Lights, born Valerie Poxleitner, began her career writing songs for other artists, but she has since put her music where her mouth is. Despite her small stature, Lights has a voice that haunts, chills, and thrills, all while rocking out on keyboards and synthesizers.
TheCuttingEdgeCulture: “Recently you released your second album, Siberia, we’ve listened to it several times to through to get a good sense of it. It’s really enjoyable! The music scene seems so oversaturated with lots of similar pop acts and lots of similar pseudo-punk acts. It’s nice to listen to something in between that is unique.”
Lights: “See that was one of the things that was pushed into for that records was a sense of imperfection. Even my last record was pristine and perfect—everything was on the radio. I was sensing that a lot of what was in pop music was very perfect and manufactured—not manufactured but room—everything is in its place sonically and in time. This record is messy. It’s a little bit gritty. We brought in Holy F*ck and Shad… to bring in beats that would dirty it. I thought naturally I progress towards pop and soft melodies, so the combination of two different things could make that even better.”
TCEC: “Where there any events or people that really influenced your writing on this album?
Lights: “The whole vibe of the record was a bit of a struggle to get to… like figuring that part out because I’ve never made a second record before, obviously. And by talking to a lot of people, it’s a complicated thing. ‘Cause suddenly you have expectations of how your music is supposed to sound… You can do whatever you want. It’s tough because even you have expectations of what you want to bring to your fans and suddenly you really have to shed everything, reinvent yourself as an artist, and pretend this is the first time the world is hearing you. So I was struggling to find a place… I began listening to a lot darker electronic stuff like Crystal Castles and went to a DJ in Montreal and it was all Dubstep. I was really enjoying some of the elements of Dubstep, which is really a combination of a lot of stuff about music I love. It’s got like metal breakdowns, slow hip-hop, and electro. I thought, ‘this is such a cool combination; it’s so gnarly.’ It’s heavy but simple… I call it a download moment; I figured out that was what I needed to do on this record, so that was a big one for sure. Then I had a conversation with my manager, who has been working with me for ten years and has been on the same level. I was telling him about the new way I wanted to go with this record… he’s like ‘why don’t you try something else?’ It was awesome to bring other talents in to juxtapose with [me] because they do something that I can’t do. This was really the first time I’ve done that, let someone else come in and affect my music… there really is a lot of factors that made this record great. It wasn’t just me.”
TCEC: “Is ‘Toes’ about anyone special?”
Lights: “’Toes’ is an interesting one because it was kind of transitional song. It was one of the first songs written for the record. It was written before that download moment so we actually ended up re-recording it later, but it was the transitional place between the first record and the newest record in terms of content. The first record was kind of sad, ironically sounding a lot happier that it should. This one’s a little darker, but it’s a really happy record. ‘Toes’ is one of the first songs, along with ‘My Boots,’ which is a one-off single, that I just wanted to write something light, about something that just makes you happy. ‘Toes’ is just about a situation or a person that is so influential in your life, no matter what is going on around you, you could be going through something crazy, and that is ironically, what is keeping you on your toes. I think that’s a good place to be.”
TCEC: “The video for ‘Toes’ looked fun to make. In an era where videos don’t get a lot of TV airplay, what is the benefit of making them?”
Lights: “I think people underestimate the amount of work it actually took make that… walking through the club, for example, was at [a club] in Toronto at like two in the morning. There are people everywhere; I have ear pieces in playing the song and the club music is going on in the rest of the venue. So they’re filming guerilla-style, pushing through people and they don’t know… there’s guys waving to the camera… I’m walking through this crowd singing a song that is completely different to what they are hearing. It was chaos; that’s how the whole entire video was shot. We were walking down the street; the director had this amp tied around his waist just blasting ‘Toes’ as we were walking… it was an intense video shoot… it was about eighteen hours.”
TCEC: “So after all that planning and effort… in a time when MTV rarely plays a music video, why go through all that trouble?”
