the one hand, it’s fair enough to be tired of the PR cycle. Artists are often subjected to many hours of interviews in a row, dealing with dodgy phone connections and a broad similarity in questions. Anyone would get over it.
But it’s always worth remembering that St. Vincent doesn’t have to do press — especially not at any significant volume. Sure, talking to journalists increases the visibility of an artist. But so does curating a social media timeline, releasing attention-grabbing music videos, and just generally making sure that you remain in the public eye.
So Why Is St. Vincent in the News Cycle Right Now?
Early this week, St. Vincent sat down for a chat with Emma Madden about her new album Daddy’s Home, a nostalgic exercise in pop-making that is in part inspired by her father’s release from prison. The album comes out in two weeks, and is designed to emulate the sound of Americana of the ’70s, a far cry from the silky sheen of her last major label release, Masseduction.
Wait, St. Vincent’s Dad Went to Prison?
Yep. In an interview conducted last month by Laura Snapes of The Guardian, St. Vincent revealed that her father had gone to jail in 2010 for crimes related to a “stock manipulation scheme”. He was released in 2019. The news has generated a lot of chatter online, given the attention paid to it by St. Vincent herself — that album title is a winking nod, of sorts.
What Happened In The Interview?
For the most part, the interview reads as pretty standard PR fare — Madden asked a series of questions about the sound of the new record, including questions related to specific instrumental parts that pop up on specific songs. So far, so normal.
Then, in a short back-and-forth, Madden probed St. Vincent about her thoughts concerning the carceral state. The artist’s responses were fairly muted and deflationary. Jezabel has republished part of the conversation, including a section where Madden asks how St. Vincent squares her father’s imprisonment with this last year’s increase in social attention surrounding abolition.
Here’s St. Vincent’s response to that question:
“I have so many thoughts and opinions, I don’t presume that my thoughts and opinions are relevant on every subject though. I don’t have that much hubris.”
And that’s that; about as spicy as the interview gets, to be honest.
What Was The Fallout From the Interview?
Shortly after Madden had written the piece, she received a message from St. Vincent’s PR team asking that it not get published. Madden asked what the specific problem was; the response, when it came, was that she had been too “aggressive.”
So the piece never ran. Temporarily undeterred, Madden published the article on her own website, before eventually taking down that copy too. Now, the only version of the conversation accessible online has been preserved in hard-to-find screenshots, and in excerpts like the one that Jezabel have run. Head over there if you want to read the rundown.
Is It Really So Easy for Artists to get Interviews Pulled?
Increasingly so. Now more than ever, interviews are PR exercises; they are often monitored by a publicity team, and “hostile” or “invasive” questions will either be shut down on the spot, or will be followed-upon later with requests that certain responses not make it to print. If you value profiles for their insight and honesty, then it’s something of a worrying sign.