The last time I saw Claire Boucher, we were 90 miles off the Florida coast aboard the S.S. Coachella, a music-festival-meets-luxury-cruise from the promoters that brought you the desert romp of the same name. Boucher—more commonly known by her experimental alter ego, Grimes—was belting out hits from her 2012 Billboard-charting album, Visions, while her self-styled ponytail, replete with multicolored scrunchies (and a pair of cat ears), swung in the air.
The moment was remarkable for a few reasons, the least of which had to do with our proximity to dry land. With only about 100 people gathered in the small venue to take in Boucher’s action-packed live show, it was an intimate performance with the burgeoning pop star, whose career promptly went stratospheric. It was also one of the only times in recent memory that the Vancouver-born, Los Angeles–based Boucher took to the stage with her natural brunette hair, which she’s been dying a kaleidoscope of colors since she was 10.
When we finally meet again, nearly three years later, it’s to talk all things beauty for this month’s issue of Vogue. Just ahead of her highly anticipated new record, Art Angels (out this Friday), Boucher’s strands are a fresh shade of Manic Panic purple with a wash of pink on top. “This is my album color,” she reveals of the precise lilac hue—a combination of the company’s Electric Amethyst and Mystic Heather shades—that she also wore front row at Louis Vuitton’s recent Spring 2016 show in Paris.
A self-taught beauty junkie, she’ll manage her own root touch-ups while she’s on the road this winter, part of her DIY mantra that hinges on looking ‘not professional,’ ” she says. “Sometimes when I’m doing stage makeup, I just want it to look weird and abstract, like I just smeared a bunch of crap on my face and let it live!” Still, there is a method to the madness that has the musician dipping into pots of black kohl liner, toting her trusty Kat Von D liquid eye pen across continents, and stocking up on beauty essentials sourced everywhere from Canadian discount stores to Kickstarter campaigns. Here, the 27-year-old talks natural skincare solutions, homespun energy drinks, and why she occasionally loves a really mean nail tech.
How do you choose your hair color for each album cycle or tour?
I just kind of go by vibe. Every time you do a color, though, everyone else starts doing it. I’m like, ‘Damn. I shouldn’t have Instagrammed this!’ I really wanted to do red this time, but I think Florence [Welch] just did it. And Bowie. And even Rihanna’s red phase is so iconic. I don’t think this [purple] color is taken, though.
Do you ever get as expressive with your makeup and nails as you do with your hair?
I have a kohl eyeliner that I use to make a smoky, goth-y eye, and I’m really into this one Kat Von D pen that’s super-easy to draw on, but I can’t wear lipstick; I look simultaneously like a baby and a lady of the night. I use lipstick on my eyes, though, like a red or a black—or even a lip gloss. I have all of these weird sparkly glosses from the dollar store in Montreal that are great. I also really like getting acrylics—really long ones in black, or navy blue.
Do you have a go-to L.A. nail spot?
I go to this nail salon that I found in Highland Park. They have pictures of all of these D-level celebrities on the wall, and they’re really mean to me. I love it when they’re mean to me—it’s kind of amazing.
Is beauty an onstage-only undertaking for you, or is it part of your daily routine?
Every time I leave the house, I guess I do a little something, at least my eyebrows. I always fill them in. I got this weird, white, organic Halloween makeup that I mix with regular foundation for a pale look, and then I fill in my eyebrows so they’re super contrasty. It’s subtle, though. Like, you can’t tell that I’m wearing clown makeup!
Is there a specific foundation you like to mix with said clown makeup?
Josie Maran. It has argan oil in it.
Are there other good-for-your-skin ingredients you find yourself gravitating toward?
I have Burt’s Bees everything and I take vitamin D, but I use olive oil more than any actual beauty products—and I eat a shit-ton of avocados. There’s also a great rosewater toner and a shea butter body oil that I really love that I got from my friend Alexis [Krauss] who’s in the band Sleigh Bells. She just started this website called Beauty Lies Truth, which is how I started getting more into cosmetics. She did a Kickstarter campaign, and if you pledged, you got a big box of ethically made products.
Do you make a concerted effort to maintain an ethical, environmentally conscious lifestyle?
Yeah, definitely, whenever possible. Vegans are too hard-line, but I don’t eat meat or dairy—and I never use plastic bottles. Every night, I fill up my purple S’well bottle with ice-cold maté [tea], and I put it by my bed, so when I get up in the morning I can just chug it. I’ve been infinitely more productive since I started doing it.
I imagine the maté boost also helps make music you can move to. Was that important to you on this new record?
Dancing is really important for me. I’ll make a slow song, but it’s important to me that the songs are fun and at their core, there is just an incredible love for music.
Do you dance a lot to get in shape for your live shows?
Training for a live show is emotionally and physically like training for a fight. This is so off-brand, but I’ve been really into the Ballet Beautiful workout videos. They’re really hard! ButI’ve also been skipping rope because the main thing I need to work on is being able to move more, dance more, and not lose the vocals.
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