St Vincent is the real life superhero pop culture needs right now

Dubbed the female Bowie, St Vincent, born Annie Clarke, is taking her vision of art rock to the masses with new album Masseduction. The Grammy Award winning artist leans on math-rock oddity and puts it on indie's turf in an ambitious quest to be the 21st century's pop saviour.

She's described her style as the Addams Family gathered in a mental institution – where freaks come out and play in a world of art-synth mind games.

The gender fluid artist, who was raised in Dallas in a family of eight children, is adored for her quirky style. She's got rocker chic and androgynous tomboy cool down-pat.

Like her hero David Bowie, she morphs into many characters and with the help of LA stylist Emily Batson delivers on gender politics as much as she champions a new feminist vision.

In just 10 years on the music scene, the 35-year old star has wooed Talking Head's David Byrne to make a joint album in 2009, sung in place of Kurt Cobain when Nirvana performed Lithium at the 29th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction in 2014 and cut an awkward slice of tabloid curiosity after dating model and actress Cara Delevigne and Kirsten Stewart back to back in 2016/17.

A true roller coaster

"It's been one hell of a ride," says Clarke who comes to Australia for two shows including Dark Mofo, Tasmania followed by a spot at Vivid, Sydney mid-June.

"My success and my place in music is never lost on me," says the star who took out Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammys in 2015 for her self-titled release.

"I know I am lucky to be here, but I wake up every day and want to do this. I don't think about fame or the money I am making. The money part rates very little in terms of what gets my engine room running," she says.

"I always felt I have more in common with the [average person on] the street than with those who are famous."


The pop phenom

Teaming with Taylor Swift's 1989 producer Jack Antonoff [of Bleachers fame] might be her way of entering the mainstream pop sphere, but she's joining the circus on her terms – where gender, sexism and mental health rate highly in her intellectual discussion.

She's the rebel we've all been waiting for - a queer beauty queen who loves makeup and slaps the male gaze across the face. And if she's going to rock a slogan T-shirt, be sure it'll ruffle the conservatives – especially when she pulls out Nice As F**k on the street.

"I work closely with costumiers to come up with original outfits when I perform," she says.

"It's all about making sure it's something that occupies a place of fear and fantasy but it has to be practical for me to move in. I don't want my vagina to fall out mid set," she laughs.

Shadow self

For all her quirky kickbacks, there is a dark side too. She admitted suffering anxiety and depression in 2017, but feels better now.

"I'm a very ambitious person. It's sometimes detrimental to the point I forget to come up for air sometimes and there's no-one to really check in on you to make sure you're okay – especially when you're on the road touring," she says.

While the stage is her favourite place to reinvent herself, she's also no stranger to fashion weeks ad aligning with luxury brands. She's been spotted at London Fashion Week with her ex-Delevingne, performed in a PVC red dress for Tiffany & Co's new fragrance in New York last year and rocked a pair of rose embroidered trousers with a matching trench by Adam Selman at the opening of the House of Peroni installation she curated in New York last October.

"I want to feel like a superhero on stage and wear something that is so alien from what I would wear down the street. You know we aren't in Kansas anymore kind of vibes. It helps me feel totally transformed as a person and I also think it tells the audience we are going to try to transcend normal reality right now and go some place else."

Crossing the line, and back

The fine line between fame and sanity is the place St Vincent wants to share with her fans. When it comes to the live show, she's promising that and a whole lot more. One minute she's nun-like and introverted the next she's charging at her guitar like Iron Maiden is watching overhead.

"I like to trace a line from fear to freedom and show life from a different position with my stage sets and how I perform. It's a chance for me and the audience to escape," she says.

"That's what art and music means to me – it has to be a place where you can transcend and transform and totally get lost in it."