The Carillon (University of Regina)
REGINA (CUP) – Her music might consistently burn up Canada’s radio charts, but Lights herself doesn’t shy away from how icy the music on her new record Siberia is.
It’s named after one of the coldest places on Earth, after all.
“It felt like Siberia,” the 24-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter explained. “It’s cold and scary and so vast but still exciting and beautiful and so mysterious. … I make the music I want to hear that I can’t find out there.”
And that’s exactly what she did on Siberia, which came about from a jam session with Toronto-based instrumental electronica act Holy Fuck. They just played around, tested the waters and from those sessions — and Lights’ self-taught approach to playing music — came the sound she’ll be touring this winter.
Born Valerie Anne Poxleitner, she learned to play instruments from her father, picking up a guitar at age 11 and building upon it by learning to play piano and bass. Although she legally changed her name to Lights shortly after moving to Toronto in the mid-2000s and shortly before being discovered by CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, she hasn’t changed her exploratory approach to writing songs.
“I’m playing chords I already know and adding notes onto them and I’m sure there are technical words and names for these chords but I don’t know them,” Lights said. “I just know how they sound and how they make me feel.”
Collaborating with Holy Fuck was part of her effort to expand her sound in the two years since the release of her full-length debut The Listening. Since that record came out, Lights has been a pop radio mainstay in Canada — and it has changed the way she thinks about her music.
“Things have evolved in the past couple years and things are going to come out differently,” she said. “Are people going to like it? And then going into shock from the extremely positive reaction to the record and especially when it’s live. People get really into it, singing along. People know the new stuff as well as they love the new stuff. It’s amazing.”
Part of what makes audiences connect so strongly to her music is her lyrics. Lights writes what she feels, taking things that are hard to explain and finding ways to say them.
“Whether it’s something I’m going through like ‘Cactus in the Valley,’ [it’s] basically just a feeling of relief getting something out that I needed to say,” she said. “These cool visuals and things let me talk about what I’m feeling. It’s a little bit obscure, but you’re chasing after a vision and the song comes out after it.”
That chase has led Lights not only to collaborate with Holy Fuck and Toronto rapper Shad but also to incorporate contemporary sounds like dubstep. She didn’t want to create something that the masses would necessarily enjoy, but something she would like to listen to.
“The audiences are pretty broad at a show,” Lights said. “You get young people. You get older people. You get people in the middle. Couples, moms, dads. I don’t know, it’s just cool. It’s really cool. Because I don’t just write for a specific demographic. How can I appeal to these ages?”
This being her first Canadian tour for the album, she has high expectations for the Canadian fan base. Having just wrapped up her American tour, she says that the fans down there are great, but the welcome from her own country is always much more powerful.
“I can’t wait to come to Saskatchewan and play the new songs,” she said. “I hope people are enjoying it and I hope people can enjoy it even more live because they’re really fun to play.”
Photo: Tony Felgueiras/Flickr