December 4, 2014 Interview – Lights
Music is one of the most beautiful gifts life has to offer. For some it is merely an escape from everyday life, while for others it is a gateway for creativity. The Canadian singer-songwriter know as Lights discovered that passion at a very young age, already signed by the time she was fifteen. Winning the award in the Best New Artist category at the 2009 Juno Awards, Lights has also had a series of chart topping singles in her home country. Now over a decade into her career, she has built a name for herself with an interesting blend of Rock, Pop, and Electronic sounds. Returning with her first new album in three years, Little Machines looks to take the growth process of Lights to new heights musically and lyrically. Recently we sat down with the aspiring Lights for a personal look at her journey into music, keeping a positive prospective, inspiration, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You began your music career at a very young age as a teenager, when you already signed to a record label. Since that time you really have grown with each passing year as an artist. Tell us a little bit about what the last decade has been like for you as a musician?
Lights – It has been quite the journey. It feels like I have been doing music longer than I have not. I started when I was eleven and got signed when I was sixteen. It is a long time, but it is my life and it is just the way that I live. I take each day as it comes, nothing has been overwhelming or a crazy ride. It has been a great decade, I have really enjoyed every step of the way and I have learned so much. Now I am on my third record and it is just another triumph. There are moments where I got super nervous and each time you do on of those things, you put it under your belt, move on, then the next thing that makes you nervous is that much bigger. It has been a growth process. You want to write music that describes you best, what latches on best with your fans, learn to make it come across perfectly live, and just having fun; that is what it is all about, especially with the new record Little Machines. I really took a new mantra on in life that you really have to enjoy it. That is what a lot of the songs on Little Machines are about. You just have this one life and I am just trying to be happy. We want to be happy, we want to die in love, and we want to leave something behind that people will remember.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, that is what it is all about. Many would absolutely agree with you. Being that you gained that experience so early on, do you feel like it helped you mature as an artist quicker, and if so, what are some of the most important things you have learned thus far?
Lights – One of the things that I have noticed that is very important that can go overlooked is the fact that you really need to maintain a great relationship with the touring party and the crew, specifically the band. It is all about how you treat people; you cannot let anybody’s wants, needs, or people’s creativity go unnoticed, you need to learn how it is to be the leader of a band. I am a solo artist, but I have had the same band for eight years. It is important that everybody gets heard and plays a part in the band to make decisions. One of the biggest things that I have really learned throughout the years is that you really have to take care of the people around you even if other people are not seeing them necessarily from the other side. Everyone needs to be happy, we all have our ups and downs, but we are in a really good place with the band and the crew right now. Those are definitely some of the most important things I have learned.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, not to take others around you for granted is essential. Your sound has always had a very heavy influence from Synthpop and New Wave. It is extremely refreshing to see an artist with mainstream success working within this often overlooked genre. Do you feel like perhaps Synthpop is making a comeback in popular music?
Lights – I totally think so. I agree with you, the genre that I am somehow nestled into, I call it Electronic Pop, sort of falls between the cracks sometimes because it is not super poppy enough to be on radio, but it is not Rock enough to be Rock. It is just something that kind of exists. It should be paved down a little more than it is. Now, with the release of this new record, Little Machines, there is really great climate for Electronic Pop with artists like Lorde, Ellie Goulding, and even Charli XCX who are coming out with great Electronic stuff that is really poetic and beautiful. There are a lot of artists that are putting Electronic on the map. Electronic Pop, as a genre, is becoming more understood by the masses. It is a perfect time to come out with a new record for myself because it is a good temperature right now.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, completely true. There has been a shift in the mainstream popularity of the genre of late. As you made reference to, your latest album Little Machines was released September 23rd. This record has really had a great buzz around it since its release. What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Lights – It was an interesting one for me because it took a long time. The last time I cut a record was almost three years ago. It took a couple of years of discovery and figuring out where I was. Out of that came that new found perspective on life and where I found I really need to enjoy what I was doing. I had to force myself to go back to when I enjoyed making music, because that is what it is all about. You cannot make it for any other reason. You cannot make it to become successful, you cannot make it because it pleases someone else, you make it because you really freakin’ love it. I really found that again with Little Machines. Over the last couple of years there had been some ups and downs emotionally for me, and it took that for me to get to that place lyrically. Then I really started getting inspired once that all flowed, because when you are uninspired nothing sounds good. I was listening to stuff and saying this is not good and I do not like this. So I did a lot of creative things to sort of free my mind, like poetry and painting. I was doing a poem every night and a painting every single week. I started looking into the repertoire of some revered female writers like Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush, and Patti Smith. I was looking into their bodies of work and understanding the things they were saying. Then I feel we had everything at the end of last year, so we recorded it. From January to March we went into the studio, we had all the songs, including a few songs I wrote with Drew Pearson. We finished it, and I feel like it is the best piece of work I have ever written. It was a crazy couple of months for me. In that time I had a baby and was back in the studio three days later. It was just emotional and it was really exciting because I knew we had something really special.
