St. Vincent’s Signature Guitars: VICE News Tonight on HBO

The singer-songwriter St. Vincent
has toured with Sufjan Stevens, made an album with David Byrne, and won a Grammy as a solo artist. And now, she’s the first woman to
design her own line of signature guitars. Mary H.K. Choi went to Los Angeles to see what it’s like to build an
instrument from the ground up. For an instrument that’s been around
since before the 15th century, you’d think the modern guitar
would have seen a lot of changes. Precious few innovations have been
made available outside of custom models. Left-handed players, like Jimi Hendrix, restrung right-handed guitars
to accommodate his style. And when Kurt Cobain was asked why
he seemed to favor inexpensive guitars, he says that was what he could afford before offers of personalized guitars came in. Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, is the first woman ever to create her own
electric guitar for the mass market. It’s a big step in changing expectations of the traditionalist canon of guitar: a bunch of dudes arguing the merits
of a Strat versus a Les Paul. — When we say that this is, like,
the first guitar of its kind, that’s been created by a woman, we’re not saying expressly that
it’s only for women, right? — No, it’s not. I think I’m partly responsible for
the press story that became, that I made a guitar only for women, because I was joking on Instagram, “Check out my new guitar,” you know,
“there’s room for a breast, or two!” You know, like, I thought I was
making an absurdist joke. — But this guitar went out
to people like Dave Grohl, and Beck and, like, Omar from the Mars Volta. — Yeah, he’s ripping it. After the initial drawings and a lot of talk, about pickups, and wood, and color, and ergonomics, pretty much every week, there would be a new prototype for me to check out. So, we kept making adjustments, and making sure that the balance felt right, and making sure that it was
as comfortable to play sitting as it was standing up. — Yeah, get you a guitar that can do both. — Yeah, exactly! — Coming of age during a kind of guitar heyday, St. Vincent cites grunge, metal, and
classic rock, like Led Zeppelin, as influences, but felt marginalized as
a young female player. — There was that kind of explosion of,
quote, enquote, “women in music.” There were a couple guitar brands
that purported to cater specifically to women, and they were, like, pink, or flower-shaped. As a kid, like, trying to work out
Pantera riffs, I was so offended. — Where do you hope this guitar will live
in the sort of pantheon of guitars? — I wanted people to actually play it, and not have it be like, “Well, it’s this
totem of this guitar player I like,” but actually, like, make
their own things with it. It’s really—it’s a great player guitar. I mean, I play it. It’s the only thing I play now. And not for any other reason than I just— — Purely for vanity reasons! — Yeah, exactly! — Ernie Ball Music Man is the company
behind the St. Vincent model. They’ve been crafting guitars
in California since 1984, and collaborated directly with St. Vincent. — This isn’t like a white label situation,
where someone was like, “Hey! Would you put your name on this thing?” — Right, yeah. — So, soup-to-nuts, you created this thing. Yeah, no. It’s not a celebrity endorsement deal. Like, stand next to this thing, hold it. It’s like… tabula rasa, you know? Carte blanche. Go for it.