Claire Boucher is behind the wheel of her white Ford hybrid, talking faster than we’re moving through space. There’s a faint ring of blue around her hairline—lingering make-up from an eight-hour photo shoot in Hollywood this morning—and her acrylic fingernails are clicking lightly against the car’s touchscreen, fussing with the levels of bass, treble, and mids. The plan had been for her to play me her still-untitled, three-years-in-the-making fourth LP in the car, but now, driving down Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, she seems reluctant to let any of it play for more than 10 seconds at a time. “It just sounds so tinny in here!” she exclaims, repeatedly raising and then completely lowering the volume on a guitar-studded power-punk anthem called “Flesh Without Blood.” “They told me I’m not supposed to play all the songs. I hired these people to help me not fuck up with the press. Fuck! I just really want to play you these songs.”
Boucher, 27, is referring to Roc Nation, the Jay Z-helmed management company she signed on with in December 2013. She announced the affiliation with a Tumblr photo of her tattooed hands throwing up the Roc: “I’ve joined the x men,” the caption explained. There seemed to be a little bit of truth to that. Just a few years after its scrappy beginnings in the Montreal DIY scene, her conceptual pop project Grimes had landed Boucher on the brink of stardom, with a Billboard-charting, multiple-year-end-list-topping album in her 2012 breakout, Visions, plus fashion cosigns from Karl Lagerfeld and Alexander McQueen, among a dozen other big names, and the sort of fanatical cult following best measured by the scores of lovingly hand-drawn fan portraits she uploads to her Tumblr. There was certainly something superhero-like in her ability to pen charmingly off-kilter, globetrotting pop songs using rudimentary tools (she recorded Visions using Garageband)—and, as the budgets grew bigger and video treatments more involved, in the aesthetics of the Grimes character herself, which seemed to draw on an eclectic mix of heroes and antiheroes, from the 11th century polymath Hildegard Von Bingen to Marilyn Manson and Sailor Moon.