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Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) stars as a cover girl for the April 2016 issue of Teen Vogue magazine, shot by Ben Toms and styled by Andrew Bevan.
Here’s the interview by Stella McCartney:
Stella McCartney: Do you want to be Claire, or do you want to be Grimes?
Grimes: Oh, I’ll be Grimes. I did “kill” Grimes in my video “Flesh Without Blood.” But now I’m actually OK with Grimes again. I just went a little crazy for a minute.
I guess she’s reemerged. It’s just a little weird for me because in real life I would say I’m quite bro-y. I mostly wear sweatpants.
It’s also funny — Claire is sort of a conventional name.
I know — tell that to my parents! When you Google it, it means, like, “empty and shallow.” It says something like “clear light through an empty pool of water.”
That’s a wrong interpretation. It sounds very spiritual. For my Pop campaign I wanted to represent young women in a way that is not normally seen in beauty. That’s why I was drawn to you. Were you torn doing this?
I wasn’t too torn. It’s definitely something you have to think about, because I’ve never endorsed anything.
Do you find it hard selling yourself at times?
I do think it’s an odd thing when you start realizing that people are buying your record. It’s kind of a loaded interaction that affects the art you make.
You become conscious.
In a good way, because I’m like, “Oh, someone’s gonna pay for this — it better be really, really good.” It motivates me to do a better job than I’ve done in the past.
How important is your image?
If you’re performing, the way you dress, even if it’s just a shirt and pants, is a statement in itself whether you like it or not. I see fashion as a positive thing. I see it as a way to enhance the project, or as a whole other aspect that I can play with and use to my advantage. Though I make sure that I look like trash about 20% of the time so no one’s ever saying, “That’s what she looks like without makeup.” It’s like, “Everyone knows.”
Is it crucial for you as an artist to stay true to yourself and project who you are in an honest way to your fans?
Depends what “staying true” is, because I’m totally down to wipe a bunch of paint all over my face — I’m happy if people think I’m weird. In a way it’s not important because a lot of it is like acting and being a totally different person. The truest version of me would never go in public or be on camera or walk on a stage. So there is an element of removing myself from things.
Are you a self-taught musician?
Yeah, I never played music until probably my early 20s. Honestly, I think you can make any instrument sound good with minimal effort. You can’t be a great instrumentalist — that obviously takes work — but getting to a baseline level is pretty easy. I like hearing things that sound messy.
What did you study in college?
I double majored in neuroscience and philosophy, and I was going for a double minor in electroacoustics and Russian language. But I didn’t graduate, so it’s not actually impressive at all.
Where is home for you now?
I guess home is L.A. There’s always a form of homelessness. When I’m touring I live out of a single suitcase. It’s arduous, and it can be stressful if everything is dirty. I have performed in things that I have slept in.
I’m devastated. I’m doing your wardrobe for your next tour. I’m going to have a rack of Stella clothes meet you wherever you go, with fake furs. Speaking of, we’re both vegetarians. How did that start for you?
My stepdad is Hindu and never had meat, so it was very easy for me growing up; there would always be vegan food around. It is political for me, but also, to be honest, I have no idea how to cook meat. Touring is difficult, but if we’re somewhere and I can only have something with dairy in it, then I will eat it because I won’t starve myself.
The Guardian recently said that you’re the woman making the most exciting pop music on the planet.
As long as Beyoncé is alive, that statement is not true.
Your recent album Art Angels has been really well received. Is that overwhelming?
It’s nerve-racking to just put something out there because there is an element of not trusting yourself. I was pretty certain it was going to be widely hated, so I was very pleased. When I feel really uncomfortable with or embarrassed by something, it’s the right thing.
I feel the same way. Sometimes the stuff you hate ends up brilliant. Have you had singing lessons before?
I took one or two lessons, and I think they were helpful, but they spent a lot of time trying to cure my speech impediment. I like my lisp!
How did your collaboration with Janelle Monaé on the song “Venus Fly” come together?
I am such a fan. I kept seeing her at festivals, and I couldn’t tell if she knew who I was or not or if I should say hi. I sent her a painting, and then she said we should work on a track. Then I had a panic attack.
It’s how I got in touch with you. I stalked you.
You didn’t stalk me — you invited me for drinks.
I know, but that’s my way of stalking: fancy stalking. Was it a creepy painting of Janelle by you?
No, it was a decapitated head spitting out colors.
Nice! So I keep looking at your tattoos.
I just got a new one [a large painted-style cross on her forearm]. I wanted to cover up a really bad tattoo that I got when I was younger. I’m not religious, but I grew up religious, so it’s a comforting image to me.
This one [points to another tattoo] is in our campaign. I had no idea you had a tattoo that says “beautiful.”
I never decide until 10 minutes before I’m getting a tattoo what it’s going to be. I was in New Zealand playing a show, and this guy said, “I’ll give you a free tattoo if I can come to your show.”
You could have just given him a ticket and said, “No, you’re good. I don’t need a free tattoo.”
I wanted a free tattoo!
Does the feminist title feel antiquated to you? It’s so important, but it’s such a heavy, heavy word.
The thrust of feminism is equal pay and ending domestic abuse. It’s really about human rights. Though I do think women in the public eye get constantly asked about feminism to the point where it ends up becoming a little bit reductive.
It seems like people have a lot to say about your body hair.
I just started shaving for the first time this year. I am rebelling against my previous body hair, because now people get mad when I shave my legs. So I’m like, “I have the right to shave my legs.” I think people policing my body either way is bizarre.
For the shoot you and I did, they didn’t know if they should retouch some of your hair, and I said, “No way.”
There is still an intense vibe in society about body hair. No one I’ve ever dated has mentioned it. I didn’t even think it was weird until I started doing fashion and people would be putting concealer over my legs.
So, basically, fashion is old-fashioned. It’s great you’re shifting it. I just want to be you, if that’s OK. I’m going to give you some lemons to take home.
I have a lemon tree, but I think it’s dead. It has none.
You can always stop by for lemons. Even if you don’t come in and shop, you can just grab some.
On the security camera late at night there will be someone grabbing lemons.
Somebody’s stealing our lemons — I think it might be Grimes.