The person I spoke with was Annie Clark. You might know her as St. Vincent. You might remember I previewed her upcoming return to New Zealand here.
Something was up as soon as we were connected. I was told twice that she could not hear me, it was a bad line. The line was fine. In fact I doubt I've ever had a clearer international phone line.
Thrown off a little by the insistence that the line was bad - when I could hear her every word, as if she was calling from next door -I battled on for a bit.
I tried to ask about the evolution of St. Vincent, three albums in. Now there was no need for the back-story that she had had to provide for albums one and two. The St. Vincent of album number three was an established solo artist - no need for her to have to show her credentials. The writing was frank and startling. She sounded more confident as a composer and performer.
My series of conversation-starters were met with a giant yawn - it was almost a comedy-yawn. It felt forced. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. It was, after all, early-ish in the morning for her.
She muttered that people should just read Wikipedia (thoughtfully I've provided the link for you, as I often do). And told me that she could not hear once again.
I asked her to tell me about her collaboration with David Byrne. She replied that, yes, she was collaborating with David Byrne. I asked how the album was coming together, when it would be released and how she and Byrne had met. I referenced David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's concept album about Imelda Marcos (St. Vincent is one of many guest vocalists) because I had the feeling she was going to tell me to look at Wikipedia once more.
She ignored me. There was silence. I asked her to clarify the writing/recording process with Byrne for the new album. Were they emailing tracks to one another, or meeting up to jam, were they writing separately and then sharing or writing together?
"Oh, who has time to jam, come on, don't be ridiculous!" She added a faux-shriek of mocking laughter. I thought I might offer a laugh and realised it would be wasted. We were not getting on side while this phone-call was happening! She then announced that it was pretty obvious they had been emailing tracks to one another. She said it in a way that felt like she was ignoring my original suggestion. She had, though, stopped telling me that she couldn't hear.
More silence. So I asked about her previous New Zealand trip - that had been a duo show, these next ones would be with a band. I asked about the band. She told me the instruments that this show would feature. She didn't want to say anything else.
She ignored a question about her guitar-playing influences. More silence. I asked if she was having trouble hearing me again. She said "No, what's your question?" I asked another question. Six or seven minutes into our 15-minute allocation (and it felt like a gruelling half-hour had passed) I politely thanked her for her time, apologised to her for the fact that she couldn't hear me, pointed out that I had heard here very clearly and told her that we were all looking forward to seeing the show.
I did this because my cue to get off the phone came in the form of a second yawn - this one louder than the first. No apology, no attempt to catch herself, or excuse herself, no reference to the fact that she yawned - just a very rude statement that she was trying her hardest to be difficult; her mind was made up that this was a waste of time and she would not be enjoying it.
She had an opportunity to discuss her career and tour with a fan - someone that had seen her play before and was genuinely passionate about her music. I decided to bow out with such a clear signal that she was not on board with the discussion. Most disappointing? It didn't even feel like someone being outwardly rude. It was worse. It felt like someone trying very hard to pantomime being very rude.
I wasn't going to write about the interview - I've told you basically everything that happened now anyway, so there's your interview whether you wanted it or not.
I decided I would share this because I heard from one of the other interviewers the next day; someone that had spoken to her just before I had. He had suffered every bit as much - maybe worse. He had heard her shouting at the phone-operator. It was clear to him that she figured he had left the conversation.
I assume that she had been caught on a day-off and was unaware that interviews had been booked. This sort of thing can happen. I assume that she decided she would make it as hard as she could for any interviewer that day. Or at least she started off playing the cranky card. Maybe she warmed into the day of interviews after the first couple.
St. Vincent will still play her New Zealand shows in a couple of weeks. She's playing Wellington and also Auckland.
I doubt I will go to the show now. I'm not sure I want to listen to her music ever again.
These are the sorts of bad days you have, occasionally, as a music-writer. And they're no fun at all. I feel like I wasted my words previewing her gig and hoping that I might get an interview with her.