My personal style signifier is a trench coat. It’s incredibly low-maintenance and can be dressed up or down. It can say a few things: English gentleman, busy stylist or playground flasher. My favourite is probably a Celine trench I got in 2017, at the end of the Phoebe Philo era. I’ll wear it till I’m 85, God willing. I’ll be buried in that thing.

The thing I couldn’t do without is music. At the age of five, I saw the Ritchie Valens movie La Bamba where he plays that red Stratocaster. It seemed a magical object and I wanted to get near it. My mom took me to Target in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and there was a red guitar that I begged for. She was a social worker; there wasn’t much money; and it was expensive. I grew up thinking $20 was a massive amount of money. But I went home and was so obsessed that I made guitars out of cardboard and rubber bands. She saw I meant it, so she went back and got it. The seed was sown.

Wearing her old Celine trench coat: “I’ll wear it till I’m 85, God willing”
Wearing her old Celine trench coat: “I’ll wear it till I’m 85, God willing” © Molly Matalon

My style icon is Erykah Badu. Style is interesting because there’s what someone wears and how someone wears it. The same thing can look completely different depending on the person. Erykah has a wild and exciting style. Put it on anyone else and you’d be calling the authorities. 

The best book I’ve read in the past year is Faith, Hope and Carnage, the series of interviews Seán O’Hagan did with Nick Cave. I found it incredibly wise and inspiring, especially the way he talks about grief.

Her copy of Nick Cave and Seán O’Hagan’s Faith, Hope and Carnage
Her copy of Nick Cave and Seán O’Hagan’s Faith, Hope and Carnage © Molly Matalon

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a pair of Prada ankle boots. I grind shoes down to the nub. If I have a favourite thing, I wear it every day. They were sold out in my size all over the States, but I found them in duty-free at Heathrow. I happened to be in London the following week to play the Royal Albert Hall. So I’m stumbling to my gate, tired and hungover, and I almost miss my flight stopping to buy these boots. They are Prada’s answer to Dr Martens, except chic and lightweight. 

Her Prada ankle boots
Her Prada ankle boots © Molly Matalon

The last music I bought was Cate Le Bon’s most recent record, Pompeii. Cate is one of my best friends in the whole world and also one of my favourite artists in the whole world.  

Her favourite recent listen: Pompeii by Cate Le Bon
Her favourite recent listen: Pompeii by Cate Le Bon © Molly Matalon

The best gift I’ve given was fixing a gas leak at my mother’s house. I gave her the gift of life, because she didn’t explode, and so I’ve given myself the gift of life, because I adore my mother.

And the best gift I’ve received is a Lomo 19A19 microphone, which my family got me for my last big birthday. It was built in the 1960s, an excellent Soviet version of a German-engineered Neumann U47 or an AKG C12 VR. [Musician/producer] Steve Albini was the first guy to get hip to the Lomo. They were cheap 20 years ago because people hadn’t caught on to their quality, but they’re tricky to get now. I’ve used it so much on my recordings since I got it.

I have a collection of candles in the shape of food. It’s a pretty extensive collection that includes a beautiful fruit tart, a very convincing brie and a hot dog. Japan is a good source but I’ve picked them up all over. It’s a specific kind of person who feels delight at that kind of oddity.

A food-shaped candle and a bust of Janet Jackson by the artist William Scott
A food-shaped candle and a bust of Janet Jackson by the artist William Scott © Molly Matalon

I’ve recently rediscovered my old ’90s Madonna records. I took my sister to see her opening night at the O2. I wept at that show. I was genuinely, deeply moved. I became a fan again, with a capital F. Instead of watching the show and thinking, say, about the production, I was completely immersed in it.

The last thing I bought and loved was a Vermona DRM1 MKIII drum machine. I make beats [with a MIDI keyboard] and send it to this, which allows me to manipulate the sounds in real time. Then I balance the sounds within the Vermona and make a stereo, or sometimes mono, bounce of the beat. It’s a more circuitous route, but it’s worth it for the sonic and tactile satisfaction.

Her Vermona DRM1 MKIII drum machine
Her Vermona DRM1 MKIII drum machine © Molly Matalon

In my fridge you’ll always find waffles that you can make in the toaster, because I can’t cook. And champagne. One is AM and one is PM.

Waffles – a fridge staple
Waffles – a fridge staple © Molly Matalon

An indulgence I would never forgo is a real counterpoint to my sob story about growing up lower middle class… listen, if there’s champagne to be had, I’m having it. My favourite thing to do at a fancy party is point at the food or drink and ask people, “Is this free?!” I was taken out for dinner in Vegas around the time of the Grammys, and we went to Carbone, which has an extensive champagne list. I tried something from a small vineyard and it was the best thing I’ve ever had: it was magic in the mouth. My family took me to Carbone the next night and I was going to order it for the table before I saw the price and decided that the tap water was nice too. 

An object I would never part with is a white Supro Dual Tone guitar, signed by David Bowie, which I treasure. I would never get rid of that. I don’t play it live. It’s like fancy candles: not for burning.

Her Supro Dual Tone guitar signed by David Bowie
Her Supro Dual Tone guitar signed by David Bowie © Molly Matalon

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Goya. I went to the Prado last time I was in Madrid with my artist friend Alex Da Corte. We saw Goya’s Black paintings – Saturn Devouring his Son and Witches’ Sabbath – which sent a lightning bolt down my spine. Goya painted them on the walls of his house: he lived with those. They feel like end-of-life paintings. I don’t think you’re able to paint those kinds of things when you’re young. They’re by someone reckoning with mortality. I’m thinking they’d go nicely in the bedroom. 

