Working under the name Grimes, Claire Boucher creates a dreamworld that is easy to get lost in. Being a vocalist puts her front and center, but the Canadian musician is also a mad scientist in the studio, splicing the subliminal with take-no-prisoner pop hooks. Floating between mysterious and accessible, Grimes take her unique sound to some next new level.
You've released a few records to date; what makes your latest one, "Visions," different?
Well, It's far more emotionally intentional and directed. It's actually about shit, whereas my previous albums were more about just trying to sing for the first time, or trying to record anything at all—more about the format than the content. I was literally just experimenting with sound for the first time—and now that I've gotten a hold on that, I can make music that's emotionally poignant and aesthetically coherent.
So, do you think having more coherency will make it more accessible and, therefore, pop?
I think it's more "pop" in the sense that the songwriting is clearer—and I pretty much bring pop down to catchy songwriting. Like, The Ramones are pop music to me as much as Katy Perry is.
I've noted you often say, "I don't want to be just a singer." Do you think there are people reference you in that singular way?
I feel like that statement is more in response to the idea that people might think I only sing, and someone else does the production when really the thing I care about the most is the actual engineering part. I mean, I fucking love singing, but I'm not particularly skilled at it, and I'm definitely not totally keen on being a "front person" per se. Musically, I'm basically interested in engineering futuristic pop stars, and at the moment I can't pay anyone, so I have to do it myself. I mean—I'd rather be the Phil Spector character skulking in the background. But, yeah, I like being alone with this kind of work. I feel like I would be more nervous if someone else was involved.
Do you want people to understand your musical themes and ideas? Or would you prefer it all left to interpretation?
I don't think it's necessarily possible for a person to ever fully understand someone else's artwork. I don't think it really matters either. I don't feel particularly strongly about someone totally misconstruing my work or totally getting it—I think it should be open to interpretation. It's something you have to let go of when you make art public. You have no control over the contexts in which it's going to be viewed or whatever—how it will be received—so you have to just be comfortable with all kinds of interpretations.
Grimes definitely has an aura of otherworldliness; so are your influences linked anywhere near to your reality?
My influences are more subconscious—I tend to only realise they exist after the fact—so there's not much intention going into that aspect of my music. I think it's just reflexive. As far as tone goes, I guess I can't really help that either. [laughs] But, yeah, music for me is kind of escapist, so I tend to seek out the feelings I need to be experiencing more than the ones that I am experiencing.
Visuals are obviously very important to you.
I have a very clear sense of what I want to do and what I want to be in a lot of ways, but I also like to leave a lot up to chance. And working on videos has also helped me accept how the input of others will change the product from my initial ideas, and how that can be a good thing. I've shot three videos so far for the album, and I'd say there is one more to go. I want the overall aesthetic to be sort of sci-fi Grace Jones meets Ayumi Hamasaki at a sporting event hosted by David Lynch. Or something. It's really difficult to condense the aesthetic.
You have a brother who's a rapper. Would you ever collaborate with him? What about anyone else?
Like, who I would want to collaborate with? Or ideas for what I'll do with [my brother] Jay Worthy? With him, I think it's gonna be a fairly straightforward rap song. [laughs] But as far as people I would love to work with—I'd love to write for someone like Kreesha Turner. She has an amazing voice. Maybe Katy B or Azaelia Banks. But I would just die and fall over if I could do something with Big Boi or one of The Dungeon Family producers.
If we met again in five years, would you still be in music?
Ideally, I'd be finishing up with music so I can get a degree in marine biology. I'm going to dedicate the rest of my life after this to environmentalism.