For the past few years, Canadian electro artist Claire Boucher has been making well-regarded, if little heard, underground recordings under the name Grimes. But sometime in the past few months, Boucher made one of those mysterious, serendipitous leaps from underground blog sensation to bubbling-under actual sensation, mostly because of the hype surrounding her new disc, "Visions," which drops Tuesday.
"Visions" is a blurry, burbly, alchemic R&B electro disc, made entirely by Boucher herself, in a room with the shades drawn. In a recent phone conversation, Boucher talked about the disc, the love of R&B that helped inspire it, and her unexpectedly hot career.
It seems like things are happening pretty fast in your career these days. Are you comfortable with the pace of it?
It's a little wild, I must say. I think there's certain things I maybe wasn't prepared for, like a lot of times you're in situations when you're doing a photo shoot and they really want you to wear a bathing suit or whatever. There's a lot of those kinds of situations. And I hope that I'm not making any terrible legal decisions. [Laughs.] Sometimes I don't know what I'm doing.
Do you have a manager who helps with that?
I have a manager. I've known him since I was 13. We're like, best friends. We're both kind of inexperienced, but he's really smart and works really hard. He's one of the reasons we are where we are.
Sometimes it can be hard for women, to say no and not [feel guilty].
Yeah. Now when I go places, there's a [condition] that I won't do anything sexy, because I really want to avoid that image. I think that that could go downhill really fast. But obviously that's a lot of people's first inclination. It's really easy to use sex to sell things.
You grew up listening to a lot of [super-sexualized] Mariah Carey-type R&B, right?
And I think Mariah is really underrated as an artist because of her sexy image. I think Beyonce gets credit now, but not as much, considering how innovative she is. Or Ciara. People are like, it's a manufactured pop thing, because, she's hot. But these people define contemporary music. They're super important.
When you made your album, it sounds like it was just you alone in the dark.
Yeah. Kind of. That's pretty much how it was.
Was it fun, though?
Yeah. It was definitely really fun. It was incredibly difficult, but I feel like all the funnest things are the most traumatic things. If it was really easy and not a big deal, then it wouldn’t be the same.
Do you ever think about opening up the process a little bit for next time?
I don't know. I have four brothers, and we made a rap song. Like, all of us. I produced it and they rapped on it, and it was really good and a really fun [collaborative] experience. I didn't rap. I just sang backup girl vocals.
So there's no rap career in your future.
I like producing for rap. I love hip-hop beats. OutKast might be my biggest production influence. I really like rap a lot. I obviously can't rap, but I really like the idea of working with rappers.
But you're all about mysterious [buried] vocals. With rappers, you have to understand the rap.
I guess. Not necessarily. I really like lyrical stuff sometimes. My favorite rap group is Jedi Mind Tricks, or Lil Wayne or something. I really like listening to rap lyrics ... I find writing lyrics very hard to begin with, and yeah, there's a lot of [execrable] rap that's degrading to women. But [good] rap, you've gotta be really smart to pull that off.
Do you find that a lot of people think you're a guy because of your name?
Not so much now, but in the beginning. People thought I was going to be like [grime artist] Wiley. I didn't know about the genre [of grime] until after the fact. But it's a really cool genre.
Why not use your own name? Did you want a certain amount of separation between yourself and your persona?
I don't know. I feel like it's a folk singer kind of thing to use your own name. And the last thing I want to do is make folk music.