Watch St. Vincent Crushing Metal Riffs

From listening to her alternative and melodic pop, you wouldn’t necessarily pick St. Vincent as a heavy rock and metal fan. However, when Annie Clark took over the BBC6 Instagram last month to let fans in on some of her favourite guitar riffs, she listed a few classics that you might not have been expecting…


When asked what the first riff she ever learnt to play was Clark immediately rips into the infamous guitar line from Smells Like Teen Spirit by seminal grunge heroes, Nirvana. Amongst other influences, she also lists Pantera, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin as inspirations to her unique guitar style.

The biggest highlight of the video comes at the end when Clarke expertly nails the prog-metal riff to Forty-Six & 2 by Tool, whilst also singing the vocal melody. As the complex counter-rhythms progress in the song Clarke laughs and admits ‘It’s hard to sing and play at the same time…’

Read on for a transcription of the interview which originally appeared on BBC6:

What was the first riff you learnt to play?

It’s actually a toss up. I can’t remember if it’s this, which you will recognise (plays Nirvana – Smells like Teen Spirit) or if it was, a slightly lesser known gem which is Aqualung by Jethro Tull.

What riff are you most proud of?

It was something I sang first, I think I was 15. I was listening to a lot of Billie Holiday at the time. It’s really just a line, I guess. It stuck with me and I put it in a song on Masseduction called Saviour.

What riff are you enjoying playing at the moment?

I’m really enjoying playing this solo on the song Masseduction. It’s glam tuning which is where you tune all the guitar (strings) to the same note. It’s really fun to play Fear the Future, it takes a whammy bar but it’s like (plays whilst sliding up the fret board). That kind of vibe but you really need a whammy…

What is an underappreciated riff that people should learn?

Cannonball by The Breeders

What riff made you want to pick up the guitar?

I think the riff that made me want to play guitar was Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix, and then also probably like Black Dog (Led Zeppelin) or something.

What was the riff you wish you’d written?

(Plays Pantera – Cowboys from Hell), I think I ripped off Pantera on the St. Vincent record. Also, this is a great riff, (plays Forty Six & 2 by Tool), it’s hard to sing and play at the same time. That’s a great riff, I love that riff.