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?
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.
[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…
I heard you say that you used to be really unpopular in high school.
What were your typical weekends like back then?
My typical weekend—it’s weird, but I had really fun weekends in high school. Probably too fun, but it was a good time and I had a lot of really good friends actually. It’s just that we were all unpopular in theory. It wasn’t like we were unpopular like we didn’t have friends, it was just that everyone hated us. But my high school was really polarized. Like I was a goth, and all my friends were goths or punks, and my step brother, who was my mortal enemy at the time, was a jock. There was always this rivalry between the goths and the jocks and it was just intensified by that, because we both blamed each other’s parent for breaking up our parents’ marriage, so it was extreme bullying. I would leave during class and put lube all over their lockers and the next day you’d get a basketball thrown at your head or stuffed in the locker or thrown in the pool or something. Or like framed for throwing a snowball. I was constantly in the office being accused of crimes I didn’t commit. It was just constant abuse.
Yeah it sounds like a movie.
It was also really fun. I look fondly back at that time.
I’m a huge Born Gold fan, I’m actually devastated that I’m missing the tour where he’s opening for you.
I’m actually sitting with them right now.
Oh, what’s he like in real life?
Um, crazy. There’s a lot of extremely inappropriate jokes made all the time. [Laughs]
Say hi for me.
He says hi back.
What’s the process like in the studio? Do you have a bunch of people in there with you? Is it fun?
I work by myself. It’s very fun. I write while I record, and usually I’ll finish a song in a day or two. It’s not that I’ll work on a song for weeks and try to make it perfect. I’ll write a ton of songs and pick which ones I like best, but they’re all done really fast.
How hard do you party?
Harder than I should. [Laughs] It’s okay. Sometimes it makes things harder than they should be in the morning.
What’s your favorite drink?
Vodka and water with a pickle.
Yeah. Straight up.
I’ve never heard of that before.
It’s the Russian way. And if you drink the brine you won’t have a hangover.
Oh, awesome, I’ll have to try that.
It can cause problems, I wouldn’t try it too much.
Pigeons or planes?
Pigeons or planes… Oh my god, pigeons. Airplanes are terrifying. I was actually thinking about shooting a music video at an airport. It would be so cool to shoot a video with people and the planes landing right behind them and just barely missing them.
That would be really cool. I do love airports, though.
Yeah, airports can be horrible, but they’re really cool too.
My dad’s an aircraft mechanic, so I’ve spent a lot of time in them.
Oh shit, that’s a high pressure job. If he fucks up, so many people could die.
Yeah, he won’t ever tell me what’s wrong with planes. He’s like, “You don’t even want to know what goes on behind the scenes, because it would scare the shit out of you.”
Oh my god, don’t tell me that!
Sorry, sorry! Well, I think that’s all the questions I have.
Okay cool, well thank you so much.
No thank you, it was a great.
Have a good afternoon, or whatever.
You too, have a nice…life. [Laughs]