About a girl
Grimes’s multi-dimensional pop is rooted in her base of Montreal. Her latest, ‘feminine’ album has just arrived here, but, she tells JIM CARROLL, she’s already moved on
CLAIRE BOUCHER is a fast talker. As the Canadian artist jumps rapidly from point to point and crams a lot of ideas into one sentence, you begin to understand how and why she makes the multi-dimensional music she makes as Grimes. You sense that since the release of her latest album, Visions, Boucher has become even more versed in the art of talking about herself and her music.
“The attention is good and bad, those two extremes,” she says. “Sometimes, it’s really horrific when people are mean, but I’ve stopped reading what people are saying on the internet and don’t give a shit about that anymore.
“But on the whole, it’s great. There’s nothing better than making art and having people pay attention to it. That’s a rare thing that not a lot of people get to experience. My obligation in life is to make art. I don’t have to do anything else, which is a dream come true.”
Visions is a great leap forward for Boucher. While previous releases such as Halifaxa laid the groundwork for where she was going with her rhythm’n’bleeps, the new album pushes a different agenda, wherein directness and simplicity are core values. It’s a pop album, albeit a pop album with one foot still firmly in the underground.
“Pop music is about feeling good,” Boucher believes. “Pop doesn’t have to be meaningless or mainstream. The essence of pop is that it’s music which is very sensual and immediately gratifying. Of all the things that are classified are pop, those are the only qualities which run through everything.” There’s one word she has noticed many reviewers use about Visions that has thrown her a little. “It surprises me that people use that word ‘feminine’ in relation to the album because I’m a huge bro. I’m not a very feminine person, I guess, so it’s weird that my music is seen by so many people as that.
“I think it’s because my voice is really high and also because the album is extremely emotional. I really didn’t censor myself at all and it’s a bit over the top in that way. I didn’t go for an inherently feminine sound, but there are ideas in the culture of what femininity sounds like and the album goes there.
“After the fact, it’s so weird to look at this stuff and realise where it came from. When I was doing it, I was listening to a ton of Mariah Carey and TLC and female r’n’b vocalists and new jack swing and that obviously wormed its way into my head. That might also have a lot to do with why people think it’s so feminine.” Boucher credits the arts scene in her base of Montreal with giving her the confidence and gumption to make music.
“So much of what I do is because of that city. I started making music in Montreal because I felt compelled to as everyone I knew was a musician. Montreal is the place to fuck up and make mistakes to find out what you want to do. You play shows in the worst possible places, like playing to 20 people through a bass amp in a building that is falling down. By the time you come to playing proper shows, it’s so much easier.
“I don’t think what I do would have been possible in any other situation. At the start, I sucked, I sucked so badly, but I had a huge support network to urge me on to play shows and make records. If it was up to me, no-one would have ever heard what I was doing so I credit my friends totally with getting me to perform and make music.”
She finds that the best work often comes from mistakes and errors. “Often I try to copy what someone else has done, not know what the notes are and come up with a totally different thing. I thought Halifaxa was a pop record when I made it and most people thought it was a drone record. I also thought it was hi-fi because I wasn’t recording through the computer speakers for once and thought it was so clean. Little did I know!
“I definitely have done a lot of stupid things and will always take the crazy route. That leads to a lot of horrible results, but it always leads to the best things. You have to take risks. If you’re slightly uncomfortable with something, you should probably do it because that’s how you’re going to do something different. The music which gets the best reaction is always the thing I was most scared of releasing or playing to people. I need extremes, I get bored very easily. I don’t believe in compromise or being safe when it comes to music.”
Naturally, Boucher already has ideas about the next record. “Every record is a phase I’m going through in some kind of David Bowie sense,” she says. “Now, I’m really getting into industrial music and UK bass and I want the next record to be a lot more stripped down and aggressive, faster BPMs, really hi-fi production, like Blawan crossed with Skinny Puppy, dance music on one hand and scary beats on the other. I don’t want to be hiding my words behind reverb and overdubs and making everything mushy.
“I’m going to sing really low, not cute and girly like on Visions. I’m very proud of Visions because it was a growing up period for me. Much of the album was about lamenting romantic shit that happened in my life and now, after the fact, I feel really empowered and couldn’t give a fuck and don’t want to be writing songs about some guy I’m in love with. That’s in the past. I want the next album to be aggressive and clear and forward and still catchy. It will still be pop, but I’m trying to force that pop sensibility into these areas where it doesn’t normally go.”
Visions is out now on 4AD. Grimes plays Forbidden Fruit on June 2
THE BEST OF THE REST
Casting an eye over the Forbidden Fruit line-up, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s the second FF to take place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital/IMMA in Kilmainham and there’s no doubt that this programme is one of the most a-peeling (sorry) that Dublin has seen.
We feel your bewilderment, and we’re here to help. The trick is to think of the line-up as a very large one-arm bandit; hitting the jackpot is a challenge, but not impossible. There are three different types of fruit (ie three different days), all very distinct from one another.
Saturday’s line-up is aimed at the discerning dance/electronica fan, with a headline set from Leftfield as well as performances by house duo Booka Shade, dynamic Swedish electro-whiz The Field, hard-hitting Londoners Factory Floor and everyone’s favourite cheeky-chappy indie-dance outfit, Friendly Fires.
Sunday’s bill takes a detour into the more experimental side of indie music, with a rare Irish set by Death Cab for Cutie, a reformed (Peter Hook-less) New Order, The Rapture and Atlas Sound, as well as turns from impressive newcomers Grimes and Lower Dens.
Monday, on the other hand, careers headlong into a predominantly folk and alt-rock area. Wilco, Beirut, Mazzy Star, James Vincent McMorrow, Andrew Bird, Field Music and Real Estate make up the mouthwatering programme here.
Oh, and have we mentioned the new comedy tent? A host of Irish comedians including Ardal O’Hanlon, Joe Rooney, Bernard O’Shea, Dead Cat Bounce and Foil, Arms Hog will keep festival-goers rolling in mirth across the Bank Holiday weekend. Ker-ching! That’s what we call a big win.
Forbidden Fruit runs from June 2-4 forbiddenfruit.ie