Interview: Grimes On Her Goth Roots, Music She’s Listening To, And Being Loved By Strangers

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Just last year, Grimes was releasing what she calls “meandering,” “weird” music. It was music that her grandmother hated. It’s still early in 2012, but the situation has changed thanks to her new album, Visions. It’s an album that almost everyone agrees is awesome. Everyone including her grandma.

By most standards, Grimes is still pretty weird. Her music is danceable, synth-heavy pop, but she’s not coming from the same place as most pop acts, and no matter how catchy Visions gets, it still reflects that. The former goth is cut from a different cloth, but despite that—or more likely because of that—she’s created one of the most interesting albums of the year so far. And suddenly, that girl who used to listen to Marilyn Manson in high school is indie pop’s unlikely new darling.

Interview by Midas

How’s the tour going?
It’s fucking sick. We just had Indian food for breakfast!

Nice, what did you have?
I had an almond milkshake. [Laughs] I guess that’s not real Indian food, but other people had, you know, Indian food.

What’s been your favorite city so far?
Fuck. Los Angeles. Although New Orleans was great. But L.A. is my favorite city. I’m the most at ease there.

You’ve got some shows coming up with Fiona Apple, right?
I think I’m just playing one show with her on her tour. I’m pretty excited to meet her… well, maybe I won’t meet her. Sometimes when you play shows with really famous people they keep them like, off in the back room. But… it would be cool meeting her.

Yeah that’s awesome. She’s crazy, but the best.
Yeah for sure, absolutely.

I heard you were really into Marilyn Manson and Tool a while ago. Is that true?
[Laughs] Yeah.

When did the transition happen into what you’re making now?
Probably when I was 17 or 18, like the latter half of high school, when I started finding out about more reasonable music, I guess.

[Laughs] I mean I still totally… there’s a place in my heart for all of that stuff, but I grew out of it at a point, and really started to like contemporary—I don’t wanna say indie—but you know what I mean, underground music.

Yeah I know what you mean. Did you see Marilyn Manson just released a new single?
Really? Oh my god, it’s probably not good. Is it bad? It’s probably bad. I should probably check it out. I stopped paying attention to Marilyn Manson after The Golden Age Of Grotesque, which was not a very good album.

I’ll take your word for it.

What are you listening to these days?
We’re in the tour van, so it’s kind of at the whim of my tour people. We listened to Cut Hands yesterday, which was unbelievable. I need to listen to that more. And Julia Holter. We have a new Julia Holter record which is very, very, very good. So, those are the two good ones of the moment. And we listen to a lot of bass music and stuff too. I’m not a total connoisseur of that shit, but you know, Blawan and stuff like that.

Yeah I was gonna ask you about Blawan. What got you into bass music?
Yeah I just never did, and it’s completely blowing my mind because I just didn’t know it existed and it’s sort of everything that I want out of music.

And you DJ too, right?
Yeah, I’m not a good DJ though. I’m basically a wedding DJ. I play like Prince. [Laughs] I could definitely DJ weddings or birthday parties. I should DJ for rich 16-year-olds. But I try. I know how to be in sync.

Well that’s the most important part.
Yeah, I’m definitely not doing cool stuff though, like mashing things up or anything.

How do you decide what to do with your hair next?
It’s usually just a spur of the moment thing. Right now I just want it to be a color and I’m trying to move beyond this need to dye my hair. So I think if I just bleach it and dye it a crazy color, the roots won’t look that bad so I can just grow it out naturally, which will ultimately never end up happening, because I’ll just dye it again anyway. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t want to do it, but I know I will do it, and thinking that I know that I will do it causes me to keep doing it. It’s a terrible, terrible cycle.

What color are you thinking of doing next?
Um… baby blue.

Ooh, I like it.
It might not be possible, but…

Yeah, I’ve never seen that before, but it could look good.
It could look good.

Do you have a favorite color?
My favorite color… oh, man. Traditionally it’s been red, but I feel like I’m entering a new phase in my life where it might not be red. I wanna say purple, but I don’t know if I can commit to that.

Okay, so red, maybe tentatively purple, but not sure?
Yeah, I mean it’s a commitment.

It is a big commitment, I agree.
Yeah. [Laughs]

[Laughs] So you produce your own music. If you could do the production on another artist’s album, who would it be?
Ohh man. I don’t know, it’s hard to say because all my favorite artists are good producers. Just someone that’s a great vocalist—like, any good vocalists. It would be super sick to work with Katy B., but I’m sure she’s got really good producers. But I’d like to work with a female vocalist.

Same question now, but for you. If you could have one producer work on your next album, who would you choose?
Maybe someone like Blawan or something. Or, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about Cut Hands but I think it would be cool to do a bunch of noise and dance music. Yeah, maybe Cut Hands. I don’t know enough about him or them at all, but this is something that I really embraced as soon as I heard it.

You had two albums before Visions. Why do you think this one caught on so strong?
Because it’s pop music. [Laughs] My other albums didn’t have much form, they’re just meandering and weird. This album has a little more crossover appeal. I know it does because my grandma has always hated my music and she likes this record. I think it’s familiar enough that people who aren’t really into experimental music still like it. And that’s the difference.

Were you surprised by how much buzz it got?
Yeeeah. Yes. It’s been really cool, but we definitely got in a bit over our heads pretty fast.

Yeah, right now you’re really internet popular. How does that translate into real world popularity? Do you have people recognizing you yet?
Yeah, it’s kind of freaky. [Laughs] Not even uncomfortable, it’s really interesting. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it. It’s had to evaluate things probably, because I’m touring, so I don’t really live in the real world at the moment.

How do you feel about people you don’t know say that they are in love with you or have a crush on you?
I don’t know. I think that’s really strange, but I also kind of understand that concept. It’s this sort of one-sided knowledge, especially with a musician because you are hearing something very personal to them, but you have no concept of who they are. It’s this weird one-way thing where you can feel that you almost know them. It’s freaky I guess, but it’s interesting.

HIT NEXT or press SHIFT+RIGHT for Grimes on being unpopular in high school, her surprising favorite alcoholic beverage, and pigeons vs planes…


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