Keeping It Unreal: Inside Grimes’ Cosmic Sounds

Grimes_Tommy Chase Lucas_ tom tom magazine girl beat maker

By Natalie Peart
Banner Photo by Tommy Chase Lucas

Talking to Claire Boucher, the badass who performs under the moniker Grimes, it is clear that sometimes words may be too limiting for the big ideas circling around in her head. It is precisely these ideas that make her music and arty videos entertaining—Boucher does not shy away from the slightly off-kilter. In the two-plus years she has been on the music scene, she has had notable coverage, including a profile in the New York Times style magazine T, celebrating her avant-pop, synth-pop, and any other description that attempts to encapsulate her sound.

Name: Claire Boucher

Age: 23

Hometown: Vancouver/Montréal

Lives In: Currently displaced

Past Bands: Fake bands that didn’t do anything

Current Bands: Grimes, Noise Band Membrane

grimes_by_raphaël_ouellet web tom tom magazine woman beat maker Photo by Raphaël Ouellet 

Tom Tom Magazine: What drew you to beat making as opposed to playing the guitar, cello, or drums?

Claire Boucher: I make beats using a keyboard. I’ve always been obsessed with percussion. I am constantly tapping on things and I like music that is beat heavy.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a musician?

Pretty much, but secretly. I got kicked out of school and I figured my friend and I would go to SXSW. So I quit my job and we went. I played 5 shows there and that’s when I became a live musician. I had a small Internet rapport at the time.

How did you decide on the name Grimes?

I used to make fake MySpace pages—you know when people would make a couple of songs and then post them under whatever band you were in at the time? The Grimes MySpace had the most hits so I stuck with it.

How did you come up with the video for the song “Vanessa”?

I had a friend who had access to a studio for five hours and we were throwing around ideas. We also had a small budget and were thinking what can we do with our budget, seven girls and a white wall? Our budget was $60 and we spent it all on alcohol. People were wasted and puking. I was the only sober one. It was funny.

What is some of your all-time favorite music?

Hmmm, somewhere in between Nine Inch Nails and Outkast. I like niche bands. Also, Enya and Mariah Carey. I’m really into super vocal-driven stuff.

Is there anyone that you would really like to collaborate with someday?

Collaborations are hard! I’m not the greatest singer. I’m not the greatest producer. I would like to collaborate with rappers. Actually, I would probably be intimidated by anyone that I mention here. Probably, Azealia Banks.


tom tom magazine female beatmaker grimes_johnlondono web 

Is there anyone you like musically that you wish would get more exposure?

Mozart’s Sister. She has a song called “Don’t Leave It to Me.” She’s a cool artist from Montréal. Her set is so insane and she’s really beautiful and you can tell she doesn’t care about that.

grimes_by_John Londono tom tom magazine woman beat maker
Photo by John Londono

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue music?

Don’t read the press. Don’t look at what people say at all. That’s why musicians stop making good music because they pay attention to what other people expect of them.

Do you consider your music political?

I feel very political. I feel like I would want to be outspoken. I have issues with the fact that I’m pursuing a hedonistic profession—the purpose is to entertain and bring people joy. I feel guilty about that given the state of the world. For me to do “political” music would be weird, but I also don’t want to be tasteless.

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