[Photos by Emily Wheeler]
When it comes to Claire Boucher and her one-woman experimental pop project Grimes, critics have had a carnivalesque time of finding a name for her sound. The game goes a lot like this: throw a bunch of words at the wall, see what sticks, win a prize. (Here’s one I just made up for fun: auf-der-pop-goth.) And, recently, a similar sort of tizzy has been swirling around her manga meets "My So-Called Life" meets Marilyn Manson sense of style. The dialogues are a lot of fun, sure, but not so much as when the artist weighs in herself. I caught up with Claire at Weird Magic's Dreams 3.0 party at Brooklyn's 285 Kent to get her take on the sartorial side of Grimes. (Hint: it goes something like this: “I like military shit, I like ballet shit, I like Sci-Fi shit.”)
Ad Hoc: Your sense of style is a pretty fun pastiche. How would you describe it?
Claire: I’ve always just been a goth since I was 13. There was this mild period when I went to university where I was embarrassed about that and tried to be a bit more normal. But now I’m just regressing back to how I dressed in high school, which is, like, ’90s-goth-anime.
Ad Hoc: Yeah, high school sort of crystallizes personal style in this funny way. So, you feel like your high school style rings true now?
Claire: Well, this is my elementary school uniform and these are my high school goth boots. I’m actually wearing shit from high school right now.
Ad Hoc: In your mind, does what you wear play a role in the presentation of your art?
Claire: For sure. Grimes is more conceptual-- it’s not just music for me. It’s not like I want to play a role or anything, but I definitely see my appearance as very integral. There’s a lot you can do with your physical appearance, and it definitely contextualizes you as an artist. If I dressed differently, I think the way my music is perceived would be totally different. If I just wore jeans and a shirt or if I was really sexy or something, that would totally recontextualize what Grimes is, especially considering that it’s pop music and I’m a girl and a frontperson.
Ad Hoc: So what impact does the fact that you make pop music have on what you choose (and choose not) to wear?
Claire: I think pop is associated with imagery and a way of behaving that it doesn’t need to be. I make pop music, but I also make experimental pop music and the same [goes for] the way I look. You have to give people enough of what they can understand and what seems normal, but then do something really crazy with it or fuck it up. That’s the essence of what I do. I really like a lot of things about pop music, I really like a lot of things about schoolgirl outfits, but those things on their own can be really meaningless. The classic example is Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill: that totally recontextualizes the Japanese schoolgirl. She’s, like, a fucking murderer.
Ad Hoc: Do you have a strong interest in design collaboration? I know you already co-designed some rings with Montreal sculptor and jeweler Morgan Black, and have some chainmail armor coming out as well.
Claire: Yeah, definitely. I’ve always made clothes. I like collaborating on stuff like that, but I don’t like collaborating necessarily with music because I feel like it’s something I have control of. But with clothes or jewelry or sculpture or video, it’s cool to work with people who know things I don’t and who can do things better than me. I like letting people do what they want creatively and then I’m doing what I want creatively, and we usually make something better than I would’ve done anyway.
Ad Hoc: Sci-Fi has come up a lot in your interviews. What is it about that genre that resonates with you aesthetically?
Claire: There are a lot of really strong female characters, like in Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner. The protagonists in those films were always my icons when I was a kid because they’re bad-ass. Also, it’s cool to flirt with traditional ideas of sci-fi. I think imagining the possibilities of technology and incorporating that into what you’re doing is our reality.
Ad Hoc: Does being a visual artist add another dimension to the way you see fashion?
Claire: I think it’s all interrelated. [What’s] interesting about fashion is that the human body and humans in general are obviously a real point of artistic fixation. People find them beautiful (because we’re supposed to procreate and prolong our species!) and [fashion] is an art form that focuses exclusively on that. That’s the point of the art form: to decorate and beautify the human body.
Ad Hoc: If you could characterize the way you dress as the lovechild of any two cultural entities, real or imagined, what would they be?
Claire: Hm. Tank Girl, The Fifth Element and Save the Last Dance. (Sorry, that’s three.)