Indie-pop sensation Grimes ponders sensory overload

The rising electropop star talks fasting and onstage booty-shaking

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Grimes

Grimes Photograph: John Londono


Since Claire Boucher—known as Grimes—put out her crystalline tour de force, Visions, last January, she’s become an indie cult phenomenon, posed for Vogue, attracted about 3 million viewers on YouTube and been handpicked by Skrillex to join him on tour. We chatted with the subversive artist over the phone before her four-night, very sold-out NYC run.

We hear that you wrote Visions during a period of self-imposed isolation and sleep deprivation.
At the time I was reading a lot of stuff about cloistering and fasting and the effects of extreme sensory deprivation on the artistic process. I was curious to see how far I could push that, because I’d done shorter purges in the past. I thought I would take it to the next level.

So how long did this go on?
Around three weeks [of isolation]. I would do two- or three-day fasts, and then I would eat for a couple days.

How many days passed before you started to feel altered?
Like, a day. Not talking to people and everything, you definitely start going insane pretty fast.

How does a song come out of that state of mind?
It’s not that drastically different for me from making a song regularly, it’s just that you’re so removed from your concept of other people’s judgment that it makes it easier to try the craziest things. I think my album would have been less pop if I hadn’t been doing that. There was some part of my brain that didn’t want to make music that was very transparently pop, because I thought people would judge that or something, but… I don’t even remember most of it, really.

Grimes has a really defined personal style. Is this something you always had, or do you wake up and put on your Grimes persona?
I really don’t like the idea of being a band that has a persona. I think that’s unclassy. I’ve been a visual artist my entire life, and music’s just a thing that I started up. I like the idea of being able to perceive any possible scenario as an artistic experience; being creative doesn’t stop at recording music or performing.

You were flanked by two bodacious dancers at your last NYC show. How did that happen?
I did this crazy tour over the summer, this Canadian train tour with Skrillex and Diplo. They’re Diplo/Major Lazer’s dancers. The first time I met them, it was really awesome, because I was wearing combat boots and camo and a hat that said PUSSY on it, and I was just sitting on the train, and two girls walked in wearing combat boots and camo, and one of them had a hat that said CUNT, and the other one had a hat that said… I can’t remember what it said, but it was just like, we were all wearing the exact same outfit. We immediately became very good friends.

Grimes plays Music Hall of Williamsburg Thu 25 and Sun 28, and Bowery Ballroom Fri 26 and Sat 27.

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