By Care

Magazine photo credits:
inside photo: Caitlin Cronenberg / Universal Music Canada
cover photo: Matt Barnes / Universal Music Canada

Long before she broke out in 2008 as Canada’s newest electronic-pop ‘it’ girl, LIGHTS was fashioned a singer/songwriter; a commissioned sixteen-year-old kid writing records for various artists. This would soon change.
She’d continue writing fantastic music, of course, but now she was writing for herself and for her own vastly growing population of fans that span the world over. LIGHTS had developed into a national sensation, even going on to win the Juno for Best New Artist based solely on the strength of her EP, The Listening. 

For the great lot of us who equate her as the voice behind ‘Drive My Soul’, it’s important to know that LIGHTS has been riding the train of evolution over the past four years we’ve seen her on the international stage. While she’s garnished praise for the subsequent releases post-The Listening, LIGHTS has re-emerged with her latest effort Siberia (October, 2011). The grit-pop, dirty electro beats that filter over the tracks of the album are a testament to her growth; LIGHTS has clearly proven she won’t just dim or fade away.

Teaming up with Holy Fuck and Shad on Siberia, I spoke with LIGHTS for the first time before her appearance at Guelph’s 2011 Hillside Festival about putting out her fourth release in four years. I had been given the privilege to get an early listen-in to ‘Everybody Breaks A Glass’ (Siberia’s first single) and when I talked to her about it, LIGHTS’ enthusiasm was ridiculously contagious. 

This is what sets LIGHTS apart from her pop peers. Terms such as ‘songwriter’, ‘multi-instrumentalist’ and ‘vocalist’ may complete the necessary trifecta of a talented musician, however, LIGHTS’ genuine interest in the production of the music (from the acoustic guitar to the band to the studio) rank her alongside some of the best musical exports our country has to offer.

Now in 2012, LIGHTS is head-on in her latest tour that sees her perform only three Ontario dates before she moves on to the UK. Getting a second crack at interviewing her, I find out quickly that LIGHTS is still as incredibly down-to-earth and as happy as she ever, despite the mountain of press she’s about to give after our phone call. She’s also excited to talk about the album and is relishing in the response she’s received for Siberia since its release.

“Hillside really did kick off a lot of great shows,” she begins. “I had probably one of the best tours of my life last fall!” It’s mind blogging the amount of touring she’s doing that I had to ask how she manages to stay awake and perform the way that she does. “It can be pretty restful if you do it right,” LIGHTS insists. “You get your rest, and you save all of your good energy for where it needs to be.”

Where it needs to be right now is preparing for the shows she’s got booked overseas. It’s not the first time that she and the band have headlined in Europe. “We’ve been out there quite a few times,” she recalls. “6 or 7 so far. It’s exciting. It’s fun to be that far. It’s a totally different atmosphere over there!” 

While she’s billowing in anticipation for her European dates, Siberia official music videos have begun to surface here at home, and many in a different direction from the ones we’re used to. For example ‘My Boots’ and ‘Everybody Breaks A Glass’ are lyric-driven visuals; ‘Glass’ being comprised of illustrations LIGHTS created herself.  “The beauty of song writing is that you’re building on an emotion, and the art is saying it more so that you can relate to it,” she explains of the lyrics-based videos. “It can be interpreted in different ways.”

“I’m so shocked how people are receiving it,” LIGHTS says 

when I ask her about the response to Siberia. In our 2011 interview, I recalled she was anxious to drop the album given 

its new direction in electronica music. Whereas her previous albums were strictly timed and gravitated to a conventional form of song writing, LIGHTS was adamant to put out an album that was grittier and a dirty version of mainstream pop/electro music. “It’s been awesome and better than I anticipated,” she continues. “I knew I was doing something different (with Siberia). We are changing – the product is a step away from what people are listening to. 

People are always a little put off by change, but they’ve been really on-board with the evolution and changes in my music. Part of it is how much fun (the songs) are to play live.”

Don’t expect her keytar to make an appearance in LIGHTS’ show, however. The synth player has recently hired a new band mate, giving her freedom to roam on stage as she performs. “I didn’t want the keytar to become a shtick,” she confesses, adding the instrument just may not make it overseas. 

So what does LIGHTS do in the down time, if she’s afforded any? “I have this four part plan for when I have day off,” she tells me. “It usually goes one part school work (I’m in school for computer science), one-part painting, one part gaming and one part is music. It’s definitely a good balance of getting things done that need to be done.”

While on the topic of her artwork (a varied collection of abstract pop-art pieces she’s been selling online), I found out that we might see a gallery show in the future from her. “That’s kind of the tentative plan,” she reveals. “I’m working on a bunch of pieces I haven’t finished yet. Maybe (a gallery show) is possible sometime not too far away in the future!”

But keeping in the now, the Royal City is ready to be lit up by the performer who’s set to play the Guelph Concert Theatre February 3. “It’s going to be even better (this time)!” LIGHTS says happily. “There’s going to be that much more of the new stuff in the set. We have a new member in the band who is an amazing addition.”

And to all those fans eager to see her, LIGHTS simply says, “Come and have a good time. It’ll have a different vibe than the festival, but it’ll be special!”

February 3, Guelph Concert Theatre

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