Grimes is Making Her Fantasies a Reality

Grimes is Making Her Fantasies a Reality

For its November issue, V honors the leaders shaping popular culture and carrying it into the future, whether by changing the way we talk about identity, redefining stereotypes, or championing new movements in the realms of fashion, music, film, and television. Here, Grimes talks about the importance of activism, the visual conclusion of her last album, and what's coming next.

For its November issue, V honors the leaders shaping popular culture and carrying it into the future, whether by changing the way we talk about identity, redefining stereotypes, or championing new movements in the realms of fashion, music, film, and television. Here, Grimes talks about the importance of activism, the visual conclusion of her last album, and what's coming next.

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Jay Massacret

Text: William Defebaugh

This story appears in V104. Click here to pre-order the issue before it arrives on stands November 10.

Claire Boucher, the 28 year-old musician behind project Grimes, is one of those rare artists who have managed to break into the mainstream without succumbing to it, a pixie-sized crusader with pastel-hued hair and angel wings (literally, in the case of her “Flesh Without Blood” video) who has become a beacon for a new generation of alternative and independent creators.

One year after releasing her fourth album, Art Angels, Boucher is ready to conclude the visual saga that has accompanied her electro-pop opus. While the project’s earlier videos were highly stylized and planned out (“California,” “Kill V. Maim”), she has returned to her DIY roots with four recently-released “guerrilla videos” created with her brother Mac, a DP, and fellow musician and recent tour mate HANA, for “World Princess, Pt. II,” “Butterfly,” “Scream,” and “Belly of the Beat.”

“There was no crew, no makeup, no styling—just the camera,” says Boucher. “It’s almost like a video remix, where two different artists are shooting different videos for different songs with the same set up, and then we’re each editing our own videos. I think it’ll make people understand the role of the editor a lot better because then you get to look at the same thing from two different perspectives. I think it’s almost more creative to not be bound to a visual narrative.”

Still, Boucher’s not entirely prepared to abandon the glamour of big budget videos just yet; she has also just finished collaborating with Janelle Monáe on her video for “Venus Fly,” their shared track on Art Angels, which will serve as the 11th and final video off the album (“It’s almost a visual album,” she laments).

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Boucher may be the face of Grimes, often thought of as being a singer first, but her true interests lie in these other realms of music making: “Honestly, I don't feel very confident in myself as a singer. As I get older, I’m probably going to try to be more involved in the behind-the-scenes work, and less involved in being the front person. I think where my pride in my work lies is in my production, editing, and directing. I’m not a trained musician; this is something that happened almost randomly. I’d rather be compared to my peers who are producers—I think that’s a world where I’m capable at achieving at a higher level.”

This is Grimes’s reality: a fantastical world where creatively minded individuals can collaborate in the name of experimentation, and bring art back to its exploratory roots. It’s ironic, given that Grimes began as a self-made project, but Boucher feels fortunate that others are beginning to have the same freedom she found—especially women, who have historically been a minority in music production.

“I’m in a really privileged position because I’ve always worked by myself, and I feel like I haven't faced a lot of hardships compared to the women I know,” says Boucher. “By the time people were like, oh my god, you're a female producer! I already had two albums and I wasn't even thinking about that. I think that the more stuff like GarageBand becomes democratized, the more we’re going to see minorities like women producing. The ability to self-teach is already greater than it was even five years ago.”

The duality that Grimes embodies as both an outsider artist and an increasing presence in popular music is reflected in her style as well, which she describes as “the middle ground between elves and Dolly Parton.” While she finds most of her clothing on Etsy, the website devoted to handmade items and peer-to-peer commerce, she’s also come to serve as an inspiration for high-end designers like Hedi Slimane during his early years at Saint Laurent, and Nicolas Ghesquière, who has tapped her on more than one occasion to wear Louis Vuitton and perform at events for the brand: “I love how they’re interfacing with Final Fantasy and anime. I feel like the world of cosplay and the world of fashion are more similar than people think. There’s always been really incredible design in anime, and I think it’s really cool that Louis Vuitton is inferring it right now.”

As she closes the door on this album, Boucher has a calmer project in mind for the next: “I’m really vibing on making something really slow and gorgeous that just breathes, and has room to breathe. I feel like my work has always been fast paced, kinetic, and almost just manic and I feel like for me the hardest thing I can do is make something that’s slow and heavy. I’m so ADD in my work; I really want to push myself into something that would be slower and more reflective.”

Outside of her work, Boucher is a vocal activist on social media, speaking out against not only sexism within her industry, but also the predominant political issues plaguing America in 2016: presidential candidate Donald Trump, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and police brutality, to name a few among many.

When asked what makes her feel hopeful about the year to come, Boucher hesitates; she’s a self-proclaimed cynic, so the question comes with alarm bells. Though she’s too humble to admit it, her ultimate answer is inarguably tied to the same spirit of rebellion conjured by her own voice as Grimes.

“When I look and see the young generations coming up, people like Tavi Gevinson and Amandla Stenberg, that gives me a lot of hope,” she resolves. “The protests in North Carolina, the tribes coming together against the DAPL... I think our society has been really apathetic for a long time, and people are starting to become more politically active, and more artistically adventurous. People protesting and being active is what we need the most right now, and that gives me a lot of hope.”

Credits: MAKEUP JEANINE LOBELL (TIM HOWARD MANAGEMENT)  HAIR CHRISTIAAN  MANICURE DEBORAH LIPPMANN (THE MAGNET AGENCY)  EXECUTIVE PRODUCER STEPHANIE BARGAS (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  PRODUCTION COORDINATOR EVA HARTE (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  STUDIO PRODUCER TUCKER BIRBILIS (VLM PRODUCTIONS)  STUDIO MANAGER MARC KROOP (VLM STUDIO)  DIGITAL TECHNICIAN BRIAN ANDERSON (VLM STUDIO)  LIGHTING DIRECTOR JODOKUS DRIESSEN (VLM STUDIO)  PHOTO ASSISTANT JOE HUME  STYLIST ASSISTANTS OLIVIA KOZLOWSKI, SEAN NGUYEN, SOPHIA TORRES-ULRICH, TALLIA BELLA PEPE  MAKEUP ASSISTANT JESSICA ROSS  HAIR ASSISTANT TAKU SUGAWARA  MANICURE ASSISTANTS STEPHANIE ARIA AND RIWAKO KOBAYASHI  RETOUCHING STEREOHORSE  LOCATION PIER 59 STUDIOS  CATERING DISHFUL

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