CrypticRock.com – Wow, it sounds like a crazy time, but it also sounds like a very positive time for you as a musician. This record actually has a very definitive Electronic sound to it. If you will, a sort of classic sound on a lot of the tracks. Was that something you were going for?
Lights – One-hundred percent. My last record, Siberia (2011), was all about experimenting with sounds. It was a sonicly impressive, cool record that is fun to play live with high energy and high dynamics. Little Machines was all about writing songs that could stand the test of time. Songs which you could sit down and play on an acoustic guitar or piano, making them very strong songs, while worrying about the sonic production later. A couple of songs on the album were actually written entirely different before they ended up on the record. For example, “Don’t Go Home Without Me” was written on a writing trip I took to New Mexico. Actually, three of the songs I wrote on that trip actually wound up on the record. The first song on the record, “Portal” was written just on guitar while there. I took these songs and made sure they were beautifully crafted pieces that said all the right things without having all the other sounds in them yet. When we got to the production side of things we brought in pretty much analog synthesizers. A lot of synths that are not made anymore, synths that came out in the ’80s and ’90s and some of them did not even have Midi, so it forces you to be very on point as a musician because you cannot go in later and fix it up. It sounds real and classic. It was a perfect augmenting production for a song that already existed strongly.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and it certainly worked well and it is exciting to hear you used that older technology to create the warmer sound. Being a musician, writing, recording, and touring can often be very wearing. Now in recent years you are married and recently had a child. What is the key for you to balance family, personal time, and staying healthy to go along with music?
Lights – Well, I am still figuring it out I guess. I am still a new mother and my daughter is a little over nine months old now. From what I have experimented thus far is balancing everything comes down to taking one day at a time now. I don’t look too far ahead now, that can become really grueling for me. When you look ahead it is very daunting. Having a kid has made me tone it back a little bit where I say, “Ok I am going to do what is in front of me today, just enjoy the moment, and not let anything go by.” As far as the public side of it, you have to decide if you want to be in the public eye or not.. I love social media and people already know a good amount about myself and my husband’s life. We have decided to balance how much we are going to put our family out there, and we control that. Whatever we decide to put out we will put out, we are not going to hide anything, but we will share the moments with the world and keep other ones to ourselves.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, it is important to keep a balance. You need it to stay healthy and it is essential as a human being. It seems like you have an broad musical taste. What are some of your musical influences?
Lights- They have kind of evolved over time, but I think over the last couple of years it has been a balance of very contemporary down-tempo electronic music. Like XXYYXX, which really infused itself into my brain, especially during Little Machines. Then I really zero in on really revered female writers. There is something incomparable about some of these women when you look at their work and it is amazing. Like Patti Smith, she does things the way she wants, same with Bjork and Kate Bush. That sets the standard for me and that is where I aim for when I am creating. I think, would these women do it, or would they not, what would Kate Bush do? If you do not do it your way then someone else is going to tell you what to do, and then it is not you anymore.
CrypticRock.com – Right and there is something inspiring about someone that does things their own way. It inspires you to do things your own way too. My last question for you is regarding films. CrypticRock.com is a Rock/Metal and Horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of Horror films and if so what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Lights – Absolutely. Actually, one of my favorites just came out this year, it was The Possession of Michael King. It was really a good Horror movie. I have seen a lot of Horror movies, it is one of the only genres I watch. After a while you get a little callus, but this one was a really good Found Footage style movie. That would be a recommendation of mine for others.