Sleeping with Grimes

Canada’s Alt-Pop Insomniac Talks All-Nighters, Nicki Minaj and Choosing Dreams Over Reality

This year’s most intriguing sonic starlet, 23-year-old Montreal native Claire Boucher, AKA Grimes, shows off her moves in this series by photographer Frederike Helwig. Formerly a neuroscience major at McGill University, Boucher dropped out after she joined the local DIY art-pop scene and started making music on her laptop. After three concept-driven albums, Boucher has taken a quantum leap forward with the intergalactic bubblegum-tinged Visions. Conceived by the self-confessed insomniac during a period of near-monastic seclusion, Visions careens wildly from blissful lullabies to angular synths and leftfield dance anthems. “I don’t want to be anything like Nicki Minaj or Rihanna,” she says of her professed idols. “I respect what they’re doing in creating a song image, but I don’t want choreographed dance moves. They are really good at building a cult of personality, and that’s what I aspire to.” The joyfully surreal video for single “Oblivion” incongruously drops Boucher’s pixie grunge waif into the midst of all-American jock scenes, including a high school football game and frat boy party. “Watching Friday Night Lights is my total guilty pleasure. I really like the aesthetics of sports,” says Boucher. “It’s similar to fashion—idealizing the body and making that the central aspect.” Here she shares advice on how to survive sleep-deprivation.

Sleep patterns
I usually sleep between three to seven hours. If I'm not on tour, I stay up all night for many nights, and then sleep 20 hours at a time. Touring actually makes my sleep patterns more regular because you have to wake up early. 

Witching hours
After midnight is when I'm at my most creative; I would say between midnight and 4am. 

Dead of night
Recording the album, I locked myself in my room for weeks, blacked out my windows, and didn’t sleep or eat. That’s the best way to record music. I couldn’t record music in a bright room—I need that solitude, with no outside stimulus. It’s definitely best if it’s dark all the time, like perpetual night so you can literally work through for days and not notice.

No sleep till…
Staying up over 72 hours is something that I do at least once a week. Most of the most memorable occasions are definitely too crazy to be spoken about publicly. Usually I’m feeling very manic, just wanting to create and not wanting to sleep.

Somnolent reading
I normally read dense philosophy books and they are a good way to fall asleep. If you need to sleep and you’re not buzzing hard, a heavy book really helps.

Sedatives
I listen to Holy Other and Llama Farmers—they help. Bananas and warm milk actually work really well too.

Sleepwalkers
If I was sleepwalking, I would like to be in a locked room with padded walls so I don’t hurt myself.

Dreams v reality
Reality is harder to deal with because with dreams you can go and forget about everything.

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