Photos courtesy of Matt Barnes
This weekend marked the beginning of the end for what Lights Poxleitner, the 25-year-old Canadian electro/pop-rock sensation, referred to as the “Siberia cycle.” She kick-started her nation-wide, 19-stop tour in San Francisco on Friday night.
“It’s the last tour for ‘Siberia’ before we start something new,” Lights said. “I’m not taking anything for granted. We’ve been doing tours all year, and people are still coming out. I’m very blessed, and I’m very excited.”
Touring with Canadian indie rock band Arkells, which recently won a Juno Award for “New Band of the Year,” Lights will hit Des Moines on Nov. 10 at Wooly’s — an entirely new scene for the artist.
“It’s good to play in a new place,” Lights said, who also won a Juno Award for “Best New Artist” in 2009. “I have high hopes for it.”
“Siberia,” released last October under Last Gang Records, is a complete 180 in comparison to Lights’ first album, “The Listening.” Lights’ pop-like vocals are contrasted with a grungier dubstep sound that was absent from her first 2009 album. The new direction is due in part to collaborations with bolder artists such as Holy Fuck and Juno-award-winning rapper Shad, who drops verses in “Everybody Breaks a Glass” and “Flux and Flow.”
“I always say Siberia is the gritty, underbelly of The Listening,” Lights said. “(The Listening) is all shiny and glistening-sounding, then you flip it upside down and find Siberia and have all the dark secrets.”
The transition from the “shiny and glistening” first album to this dirtier, techy pop mix sophomore album made for more energetic and engaging live shows. Recording a second album too similar to the first was out of the question for Lights. She was up for experimenting.
“It’s important on every record to put yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge your ability,” Lights said. “With things less perfect-sounding, it’s easier to play the songs live. It’s more natural. It’s a more raw and energetic sound.”
Regardless of the sound, though, one of Lights’ most important goals for her music is conveying meaning in all of her songs. The power to influence listeners through her lyrics is one that Lights does not take for granted. It’s when other artists neglect this privilege that bothers her most.
“Something that disgusts me about contemporary music is that a lot of it lacks meaning,” Lights said. “This industry is so powerful — we have such a weapon. To throw that away is such a shame. So I always try to put meaning behind every song I write.”
Particularly engaging songs that Lights says seem to resonate with the audience include “Flux and Flow,” “Siberia” and “Where the Fence is Low,” which Lights wrote about a dream that she had while making the experimental transition into her new sound – about “being in a place you’re afraid to be, but (embracing it).”
“Playing live, these songs seem to go over well with the audience,” Lights said. “They have such great dynamic, and it’s hard not to move to them. I love singing them, and I think that probably shows.”
Her biggest contemporary influence in song writing has been Bjork, who Lights admires for her creativity and unique approach to making new sounds. While growing up, her father raised her on classics like The Beatles and Phil Collins, who have also remained influential in her writing — which she’s been doing since she was a young teenager.
As for her next record, Lights has been dipping her toes into new ideas, but writing on the road is harder, she says, so she hasn’t been able to dive in yet. After the tour, she hopes to further experiment and expand on the sound and feel of Siberia.
One thing that will stay consistent in her subsequent albums to come, though, is her aim to create music that she can be proud of. Over anything, this is the most vital aspect of music making to Lights.
“You can make a record that everybody wants to hear and make lots of money,” Lights said, “or, you can make a record you’re really proud of and take a pay cut. It’s always revolved around making something I’m proud of. It’s about ‘Are you willing to make the sacrifice for making music you love?’ I’m a firm believer in making music I love regardless of what I get out of it.”
She’ll take this value to her grave, she said. Fame, money, and pleasing the masses through making been-there-done-that records are what Lights will never aim for. Instead, she is accepting the ever-challenging goal of a high-aspiring artist: standing the test of time through producing unique, meaningful music.
“I want to make stuff that I love singing and playing—songs that are honest and truthful to me,” Lights said. “There’s always something to be said in each song so people can cling to it. We’re all not too different, and we’re all going through things.
“Music is our escape.”