By the time she gets to Vancouver, Claire Boucher—better known as Montreal-based solo artist Grimes—will have already experienced a handful of shows opening for Swedish songstress Lykke Li. They’ll have been her biggest gigs to date. To put things in perspective, when she was here last January, she played to a couple dozen people in the back room of Zoo Zhop, a tiny record store deep in the heart of the Downtown Eastside. When Boucher calls the Straight from a New York City pit stop en route to the tour’s first gig, she admits she’s a little panicked about what she’s gotten herself into.
“It’s pretty scary. I’m not really thinking about it. I’m just avoiding the thought of how big it actually is,” she says. “It’s kind of crazy to play the Vogue Theatre, though. I grew up in Vancouver, so it’s got these implications, or something. My parents are super jazzed about it.”
Though she was raised in Lotusland, Boucher started up Grimes while living in Quebec. Last year saw the release of her first two albums, Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, both built on murky beats, hazy soundscapes and ethereal new-age synths. Boucher’s specialty, however, is her lusciously woven but generally under-enunciated vocals.
“It’s more about the syllables and how it literally sounds in the piece. I care more about those sounds rather than what they mean,” she says of her singing style.
Her new album, Dark Bloom—a split with fellow Montreal musician d’Eon—features lovelorn lyrics about being underappreciated. This comes out on the crystalline “Vanessa”, a driving, ’90s-style Euro-disco jam with an infectious keyboard melody. Though she still embraces experimental music, Boucher tried for something a bit catchier with her latest batch of tunes.
“I was interested in doing a pop experiment, to see if I could make something a little happier, I guess, than Halifaxa,” she explains. “I just wanted to invoke the feeling that I get when I listen to a really good Beyoncé song.”
While “Vanessa” has made waves across the blogosphere, Dark Bloom isn’t ready for Top-40 rotation. “Hedra” starts off wildly with a stressed-out glitch beat before settling into gentle harp plucking and medieval vocal harmonies. The track ends with spare, from-the-dungeon clanking. It’s weird, for sure, but, as a self-produced artist, Boucher is free to experiment as she sees fit.
“I feel like so often there’s a really good singer paired up with a really good producer, but it’s never that there’s a super sick singer that makes sick beats also,” she observes. “I think that’s kind of depressing. I would hate to be a puppet in any regard.”
Grimes opens for Lykke Li at the Vogue Theatre on Friday (May 27).