Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Aug 19th 2009 5:00PM by Joshua Ostroff
Guitar-slinging crooner Annie Clark, better known by her nom-de-rock St. Vincent, may have been too young to be a part of the '90s Riot Grrrl movement, but she's nonetheless a realization of their gender-blind dream.
"I wasn't reactionary, like, 'I'm gonna play guitar to spite you. Girl Power!' I just love playing guitar, so that's what I'm going to do," she tells Spinner in Toronto a few days after a sold-out set at the Horseshoe Tavern. "Some people expect I wouldn't be able to play guitar very well. I don't know why guitar is this phallic thing to so many people, but that's other people's deal."
She also decries the "sexism of lowered expectations," be it people being wowed by her girl guitar skills or Lady GaGa getting props for writing songs like 'Poker Face' instead of taking the Britney route and hiring Swedes.
"That she should be rewarded [because she says,] 'I write my own songs.' Yeah, duh. So?"
But what really riles up Clark is anything that focuses more on a musician's femininity than her music, especially women-only tours like Lilith Fair, a late-'90s staple that Canadian founder Sarah McLachlan is planning to return to the road next summer.
"The Lilith Fair thing was Bummer Town -- hey, hop aboard the marginalizing train. I guess you had people come out of that and have careers, but I think there was a pretty intense backlash, too," she says, noting she attended the 1998 edition in Dallas because her aunt and uncle's band (jazz duo Tuck & Patti) shared a manager with Bonnie Raitt. And because Clark wanted to see Erykah Badu, who was slotted criminally early on the bill.
"It was just white people who wanted to see the Indigo Girls," she recalls. "It also helped perpetuate this idea that what women do in music is acoustic, sincere, sentimental and without an edge to it."
Clark has moved up through the ranks of male-led bands (Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens) to become an indie star in her own right. Her new St. Vincent album, 'Actor,' and current tour -- on which she's been offering up a dirty-blues cover of the Beatles' 'Dig a Pony' -- offer a good counter-argument against such Lilith-inspired assumptions.
"Musically, I have more things in common with tons of bands that have no female members," she says "I'm supportive of women, absolutely, and it's so gratifying to have girls come up and say, 'I'm really inspired by your guitar playing.' I mean no disrespect to the sisterhood, but musically I feel more drawn to things like Dirty Projectors, the National and Grizzly Bear. I like Fever Ray, but not because she's a woman.
"I just don't see music on those gender terms."