GRIMES at 918 Bathurst, Saturday (June 18), 11 pm. Free with NXNE wristband/pass or $10. See listing. At the Great Hall (1279 Queen West), Saturday (June 18), 1 am. Free with NXNE wristband/pass or $15. nxne.com. See listing.
Figuring out how to be a pop star isn't easy. Back in Montreal after her first North American tour, Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, is reassessing how to go from bedroom to big room.
The first thing on her pop star shopping list: in-ear monitors. Earphones aren't typically necessary in the tiny rooms the 23-year-old is used to playing, but without a pair on Swedish pop darling Lykke Li's spring tour, she had to feel for the sub-bass to keep in time. As she nodded along to her dark, heavy beats, the audience had the impression she was merely grooving.
"I realized a number of things I was doing were unprofessional," she says, laughing. "I'm nervous and shy. Performing is all very good, but by the time I'm 26 or 27 I don't want to be touring and getting my picture taken. I'd rather just engineer other musicians."
As Grimes, Boucher released two albums of ambient, otherworldly pop soundscapes last year, Geidi Primes and Halfaxa. On Darkbloom (Arbutus), a new split 12-inch EP with fellow Montrealer d'Eon, she overcame a reluctance to put herself at the forefront of her music by concentrating on more traditional pop songwriting and placing her vocals higher in her ethereal mix of loops and yelps on songs like Vanessa and Crystal Ball.
"It's been a huge thing for me to deal with, because I'm really not into writing lyrics. Lyrics add banality to music. They take away some of the mystical elements," she says. "Their value is their syllabic, sonic qualities, not their meaning."
Vocally, she's heavily influenced by Mariah Carey's impeccably produced R&B pop and spends a lot of time listening to the ways the diva uses and layers her voice. "A really good Mariah Carey song has this perfect sound to me," she says. "This makes me sound like a crazy person, but I feel like she makes the air sparkle."
Now that she's home, Boucher says she's spewing music and has already finished album number three. A week ago, however, her computer died and she lost the whole thing. "I spent a while not being able to experience any happiness, but I don't know, I guess I'll probably make something better now," she says resignedly. "I'm going to start again fresh, and it's going be really good - I hope."