St. Vincent Didn’t Mean to Write a Political Album

St. Vincent Didn’t Mean to Write a Political Album


St. Vincent

Emily Berl for The New York Times

“Masseduction” is your fifth album in 10 years. How does your songwriting process work? I just walk around, and I collect things. When it’s time to write, I dump them all out at the landfill and sort through them. I start grouping things by color or by texture, slowly but surely. I just made a bunch of robots out of trash: That’s what it feels like.

You’ve mentioned that the artist Jenny Holzer was influential in figuring out the aesthetic of the album and the tour. In a lot of ways. I called the tour “Fear the Future,” because it made me laugh — it’s so ominous and prescriptive that it’s absurd. It reminded me of the big, bold edicts that Jenny Holzer would have superimposed on a building or a billboard, or of the billboards that you pass in the South: “JESUS IS COMING SOON” or something else apocalyptic. It just made me laugh.

Does it make you laugh when you see it now? Yes, but I think everyone’s in on the joke.

It reminds me a bit of Kraftwerk. I’ll take that.

This is a much more straightforward pop album than your previous works. Did you consciously try to go in a new direction? I knew that I wanted programmed drums and that I wanted pedal steel and that I wanted to write about power.

How much did the current social climate affect you? I was very affected — as everyone is, or was. We’re staring into the face of annihilation — what are we going to do? Blink? I was ruminating on sex and power and seduction and then thinking about something William S. Burroughs once said to the singer Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV: “Your task, Genesis, is to short-circuit control.” I would happily stand and be counted to be one of those, helping dismantle the power structure as it is. I think we’re going to see a really massive and exciting sea change toward more justice and more equality for the most marginalized. I did not start out to write a “political” album, because, frankly, I’m not convinced those work. The way to hearts and minds is to be honest about your own heart and mind, but my person is politicized as a result of the time we’re living in. You can’t help but be political.

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