Catching Up With Grimes' Claire Boucher
By Alex Taylor Williams
Becoming an indie queen isn’t easy—just ask Lana Del Rey. But for Vancouver native Claire Boucher, who makes up the entire one-woman band Grimes, it looks pretty simple.
This week, Visions, her fourth album in two years, is being released today (on indie powerhouse 4AD nonetheless), featuring her trademark glitchy pop and inventive futurism.
We caught up with Boucher, whose last week included a presence at New York Fashion Week and a Best New Music nod from indie rock website Pitchfork, to talk about Visions, Marilyn Manson, and life after weed.
So, how did Grimes come about?
It was pretty overnight and pretty random I honestly made a tape for fun and then it kinda blew up on the Internet and was totally surprising. And we weren’t prepared for it—I started out with 30 tapes and then we just gave it out for free online.
Visions, your new record, is your fourth album released in less than two years.
Visions is actually really old, I finished it in August. It’s mostly about emotional stuff, this record. This is also the first record for which I tried writing lyrics although they are unclear because of my lisp. My other records were pretty emotionally aimless. Since this is my job now I wanted this record to mean a lot to me. So there’s definitely stuff in the lyrics but I think its vague enough that most people wouldn’t know what the fuck its about.
You’ve got a unique sound—how would you yourself describe it?
There will always be the Grimes sound, because I am who I am. I definitely always want huge beats. My voice, though, it is what it is and it’s not going to change. I feel like I go through phases all the time; Visions is my New Jack swing drum and bass phase. What’s interesting about Grimes is that it’s attempting to be pop but its kind of failing and ending up somewhere else.
The album is being released on 4AD, a new label for you. Was it difficult to find a label or other creative people to work with since you have such a unique sound?
The thing I care about the most is artistic integrity. I would never change something to please somebody. I don’t even read interviews or reviews or anything because I just don’t wanna know. I feel like its so easy to get caught up in being worried about what people think and I really think the best shit comes out of not thinking about any of that at all. My team is just my crew, which is totally sick because they would never tell me to change anything. And once we reached a certain amount of success then people figured the formula was pretty decent.
Sometimes I bounce shit off people and they’re like ‘You know Claire that’s just a bit too much you should tone it down’ and I’m like oh yeah you’re probably right. Artistic freedom is my biggest concern, which is why 4AD was a good pick because most of the other labels we talked to were kinda like, Well, we think you should re-record the vocals.
We can respect that. What kind of artists did you grow up listening to?
I’ve always been really into artists that have super strong visuals, so now I love Beyonce, but I was super Goth in high school. I was in love with Marilyn Manson, and when he came to Vancouver I was grounded and couldn’t go. But Nine Inch Nails and stuff like that, industrial, Skinny Puppy. There’s always been a solid industrial and punk scene in Vancouver so I think I sort of fell into that because I was definitely not cut out to be popular and that was kind of the alternative.
What other than music do you find inspiring?
Science fiction movies. I always think about playing stuff at parties, as stupid as that is, you always think about how great it would be to dance to something with really loud speakers. I care so much about beats the physical feeling the emotion of it. Is this actually something I can have a physical connection with? That’s pretty big for me.
You’re also a pretty snappy dresser. How would you describe your style?
Tank Girl or sci-fi punk. I’m always wearing skirts that I’d cut shorter and just don’t hem. I always wear combat boots at all times—that’s the basis of everything, the combat boots. I have this really sick trench coat from the Korean war that I always wear, but when I do photo shoots that not my clothes really its what they bring.
2012 is shaping up to be a pretty big year for you, are there any other big changes going on?
I quit smoking weed, which has actually been great. My life has been so much better since I quit smoking weed. I’m so much more motivated now. Its great for recording but it’s really bad when you have to do interviews and photo shoots and stuff. When I smoke weed and then I think about what I’m doing with my life I’m like, Oh, My God! I have to sing in front of people in front of people and I’m just so baked and I start getting anxiety about it. And I refuse to read any reviews or articles about me ever. I feel like it’s bad for your brain.