Lights: “It’s another level of the music… There is the Internet. It’s sort of like asking yourself, ‘why Tweet or why use Facebook?’ You’re just using these platforms to show people more about you and show the music in another way. I mean there are often times when, if you make a great video, it enhances the song… I had a song called ‘Second Go;’ it wasn’t my favorite song on the record, my first record, but once we made the video for it, it happened to be one of my favorite videos ever.”
TCEC: “Your website is very interactive. How has social media played a role in your career? Do you talk to fans a lot?”
Lights: “I’m always in touch with them. I’m always on the Internet, refreshing Twitter. I’m really active on World of Warcraft, which is a really cool platform to game and talk to fans as well. It’s great! Facebook, Tumblr… I even search Tumblr in my own time. I’m very active on it any way, 24/7 in touch with my fan base—on Twitter, on my phone, and I always try to meet fans after shows. There are moments when it hits you like, ‘I’m really fortunate to have this’ and I think it’s easy to forget about that. It’s easy to remember when there are moments when you think not going to continue, then you’re so thankful for it. You enjoy it more.”
TCEC: “You moved around and lived in many countries in your youth. How has this influenced you and your music?”
Lights: “Not in a sense of those countries’ cultural genres or anything like that. I lived in Jamaica for a bit but I don’t make ska. It definitely contributed to a lot of different factors in my music. That up and go lifestyle that I was raised in was perfect for preparing me for touring life. It’s not hard for me to be away from my family. I moved away was I was eighteen. I’ve been on my own for six years now. I don’t see them too often but there is a solid foundation built there—they are my confidants; I go to them when I need help. That’s what keeps me grounded… My outlook on everything was affected at a young age. Like the song ‘Siberia’… it’s not where you are, or what you have; it’s about who you’re with and then you can be happy anywhere.”
TCEC: “You’ve collaborated with artists outside of your genre ranging from Bring Me the Horizon to The Secret Handshake to students at the Regent Park School of Music. What draws you to collaborating? What do you gain from it?”
Lights: “It’s hard to really pinpoint exactly a thing that you learn but it expands on the broadness in your experience. It’s fun, and it’s a challenge working in genres you don’t typically do. The beautiful thing about most of the collaborations I’ve been blessed with is that they’re my friends. It strengthens those friendships, and you help each other out… I remember the first time I collaborated; it was with a Canadian band called Ten Seconds Forever, and I was nervous going in there. But everything you contribute, mediocre of not, contributes to the next success. It raises your competence as a musician… You don’t chameleon into that genre; that genre has taken you on for a temporary moment.”
TCEC: “Speaking of creativity, you have many tattoos. What was your most recent? Any good ink stories?”
Lights: “My most recent is this girl [on her arm], she’s a warrior, sort of Final Fantasy-style. It’s a game I’m into… I’m really into fantasy art. Especially during [the making of] Siberia, I was into this whole fantasy art book… I had it with me every day that I was making Siberia because I wanted to make something dark that could go well with the artwork. So this is sort of a commemorative piece.”
TCEC: “What’s up next for you after this tour?”
Lights: “More touring! It’s a cycle… hopefully I’ll be going to Australia for the first time and back to the places in the US we didn’t get to this time.”
TCEC: “Our website merges entertainment with social causes and charities. Are there any charities you support?”
Lights: “There’s two, actually. One is a Toronto-based charity called Skate 4 Cancer, fronted by my friend Rob Dyer. It’s amazing because, not only the cause, awareness and prevention for young people with cancer, but it’s a cool charity. If you can appeal to teens in that time in life when they don’t care about anything… they think they’re invincible… it’s pretty amazing what he does. Another that I’m really active in is called World Vision. It’s basically… you sponsor children through World Vision. We’ve gone back to the Philippines last August to look at some of the camps they are working in. It’s really cool to get in there and see that sponsoring children actually works. It’s been phenomenal. It was a 5-day whirlwind trip.”
Lights is currently on her Siberia 2012 tour. Go to her website for more information.
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