Self-taught electro-popster returns to acoustic roots
Guitar was the first instrument the electronic artist Lights learned to play, so it's not that far-fetched that she'd make acoustic music, or arrange acoustic versions of her electro-pop tunes. In fact, many of her songs start out that way before getting the fully produced treatment that ends up on her records.
Ironically, this was not the case for the songs on her last record, Siberia, which she is now playing all-acoustic on an early-summer tour.
"Writing with just me and the guitar is a very natural thing, but for my last record (Siberia), I started with all beats and electronics," Lights said.
"So it was an interesting challenge to build these songs backward."
Still, the backward approach is the only real shift for the 26-year-old Canadian, given she's been making public the acoustic versions of songs via YouTube and her website throughout her career.
"I do spend a lot of time with fans online, and they've always liked and requested acoustic versions, so it's kind of become an expectation," she said.
The idea to take an entire record, rewrite it and then tour with the rewritten version takes Lights back to her days of playing coffeehouse gigs. She said she enjoys staying in touch with that means of musical expression -- one of many with which she experimented before hitting on electro-pop.
Lights said her early career in music included creating multiple MySpace pages with different names and uploading different styles of music. When she started to get some traction for her catchy, relationship-focused pop, she was bound, then, to use the moniker Lights.
"It's a nickname from my last name, (Valerie) Poxleitner. I like doing things to the extreme, so when I decided that was the kind of music I was going to make, I made that my legal name."
Her foray into electro-pop was borne out of necessity. When she began writing her own songs on the guitar, she could hear the arrangements in her head, but had no one to play them.
"I bought an eight-track mixer, the cheapest gear I could find, and just started messing around with sounds and beats. I'm totally self-taught."
She said the process of making Siberia Acoustic has been a "nice little breather."
"I've been trying some new things out, trying to challenge myself and continuing to evolve."
It's a happy time in her personal life as well, as she and her husband, Beau Bokan of post-hardcore band Blessthefall, recently celebrated their first anniversary.
"The big thing is to not be alone all the time. I used to have that 'me against the world' thing, and that spawned a lot of my songs," she laughed.
"It's great to have someone to bounce musical ideas off of, for sure, but mostly just learning how to live in this new partnership."