“Garden Glove” by her artist friend Alex Da Corte
“Garden Glove” by her artist friend Alex Da Corte © Molly Matalon

The beauty staple I’m never without is a hot shower. No matter how late the party is, I never go to bed without washing my face, brushing my teeth and showering. Especially on tour, because I genuinely get disgusting. I’m covered in sweat, I’ve often made my knees bleed, I’ve gone into the crowd, I’ve had people’s hands on me, I’ve spat – it’s a feral existence. 

My family owns a taqueria in Dallas, Resident Taqueria, which does incredible food, very reasonably priced. They’ve won awards – my brother-in-law is an amazing chef and studied with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Thomas Keller. It’s a great hang, and when I’m in Dallas I eat at least one meal a day there.

My favourite app is Chordbot. I write so much music on there. It’s a way to put together all those expensive chords. I’m talking about chords with flat nines and 13s; I’m talkin’ half-diminished with dominant sevens. I’m talking chords.

St Vincent in her sitting room
St Vincent in her sitting room © Molly Matalon

Some of my best ideas have come from conversations, from calling up a friend and just riffing. There’s something crystallising about conversations with friends who are also artists – like calling up Carrie Brownstein [of Sleater-Kinney] and going off on a tangent. Conversations with strangers are fascinating, too. I’m at a level of success where if you know me, you know me, but I’m not so mainstream that I can’t walk down the street. I like what that affords me, that I can have a conversation with a stranger at a bar and they don’t know what I do. I like when no one is self-conscious or has anything to gain except a human interaction.

Champagne – an indulgence she would never forgo
Champagne – an indulgence she would never forgo © Molly Matalon

The work of art that changed everything for me was John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which I first heard when I was 15. I was hearing someone clawing their way up to ecstasy through immense suffering. I didn’t grow up like Coltrane or have the same life experiences, but there was something in there that spoke to my own suffering. You listen and it’s like a portal to the sky opens up.

My favourite building is Electric Lady Studios in NYC. I made parts of my last three records there. The place has a soul. I take a song I’m stuck with and somehow always find it in those studios.

St Vincent at home in Los Angeles
St Vincent at home in Los Angeles © Molly Matalon

I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music – constantly. I used to listen to a lot of murder podcasts but then decided it wasn’t a great thing to make my entertainment from female suffering. I’ve gone back to a classic, This American Life with Ira Glass. But also, let me say, I think Love + Radio is brilliant. It’s deeply odd, with subversive stories, and the sound design is epic. One that’s more lighthearted is Dear Joan and Jericha, where the hosts Julia Davis and Vicki Pepperdine play two agony aunts giving terrible and hilarious advice.

My favourite room in my home is my studio. Right now my entire home in Los Angeles is basically a studio – almost every room contains recording gear. There’s not really a separation between making things and living. But my favourite place to be is in the studio, turning knobs, playing with circuitry and electricity, coming up with ideas, listening through my speakers app to make sure that a delay is in time. There’s a lot of tech, a lot of nerdiness.

Her home recording studio
Her home recording studio © Molly Matalon

My grooming guru is my good friend, stylist Avigail Collins, who’s a solid Leeds girl. We had a whole lot of fun creating the aesthetic behind the Daddy’s Home record. That album was about costume and character. The idea behind the character is that she was wearing last night’s clothes in the morning. The make-up is a little smudged, there’s dirt under her fingernails and her style idol is Candy Darling. She definitely does not shower.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home is from the first time I went surfing, in Barbados. I wiped out and got swept away from the rest of the group. But as I was fumbling back, I found a giant piece of coral in the shape of a beautiful turgid cock. There’s a reason for every wipeout; in this case, so I could bring back this beautiful cock.

The coral she found in Barbados
The coral she found in Barbados © Molly Matalon

In another life, I would have done some sort of manual labour – I’m talking plumbing and electrical. During lockdown, I got into DIY. I like to know how things work. I would take a break from writing, where you’re trying to draw magic from the ether and it’s indescribable, ineffable and, yes, there are puzzle pieces to it, but you have to make all the puzzle pieces and put them together. I found it soothing that there is an existing, logical system that works: if it doesn’t work, you find the problem and fix it. There is satisfaction in painting a room, because I don’t have to invent the idea of paint. Music is inventing the idea of paint and colour and asking, “What is colour?”

“There’s what someone wears and how someone wears it,” she says
“There’s what someone wears and how someone wears it,” she says © Molly Matalon

The place that means a lot to me is the Hotel Saint Vincent in New Orleans. My friend [hotelier] Liz Lambert was visiting me on tour when I was going through New Orleans and asked me to come and look at a property. It was a spooky place – it had been a lot of things over its life, including an orphanage. We walked around and had a bottle of white wine on the steps in a paper bag. I could see her looking at the place and dreaming about it. Cut to 2021, eight years later, and I played the hotel’s opening. It was June in New Orleans and I was wearing a corduroy suit and a wig: it was the sweatiest show I’ve ever done. That place, I feel part of the genesis of it.

The best bit of advice I ever received was that most people are just thinking about themselves. When we’re young we’re so self-conscious, but it really doesn’t matter. 

All Born Screaming is released on 26 April on Fiction/Universal

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