Today in On Record we sit down with Canada’s next big thing. Her name is Valerie Poxleitner, but she’s better known to her country (and a growing number outside it) as LIGHTS— the girl who makes pretty electronic pop music. Her song “February Air” recently introduced her to the world via this Old Navy spot. To hear more LIGHTS tracks, visit her on MySpace. Her song “White” is also currently featured on The Patrol Mixer, our playlist on Imeem.
Patrol: Since you’ve just made your first splash into the mainstream with your track “The Last Thing On Your Mind” (seen on several Old Navy television spots), give our readers a 101 on LIGHTS. What do we need to know?
LIGHTS: I’m a Canadian girl who makes pop music in her bedroom, has an intense geek side, smiles a lot, wears a headband like a halo, and doesn’t quite look her age. Every note I write is aimed to make the world a little brighter, and my name reflects everything my music is about.
Patrol: How would you describe yourself/your music?
LIGHTS: I focus intently on melody when I’m writing. I try to pick melodies that tweak a nerve— ones that you can actually feel. So I would say my music is fairly easy to listen to, but not easy listening! In simplest terms, it’s electro-pop, but I would rather say intergalactic-comfort-noise or something more along those lines!
Patrol: Pop songwriting is a lot harder than it looks, and songwriters tend to walk a fine line between derivative and original. What approach do you find helps to strike a balance between creativity and accessibility?
LIGHTS: I simply make music that I would like to listen to. I suppose since I’ve never been the type to feel happy just at the standard and have always strived to go beyond and explore new territory, I never felt boxed into using those stock 1000 pop-song words, or built a song with the typical bass/drums/guitar /tambourine formula for production. I say what I mean, and play what I feel. It helps that I have a pretty intense cheese-o-meter though. If something smells cheesy I immediately reword it or change the chord.
Patrol: What trends do you currently see the industry taking, in terms of recycling musical ideas from the past, and how does that factor into your own unique sound?
LIGHTS: There’s the obvious New Wave revival that’s sweeping music right now, and I’m definitely on board with that one. The 80’s was the big discovery of electro music, and I think it’s making a second comeback only with ten times more clout because of all the technology we have now! It took a vacation in the 90’s and figured itself out and then came back with a vengeance. I think it’s wonderful. Some people say they miss the rawness and organic quality of music before synths, auto tuners, quantizing and all that stuff, but I say why deny it! Look at this wonderful plethora of choices we have, I welcome all my options jammed into something the size of my computer with wide open arms.
Patrol: How do you feel about file sharing, at least in terms of its “guerrilla marketing” value? Have you used this to your advantage, in promoting your work?
LIGHTS: It’s a little frustrating sometimes to see the younger generation of kids today growing up thinking that music is free. I get some messages on MySpace from people asking me where they can find a free download of my stuff. It’s like asking a farmer where the back gate is so they can loot his field. The technology just came in so fast and threw off a bunch of principles for a time, but I think it’s slowly starting to organize itself. I’ve been a witness to the fact that when it’s in order and regulated it can be absolutely brilliant.
Patrol: How do you play your music live?
LIGHTS: It’s kind of a funny juxtaposition on stage at one of my shows. Since most of my music is all done digitally, Adam and I both play everything on stacks of keyboards, while some backing tracks are pumped through a laptop. I do however believe that there’s a degree of energy that comes from live drums that you can’t achieve with a drum machine, so my drummer, Maurie, sets up to the side and rocks with the tracks and presto! LIGHTS.
Patrol: What is next for LIGHTS? EPs? Full-lengths? Tours?
LIGHTS: I’m already in the process of writing for a full length, but for now I haven’t even released my EP hardcopy outside of Canada yet (having just released it in Canada last month). So that will be the next move. After it comes out elsewhere I’ll probably tour for a while, and sometime next year I’ll put out a full length. At some point I also plan on releasing a graphic novel or two. I need to put some of these ideas floating around in my head to rest. As for the near future, I was given the pleasure of doing a song on a Billie Holiday tribute album, which should be coming out sometime soon. I also did an interesting vocal score for a beautiful, Canadian indie film called “One Week” which should be coming out this fall. For now I’m doing lots of shows and festivals this summer, scope my MySpace page for dates!
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Related on Patrol: Our interviews with Derek Webb, New London Fire, Andy Zipf, The Bell, Tereu Tereu, Monarch, and Jukebox the Ghost.
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John Wofford is a Patrol contributor.
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