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Monday, March 5, 2012

Grimes shifts from witch house to dance sensation

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  • Nuria Ruis

Montreal native musician Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, has been on quite the roll as of late — opening for the likes of Austra and Lykke Li, and scoring Best New Music praise from Pitchfork for her latest effort Visions. During a late-night phone call last Thursday in preview of her Atlanta engagement at Drunken Unicorn tonight, Boucher talked about her rising confidence as a producer, why genres are irrelevant, and the reason she avoids reading her own press despite her recent surge in Internet popularity.

Grimes. With Born Gold, Dog Bite. $10. 8:30 p.m. Mon., March 5. The Drunken Unicorn, 736 Ponce de Leon Ave. www.thedrunkenunicorn.com.

You've had four releases in the past two or three years. When you finished recording the latest album, Visions, did you feel a sense of growth?

Claire Boucher: Every part of that album I think is more mature than anything I've done before. It really felt like a big leap forward, and I really felt like that had to do with me growing as a person — as well as growing as a musician. Having to tour and constantly play live definitely makes you more confident. And it really makes you less worried about being humiliated publicly. You just get used to it and stop worrying about that shit! All my other albums feel like studio projects. With Visions, it's a whole new understanding of myself, the world, and music.

Your music has been labeled a variety of genres. Dream pop, lo-fi electro, even witch house. Do any of these buzz words mean anything to you?
I don't really care. I mean, Halfaxa was a witch house record. I was looking at people making witch house music at the time and was like "this shit sucks," and wanted to flesh out this idea of witch house. And Geidi Primes is pretty dream pop; I was listening to a lot of Broadcast when I made it. At the same time, both those records are different from conventional witch house and dream pop. I think I'm too ADD to believe in titles like that. I don't really believe in genres. They're more like tools people reference to understand music criticism. When you think about it linguistically, most words used to describe music are visual concepts. Genres are just references to the culture that surrounds the music. Like "country" or "rock ’n' roll." I don't think we exist in a world where genres are relevant anymore.

Recently Visions was dubbed Best New Music by Pitchfork. How do you feel about your rise in Internet popularity over the past few years?

I don't read any of my press. I don't wanna have any idea of who I am supposed to be [or] rules that I need to abide by. I think it's really important to not listen to press criticism. I listen to criticism from other musicians when I'm having conversation because that's productive to me. But if I don't know who you are and you're dissing something about my album or image I really like, it's not important.

Do you prefer more of an indie brand of music found online or do you find contemporary pop music more appealing?
I listen to them about 50/50. I'm definitely really into mainstream music, but not to an obsessive point. I'm really into Julia Holter right now. I listen to a lot of electronic artists such as Nocturnal Sunshine. But right before I left on tour, it was all about Rihanna! If you asked me this two weeks ago, I'd be like "Selena Gomez!" Right now I'm into more indie music, so I guess I fluctuate a lot. I really just enjoy whatever I'm listening to at the time.


What do you hope to gain most out of touring this year?

I'm hoping to learn more about technology and sound equipment. I definitely feel more confident about producing and running electronic music in a live setting. But I'm also working on being more public. It's such a mind-fuck dealing with fans. It makes me feel awkward. Some people have asked, "Why are you so awkward in person?" And I guess it's because you're meeting someone who has this preconceived idea of what you are supposed to be like. So I'm learning how to deal with that.

How big of an influence is electronic music on your sound? Do you keep up with any specific producers or artists?
I try to stay up on current stuff. I'm definitely not watching blogs all the time, but maybe once a week I'll check some sites. I usually just ask friends what they are listening to, ’cause I have friends who read blogs all the time. All due respect to Pitchfork and Gorilla vs Bear, I think they review good music, but they also review a lot of music I really don't care for. Or they don't appreciate a lot of music that I do like.

Do you plan on continuing in the direction of dance music that Visions headed in, or would you rather experiment with new sounds?
The next record I make will be very different from Visions. I want it to be dance music, I love doing dance music! Its the only kind of music I'd consider playing live. Probably faster material, like 150 BPM. What I'm working on right now is very vocal-oriented, no reverb, really aggressive drums, super industrial, lots of distortion. I'm experimenting with different styles of singing. I don't have interest in traditional melody. Not to say I don't enjoy harmony, ’cause I really wanna make catchy music for sure. But I want a lot more percussion, less vocals, very minimal. Almost Gregorian chant music meets Skinny Puppy.

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