Listening to Grimes, aka Claire Boucher, you get the sense that there are several incongruous events happening at once, and entirely by accident—as if the default were pandemonium, and any moments of clarity or brilliance, pure happenstance. The day we talk on the phone was no exception: she accidentally pressed the mute button mid-conversation, someone came to her door, someone left, the cat almost escaped, the cat ate a monster bag of catnip, she knocked over a giant ashtray, the call dropped, the other line kept ringing, Mercury was in retrograde. The slow-burning chaos that infuses her music also seems to permeate her entire being.
With two albums—Geidi Primes and Halfaxa—completed, Boucher says music’s been her longest steady pursuit, but that she finds it hard to stick to any style for too long. In fact, she can’t even tell a straight story about the origins of her band, its name, where her lyrics come from or her age. “I always change my answers to things,” she says, “and I forget what I say. I don’t really have any opinions on anything, or it changes all the time… I guess I’m really ADD? That’s probably not true.”
Boucher started experimenting with her voice in high school. Back then (whenever that was), she says she was really good at impersonations, especially of celebrities like Lisa Kudrow and Pokémon characters. “I feel like the human voice is to music what portraiture is to painting,” she says. Her voice is like a creepy but adorable child’s in a horror film set to assaultive beats and sci-fi synthesizers, a strangely beautiful combination.
Boucher’s tracks aren’t usually planned, though she says that “Vanessa,” the first single off of Dark Bloom, her split EP with fellow Montreal artist D’eon, was deliberate. “I was home at Christmas, and I was listening to the radio all the time, so I thought I’d try to make a radio pop song,” she says. “I made that song, and it was a big joke. But then I thought, Making a stupid pop song isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Maybe I should try to release this? That was one of the most intentional things I’ve done in my entire life.”
Boucher was recently kicked out of university for non-attendance, and she’s resolved to be a bit more deliberate from here on out. “Halfaxa was not really an album,” she says. “It was like singles. And the album before that, I really didn’t know anything about producing.” She’s working on a new album, which will be a more focused production with a clearer narrative. Until then, we can just enjoy her current brand of chaotic self-sabotage and hope that getting her act together won’t altogether ruin it.