life in the vivid dream with ultimate goddess, grimes
As she prepares to release 'Art Angels,' we talk climate change, equal pay and medieval Mongolia with the sword-wielding vegan warrior of synthpop, the one and only Grimes.
In her head she imagines herself as The Rock or Vin Diesel ("I wish I was strong and bald but friendly"). In our heads, we see her as a yet-to-be-revealed character in Game of Thrones, an oracle bound to lay down her mystical services before the one true queen, Daenerys Targaryen. To the rest of the world however, Claire Elise Boucher is Grimes. Born in the year of the dragon, the 27-year-old Canadian is a mesmerizing musician, with hair that has traversed the rainbow before settling on black -- for now. She is known and admired for her enchanted synthpop with its perfectly crafted sonic textures and looped ethereal (sometimes backwards and demon-invoking) vocals that take listeners on a mood-altering trip. Not satisfied with audio adventures alone, her self-directed music videos turn dreams of a glittering fantasy future into a REALiTi.
One day, way back when, Grimes was sitting in on the recording of her friend Sean Nicholas Savage's album, and she was roped into singing backing vocals. "It wasn't as hard as I thought," she recalls. "Then my other friend showed me how to make beats on a 404 in exchange for food." The Vancouver-born, Montreal-raised artist discovered a love of making music and now counts herself "lucky to be successful enough at it to not have to do other things". Not long into the game, she was asked to support Lykke Li on tour and suddenly found herself performing to thousands of people and forced into conquering her stage fright. Although she's three albums deep, Grimes wouldn't advise young people to follow in her footsteps. "Success in this industry is based on luck, chance and superfluous trends," she explains. "The world needs doctors and teachers, people who care about things and help humanity in tangible ways."
After much worldwide speculation, it is now known that the name Grimes was born when the genre popped up as an option on MySpace. She pluralized and adopted the moniker before exploring her namesake online and liking what she found. "I love Dizzee forever!" she says, excitedly. "He's so creative with his videos. Skepta is a badass too. Bless grime forever." She's a particular fan of That's Not Me: "I like how in the music video, their set-up looks like mine! I feel the vibe." But as the genre infiltrates other scenes and reaches American shores, Grimes herself is currently listening to the likes of Sinéad O'Connor and Nine Inch Nails, as well as emerging acts Nicole Dollanganger, Tei Shi, Aristophanes, Perfume Genius, Courtney Barnett, Conrad Tao and Shamir. She's also an unapologetically huge fan of Dolly Parton, and spends her free time tweeting things that we imagine a lot of people have stored in their drafts folder, lacking the balls to hit publish on: "My Valentine's Day plan is to eat an entire jar of hazelnut butter and work for like 12 hours in a dark room alone," she admitted back in February. "If I had a dick I would put it in a hot dog bun and take a picture of it haha." Oh Grimes, you make us lol.
Tapping into a rich and beautiful history, Grimes finds medieval Mongolia hugely inspirational and is currently reading books on the subject by anthropologist Jack Weatherford -- books that she describes as "basically like watching Game of Thrones, except that it's real." She quickly follows this up by noting that she doesn't approve of the conquests: "The massacres were definitely bad, but otherwise it was a really cool society. They had really cool style and the best clothes possible," she says. "I guess I'm really into medieval warfare in general. I'm obsessed with European knights too. I can't believe people tried to fight with big pieces of cold sharp metal whilst covered in metal themselves." Like all the best people, Grimes is obsessed with the aforementioned HBO series, and the fantasy fan certainly doesn't hold back from proclaiming her love. Having previously adopted the name Targaryen on Twitter, posed for a Comic Con photo on the iron throne and met the author (prompting the tweet: "I just held hands with george rr martin for like a full minute, I am literally dying"), inspiration clearly bled through into the video for Go, in which Grimes plays a sword-wielding warrior venturing through a faraway desert land. We wonder who her favorite character is. "I like Brienne. I vibe on the gender fluidity," she says. "I've never seen a character on TV that I relate to more than her."
Grimes vibes on protecting the planet too, recently auctioning her original artwork on eBay to fund National Observer, a forthcoming environmental publication in Vancouver. "Canada just has hella untapped reserves, so it's an important player in the oil vs. climate change situation," she says of her motherland. Just last month she joined fellow countrywoman Naomi Klein in promoting a Greenpeace climate march. "I think I can at least kinda help mobilize the youth vote, which is important 'cause the government is super pro-oil, and we have a federal election coming up and young people don't vote much. Climate change hurts everybody."
It seems that growing up with a mother running for local government has made its mark on our favorite vegan. "The government goes and does all this crap that only benefits specifically the most evil type of super rich person and screws over poor Canadians. The 'jobs' the oil companies say they will create to construct pipelines would only be for maybe two years, you know? There are people in Canada with unsafe drinking water and yet the government is spending all this money building this crap and not even bothering to deal with these major problems. If they spent that money on developing renewable resources, it would create jobs and boost the economy. It's so transparently evil that it's almost entertaining, but then I remember that it's real and it makes me feel sick."
A master of using her platform for good, Grimes has also spoken out about the difficultly many men have in understanding that she is not only the face of her musical project, but the producer too. Yes, she is female. Yes, she understands technology. No, she doesn't need your help. Ignoring the backlash, she went on to write an inspirational essay on being a young, female CEO for Tavi Gevinson's Rookie Yearbook Three, in which she gave huge amounts of good advice and referenced Dolly Parton. "I doubt we'll see true equality in our life time," confesses Boucher. "Feminism as a fad is stupid… it's not a fad, just treat all humans equally! Equal fucking pay — it benefits everybody. And don't rape or abuse women or anyone else. My lord! So basic!" As she continues to work on her highly anticipated fourth album and an accompanying book of art, we leave you with the knowledge that we're completely and utterly in love with Grimes. She is magic.
Text Francesca Dun
Photography Alasdair McLellan
Styling Max Clark
Hair Diego Da Silva at Tim Howard Management
Make-up Maki Ryoke at Tim Howard Management using Tom Ford Beauty
Nail technician Emi Kudo at Opus Beauty using Ciate London
Photography assistance Lex Kembery, James Robjant, Daniel Kintz
Styling assistance Bojana Kozarevic
Make-up assistance Megumi Asai
Production Heather Burgoyne at LaLaLand
Production assistance Justin McMahan, Trace Barrett, Michael Anstead
Retouching Output Ltd