GRIMES

GrimesV

From V Magazine Issue 97, Fall 2015

PHOTOGRAPHY MARIO SORRENTI
FASHION MEL OTTENBERG
TEXT PATRIK SANDBERG

SOMEHOW BETWEEN TOURING WITH LANA DEL REY, ILLUSTRATING COMICS, AND ATTENDING FASHION SHOWS IN THE DESERT, CLAIRE BOUCHER—AKA GRIMES—HAS MANAGED TO MOVE TO L.A. AND RECORD A FULL ALBUM—THE FOLLOW-UP TO HER BREAKOUT LP, VISIONS. SHE’S ALSO REMAINED AN INSPIRATION TO DESIGNERS WORLDWIDE. GO INSIDE THE WEIRD WORLD OF POP MUSIC’S LONE RANGER


Catching up with Claire Boucher, the sonic and visual wizard behind the popular alternative music project Grimes, can be trying. Email her, and you’re likely to receive an autoresponse: “I’m no longer using email,” she signs off, with a heart emoji, after issuing a directive to contact a representative at Roc Nation. Being that Roc Nation is the entertainment management company famously founded by Jay-Z and looks after the careers of artists like Rihanna, Timbaland, Shakira, and Kanye West, it’s not the most obvious match for a self-described “comic book villain” known for composing neo-baroque, goth, science-fiction operas in her bedroom in Vancouver, British Columbia. But then again, Boucher isn’t one for sticking to the obvious.
 
“I want to do the opposite of anything anyone ever thought Grimes was,” Boucher says. She’s recently relocated to Los Angeles, where she’s putting the finishing touches on a new album, the follow-up to 2012’s rapturously received Visions. “My favorite thing about California is that you can be fairly weird in public and people don’t seem to mind,” she says. “You could probably walk around L.A. in a bathrobe and no shoes and no one would care. L.A. has a lot of issues, but the city is very alive, although it’s quite dystopian.” As evidenced by her work on previous albums Visions, Halfaxa, and her 2010 debut, Geidi Primes, Boucher is drawn to the darker side of the galaxy when it comes to music, style, and her other creative endeavors. Her comic illustrations that accompany her music often fuse the morbid with the bubbly and the grotesque. Of her current style, she says, “I guess I’m drawn to things that seem like something a villain would wear.” Her cowboy hats and two trench coats are her favorite wardrobe items at the moment.
 
“Honestly I would wear better things onstage but my show is so physical that I tend to either flash people or injure myself or ruin the clothes,” she says. Coming off the second half of Lana Del Rey’s 2015 Endless Summer Tour (Courtney Love took the first half), Boucher is referring to her uniform of simple. “It’s definitely not a representation of my style goals,” she continues. “If I’m worried about ruining outfits, that can negatively impact the show, unfortunately. That’s one of the reasons I admire pop stars so much, people who can perform in heels blow my mind.”

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Of her current favorite crop of artists, she lists Del Rey in addition to Perfume Genius, Azealia Banks, Paramore, Avril Lavigne, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nine Inch Nails, Tink, Tei Shi, FKA twigs, and the K-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu—artists she’s regularly shouted out on Twitter and her widely followed and at times contentious Tumblr page. “I think for a long time I didn’t really internalize things and I felt like I could be fairly candid in public,” she says. “But lately I’ve had to become a lot more private. My carefree Twitter days are over, I’m afraid.”
 
Consider it a transfer of energy. Now that Boucher is living more off the grid—save for a few thrilled rants regarding Game of Thrones, when she feels so compelled—she has more time to work on her music, which she writes, produces, and records all by herself. “I’ve really had to put up with a lot and give up a lot of opportunities to maintain my authorship and keep control over this project,” she says. “It’s still difficult for women to do technical jobs in music and therefore I feel obligated to not outsource. Honestly, I want more stuff to exist that has no male producers so if the teenage version of me exists somewhere, she doesn’t feel like she’s inherently worse at the technical aspects of music simply because of her biological gender. I think one of the reasons why women are such a minority in music is because it can be hostile working in technical roles. I’ve been in studios and literally not been allowed to touch the computers, whereas my male counterparts were. Even when women coproduce they are often uncredited in the press. I’ve seen it happen a million times and it’s happened to me. I feel like I have to do this alone simply to get credit for my work. But even if that wasn’t the case, it’s always been an auteur kind of project. I enjoy doing everything. But sometimes I collaborate with other people.”
 
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One such collaboration with indie rock musician Jack Antonoff, the song “Entropy,” wound up soundtracking the closing credits of a crucial episode of HBO’s Girls last season. “I can only write music with people I love, and Jack has been really good to me and is generally extremely chill,” Boucher says. “One of the main reasons I wanted to work with a producer like Jack was to get out of my sonic comfort zone and do something with somebody with a completely different skill set.”

As for the new record, Boucher is staying reticent…for now. “It has a name but I don’t know if I’m allowed to reveal it,” she laughs. “It’s pretty different from Visions. I change my sound every album. Visions was pretty much entirely made on one keyboard and this album has guitars and violin solos and stuff like that. It’s just way more grandiose but equally if not more weird and fun, simultaneously.”

Of the fashion industry’s support over the past three years, Boucher’s appreciation and curiosity only continues to grow. “Designers are probably the main people who add, creatively, to Grimes,” she says. “I always spend a lot of time researching designers and being aware of what’s up and what’s new. Fashion seems to be an imperial phase currently and it’s a cool art form because clothing as art is essentially creating cool characters. It meshes well with performers. I think there are some great artists of style who work in fashion, like Mel [Ottenberg], Pat McGrath, Nicolas Ghesquière, the Proenza boys, Alex Wang, etcetera.” Citing medieval Mongolia, Game of Thrones, comic books, John Waters, and Etsy as current style touchstones, Boucher was thrilled to see Ottenberg and Sorrenti’s mish-mashed direction when it came to her shoot for V. “I’ve admired them both from afar for a long time,” she says. “The energy was perfect and it’s fun to work with people who have endless good ideas. It felt really special. It was very Dawn Davenport: insane and illegal, which is my favorite vibe.”
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