CLAIRE BOUCHER works unbelievably quickly. Boucher—who's better known as Grimes—recorded her latest record, Visions, in a three-week jag that she describes as "a fairly hellish experience," during which she never saw daylight. Boucher speaks quickly, too; as soon as she's said this, she immediately adds, "It was really fun."
I believe her when she says it was both hellish and fun. Visions appears to be an effortless delight, a dance-pop album that's giddy, playful, inviting—but with a dark tint in its core, a mysterious cloud that's impenetrable and fascinating. As Grimes, the Montreal-based Boucher has constructed an unbreakable link between pop and art, where helium-high vocal loops and skipping jump-rope beats meet bitcrushers and dark, eerie tones. It's an album that sounds perfect both at top volume in a club, or at lower, bedroom temperatures.
Boucher explains the dichotomy further: "I think I'm super emo in my core of my being," she says. "I'll always be upset about something in some unreasonably dramatic way. I always make the best music when I'm really depressed, and the only thing that makes me really happy is writing good music. So it's like this weird cycle, where I need to be depressed in order to be happy."
Visions is being released in Canada on Arbutus, the label Boucher started with her friends a couple years ago—she mentions that it's easier to get artist grants from the Canadian government if she's on a Canadian label—but indie giant 4AD will release it in the States; its release date is February 21, the day of Grimes' Portland show. Opening band Born Gold also performs as Grimes' backing band for this leg, a new addition to a show that Boucher has often done entirely on her own. She describes how roughly half the songs on Visions came out of live performances: "In my spare time I make samples, and then I improvise live, and slowly, every show, the samples get more coherent.
"There's way more bullshit going on than anyone knows!" she continues. "I have this problem where I always forget the words of things immediately as soon as I get on stage. I just get so nervous. I can't commit to anything performatively, so there needs to be room to improvise my way out of issues with stuff. I started trying to write songs about things, which did make the whole experience more meaningful. But I still try to not make my lyrics super clear."
Boucher studied ballet intensely while growing up, and has dabbled in painting as well, but she's far more fulfilled by music. "I've said music is the first art form where I could express myself in a unique way that was fairly different from other people." She's already started work on the next Grimes record, and she's also become fascinated with the vocal intricacies of madrigals and the work of Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, who murdered multiple members of his family. "I just watched this documentary on him, and it really made me want to record really complex vocal music. But I almost want to just hire, rent musicians, record a vocal album, and just send them off on their way, and also do Grimes..." Boucher trails off when she starts thinking of the possibilities ahead. "I feel like I'm getting to the point where I can start to figure that shit out now."