Grimes, once stuffed into the lockers and rubbish bins of the high school she attended in Canada, can now be found on broadsheets, music blogs and fashion magazines who worship her name, an irony which has not escaped the 23 year old Vancouver native who claims she was ‘actively hated’ as a teen for being weird. Now it’s her most celebrated virtue next to songwriting. How ironic. We caught up with Grimes to discuss the successful outsider, her disdain for authority figures and her upcoming tour of Australia.
Where in the world are you in the moment and what have you been up to today? I’m actually back in Montreal for the first time since October. It feels crazy. It’s really nice. Mostly I did interviews today. This is like my eleventh interview or something today.
So…different to the last time you were home? It’s weird, I was recognised walking down the street a whole bunch today. It’s like a totally different world.
Whats been the biggest adjustment for you? Not that much except that, I don’t know, just more weird stuff, like getting recognised. That’s the only thing that’s weird. The fact that my life is kinda public now so like when I do something stupid it’s on the internet and my parents see it and they call me and they get really mad. That’s the worst thing. I don’t own my life anymore. Anything I do I have to prepare to see online.
So your publicly accountable now, especially when you tweet about smoking weed. I know it sucks, I do lots of stupid things all the time. Yeah, if I tweet about smoking weed or I say something in an interview they don’t like my parents will get really mad at me. Right now there is this website called Hipster Runoff that is like slagging me constantly. They just read everything. They have google alerts. Or if I get a bad show review like ‘Grimes got fucked up on stage” my mum will be like ‘are you being a professional?’.
So are you constantly writing? I would be constantly writing except I can only write when I’m at home. On tour I can’t write. I just got home so I stayed up all night writing music and I’m probably going to do the same thing tonight.
What kinda of vibes are you exploring? I’ve been listening to a lot of UK bass music and a lot of industrial music. I’m trying to take the textures of the drums in UK bass music and combine it with industrial style beats and make really minimalist pop music, like vocals really up front and a lot more dry. Not a lot of other stuff. Mainly just vocals and beats. Like way less sexy and sparkly, a lot more cold and dark. But still super poppin’.
Has the process changed? What have you learned along the way? I’m just learning more about production stuff. It’s more the technical stuff of being a producer than the structure of songwriting.
So where’s the starting point? Totally depends. If I just need to find one thing that’s perfect and I can make a song out of that. I’ll be fucking around with synths and fucking around with singing to myself. Playing with various drum sounds, sometimes there is just this kick sound and I’m like ‘I love that kick’, and that kick will drive the entire song. I just need one thing that gives me the shivers. That’s what I’m always looking for.
Have you been approached to do stuff with other people? I don’t really have time to do that kind of stuff a lot. Most people approach me because they want vocals. I really don’t want to sing on everyone’s tracks. I actually did do vocals for my friend Mike from Blood Diamonds. We made a song together. I’m thinking of me and Blawan doing something, I’m like obsessed with him right now. So maybe I will give him some vocals for his music. It’s hard because the kind of people who want vocals aren’t singers and they don’t understand how to produce vocals properly. They send you something and say I want vocals on this. And I’m like this song is done. It’s so thick I can’t put vocals on it.
Do you have any plans to come to Australia? Yes, we’re either coming in November or December. There are a few different ways we could come so we’re just trying to figure out the most economically viable option that fits the schedule. So yeah, I will be coming for sure, we’re just figuring out exactly how it’s going to go down. Obviously there’s the festival route or there’s the ‘do a bunch of gigs’ route.
Awesome. How has it been having to grow as a performer in terms of just the amount of eyeballs on you? I don’t know, you would think it would be harder. It’s actually a lot easier I think. I’m becoming a much better performer. Like I said before I’ve never done a tour before where anyone knew who the fuck I was. I was always some random opener, you know? So it was always about winning over an audience who have no idea who you are. This tour from the beginning – the audience was singing all the songs along with me. It was a really great audience reaction. Every show I played was sold out. Every show was super warm and receptive. For me, if the audience is giving something it’s so much easier for me to give back to them. As my US tour went along I felt like I really kept owning performance. I guess I just started dancing a lot and getting really into that and I’ve gotten better at singing and dancing at the same time – that’s a legitimate skill to be jumping up and down and singing in key.
That’s nice. It must be super weird for you personally to be embraced by this many people. I mean, It’s a specific form of validation because the reviews and profiles and just how positive everything has been suggests that not only do they like your music but they like who you are as a person and what you stand for. I kind of get the feeling you’ve had an outsider’s perspective for most of your life – is that jarring in a way? It generally is especially because there’s so much more of a fashion crowd at my shows and I’m like you would have fucking destroyed me in high school. Which I think is really funny. I was really unpopular in high school not just the whole people didn’t know who I was but I was actively hated. There were so many rumours about me and I got locked in lockers and thrown in garbage cans and people wrote bitch and slut all over my locker and I would get screamed at out of car windows when I was walking on the street. People hated me.
That’s enough evidence. Yeah so it’s just funny because I always got identified as being such an outcast and almost everyone hated me. I also think that there are things about it that kind of feel weird and shitty but there are things that also feel nice cause I’ve always been incredibly extreme in everything I do. I went to a conservative and academic university where everyone wants to be the same. So it’s really bad to be different. When I started making music I’d hang out with musicians – even when I was getting popular on Pitchfork or whatever – I remember people saying it’s an asset that I’m a total loser. It was really good for me mentally to feel more comfortable about not censoring myself. But yeah, there’s a lot of hate to it too. But I like that, I think it’s good for people to not like me because if everyone just liked you then that would mean you’re doing something boring. I want people to hate me I think that’s important.
So what are you vibing on at the moment? Um…Lars Von Trier. I never saw any of his movies and everyone was always like ‘Claire you would love this’ and I’ve always been like ‘meh I don’t know,’. And then I watched Melancholia and Antichrist and I’m now I’m the biggest Lars Von Trier fan.
He’s kind of like the industrial music of cinema. That really nihilistic but beautiful voice – is that a kind of sensibility you’re drawn to? Yeah definitely. It’s the kind of art I like best because on one hand it’s formally gorgeous because it’s so fucking beautiful on a basic human level. But with Lars Von Trier, it’s so balletic but incredibly assaulting. I just like the adrenalin. I like things that are going to draw you in and repulse you at the same time. I think you need to go through a lot of pain to really enjoy something.
Like that incident that happened to you at an airport recently? Can you tell us about that? I was accused of being a weed activist when I was coming back from a festival in Mexico and I was detained for a really long time. I spent 24 hours at the airport actually.
And there was that boat thing too. Have you worked out why authority figures hate you? No but I think I’m flagged potentially. It’s always at the US border that I’m in trouble I never have any trouble going to the UK or anything. Although I think it might also be because I have a musician’s visa. When they see the visa they’re like shes a professional musician she’s probably a druggie. A lot of musicians I know get in trouble at the border with their visas. And also my gear, a lot of it is really delicate so I always carry it with me and it just looks sketchy to go through customs with like tons and tons of really obscure equipment obviously the border guards don’t know what the fuck samplers are and loop pedals look really weird.
They’re like ‘where’s your guitar case’? Yeah they’re always really suspicious…There are other factors like I also have a tattoo on my fucking head, I look weird and I have green hair so there are many more issues to be dealt with (laughs).
Thanks for your time Claire. Cool have a good day.
Title Image Provided by Grimes