As the saying goes, you can’t compare chalk and cheese. This is exactly why Canada’s newest indie
darling, Grimes, is causing so much hype. If the world is chalk, Grimes is the cheese. And more than this, there is the clear lack of fuck she gives for her cheese-ness. Everything she does, she does in her own inimitable way. From her shaving-mishap haircut, to her incomprehensible ‘deaf person with melody’ voice, everything just works. When it comes down to it, Grimes is hot shit because she has willfully embraced her oddities. Yet when I spoke to her one on one, my initial intimidation broke down. Claire Boucher, the girl who we all know and love as Grimes, is just as concerned with how everyone sees her as anyone else.
Let’s be honest, I’m no different, especially when you’re Skyping the so called “hottest bbg in the indie scene right now”. I was concerned with the little things – my hair, the top half of my body that could be seen on camera, and the backdrop of my room that needed to look good in an I’m-not-trying-to-impress-you-but-trust-me-I’m-cool kind of way.
One of the most interesting facets about Boucher is that she’s an electronic solo artist fighting to make it in a largely male dominated industry. As Mark Richardson wrote, the people that REALLY loved Boucher’s most recent album Visions were female, and he didn’t think this was much of a coincidence. Boucher puts these gender stereotypes down to pigeon-holing.
“People will scream out ‘you’re so cute’ while I’m on stage and it can be so patronising. I grew up around brothers and I’m usually the most masculine one in a social situation but I guess no matter what you do, if you’re in the spot light, you’re gonna be labelled.”
But Boucher admitted that this is what happens when people know you.
“I’m only just getting into the spotlight and trying to get used to it. Like this is the first time I’ve been home since October and now when I walk around people see me and know who I am … I’ve been getting the ‘druggy’ label a lot though and I’m starting to get a little sick of it.”
I was expecting Boucher to rock up to our Skype interview probably late, and still tripping balls from the night before. But her recent airport drug stoppage in Houston, Texas, on her way to her SXSW shows seemed to be very unsettling for her, and actually rather misconstrued by the media. “That was fucking ridiculous. I was so scared, they completely strip searched me and were accusing me of having drugs. Like saying that because I have a band I must have drugs. I was in the airport for over 24 hours and I hadn’t even smoked weed in, like, three days but they just kept telling me I smelt like it.”
Surely, it would scare anybody, but is this drug-fucked image everyone knows as Grimes just an exaggerated internet scandal? She threw me a little off-guard when asked about the influence of substance on her music. “I mean, I do take drugs occasionally but not that often. I do like being in another facet of life though. Like, I enjoy doing things like not sleeping, or fasting, because it puts you into a whole new state of mind and I guess that has influenced my music. When I was recording the album I fasted for a few days and I was able to stay up for over 24 hours and I did the most work I’ve ever done in that amount of time. I think that everything I do seems to be like an extreme version of whatever it is.”
As the conversation continued, the devil-may-care artist that blogs, broadsheets, and fashion magazines have created turned out to be a very exaggerated version of the real Boucher. What struck me the most was that her parents’ opinions seemed to affect her as a person more than anything.
She had just returned to her hometown of Montreal after a long and crazy United States tour. Mamma and Pappa Grimes seemed to be quite a topic of conversation: “I lived with them for a while as soon as I got home but that time definitely expired. They do like my music though which is always kinda nice to know. It’s weird when they see things about you on the internet like that picture of me making out with [indie musician] Pictureplane on Hipster Runoff.”
“I think that website has it in for me. It’s not really what you want your parents looking at and it definitely sucks when they call me up all mad about being unprofessional.”
“When I was recording the album I fasted for a few days and I was able to stay up for over 24 hours and I did the most work I’ve ever done in that amount of time. I think that everything I do seems to be like an extreme version of whatever it is.”
Boucher’s public persona is definitely striking, but one-on-one, the perception completely dissolves. Here I was expecting someone brimming with whimsy, but instead I met a 24-year-old girl; rather down to earth, and just coming to terms with the concept of fame. The fame that brings David Byrne of Talking Heads to your shows. When his name came up, Boucher was absolutely ecstatic, like an excited little puppy.
“The tour in America was fucking insane. David Byrne being there was crazy. I kinda wish I knew he was there before the show… but if I did, I probably would’ve been really nervous.”
So it turns out Grimes isn’t as grimey as the internet says she is. She is individual and peculiar in the best kind of way, but at the heart of things there is still the concern of caring about what everyone thinks.
You look at females in the indie music industry these days and you get sham-wow artists like Lana Del Ray, who have created themselves to succumb to a scene. At the opposite end there are bands like Death Cab for Cutie or The Shins, who at one time had something revolutionary going on but are now deemed by the internet as any old indie band.
Featuring heavily in mainstream things like The OC or Garden State doesn’t do much for your indie-cred. All of these things were once cool because they had something different going on, but now everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. As a result, reinvention seems inevitable to a point where it becomes fake and forced.
This is how society works and right now Boucher is in the initial stages of that process. I don’t know if everyone will start trying to become like ‘Grimes’ – but let’s be honest, they probably will. Here’s hoping, though, that Boucher keeps her integrity and she can continue being the tastiest cheese while the chalky world admires her from afar.
Avani is on Twitter: @AvaniDias