Usually when a musician releases material with the frequency and volume of Claire Boucher – or Grimes as she’s known to the world at large – they tend to run out of steam mid-splurge. But with the release of her third LP in under two years – not to mention a split-EP with fellow Canadian d’Eon – Grimes is showing no signs of letting up. Moving to Montreal from Vancouver in 2006, she became part of Lab Synthèse – a collective concerned with bringing together various styles of artists – and its musical arm Arbutus Records.
The heady mix of fringe and mainstream the group cultivated found Boucher as one of its central figures, helping her distinct sound to grow naturally in a climate dedicated to creativity through artistic experimentation. Her natural artistic ability mirrors the organic nature of her music, with the tracks growing in detail and vigour. Take the cover to new album Visions for example – outwardly simplistic, but full of many finely crafted elements.
“With painting you can keep adding and adding so the more baroque it gets”, she says, “the more beautiful it becomes. With music it’s simpler. I definitely go through that [with my music] but there’s a point where you stop.”
From the release of Geidi Primes in 2010 and Halafaxa later that year there has been a definite sense of forward movement throughout your work. With Visions being the fourth in a quick sequence of records, how do you feel it relates to your previous output?
“I think there has been a progression from album to album. [Visions] is a lot different than what I thought it would be but also fits within what I thought it would be – if that makes sense? I had a bunch of goals and I definitely hit all of them.”
While your music displays emotional heft and atmosphere in spades, you approach the making of it in a pragmatic manner don’t you?
“I write as I record so I basically write shit down and if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Which is one of the reasons I think I work so fast because by the time I finish writing I’ve also got the final recording of the song.”
How do the lyrics fit in to the atmosphere?
“The general vibe is what I care about the most; lyrics can make the song mean something but it’s more the intention they carry that’s important to me; music is something I don’t see as very literal.”
For an artist still in the infancy of her music career, much has been said of your live sets, especially as they were until recently a one-woman show. Are you conscious of re-creating your recorded sound live?
“Stuff changes when I play live because I don’t think too much about the live aspects when I’m recording. When I play live, a lot of the time the way the recording sounds is not something I’m able to reproduce, usually in terms of vocals, as there’s so many overdubs it’s hard to reproduce that live. I think at this point I’d probably prefer to have a band. I’ve been playing with a band on my American tour and having other people on stage…it really takes the pressure off. Alone, there is only so much I can do, but with other people there it definitely adds to the dynamism”.
Visions is fast becoming an early contender for the album of the year polls, but this level of attention can bring with it unwanted – and unnecessary – levels of pressure. With the album being your first release on a major label (it’s also released on the Arbutus label), how are you finding it all?
“I listen to my friends; I want criticism to come from them, and the musicians that I really respect. But I feel more pressure to put on a good show. Especially now the shows are bigger, you definitely feel pressure to give people their money’s worth. Even if I do feel it, I’ve learned to brush it off because I think it’s really important to not let other people’s opinions enter into the situation, to not focus on it”.
Visions is out now on 4AD.