Article by: Angela Suico | Photos courtesy of LIGHTS | Posted: 06/29/2012
If someone drew a Venn diagram to show where electronic music and fantasy media overlap, Valerie Poxleitner, (known to her fans as LIGHTS), would proudly stand at the two circles’ intersection. Fantasy influences have played an important role in the way the Canadian synth-pop songstress has represented herself in years past. The cover art for her first album The Listening was a geek-tastic homage to “Watchmen” and “Sailor Moon”; the videos for her songs “Drive My Soul” and “February Air” featured her dressed like her favorite comic book character, Wonder Woman; she even starred in the motion comic series “Audio Quest” as Captain LIGHTS, a heroine who traveled throughout the universe cataloguing different sounds to prevent silence from overtaking the galaxy.
How does she feel about the fact that her comic book fandom has itself earned her fans among Comic-Con goers? “I embrace it with chain-mailed arms!” she jokes via e-mail. “In broader terms though, I don't ever write for a specific person or demographic; I just write and create what means something to me and what sounds good to me. I think as a result, whoever it resonates with becomes a listener. They can be any kind of person from all ends of the spectrum. I love that.”
While LIGHTS can indeed appeal to anyone who enjoys interesting lyrics and rousing dance music, her passion for comic books and video games has obviously ensconced her among fantasy fans as a kindred spirit. “I like the element of fantastic imagination,” she says, explaining her love for comics and games. “I like to believe that somewhere, somehow I'm part of a battle between gods and mortals… I always wanted to be a warrior in another life, even as a kid. I suppose that comics and games put you in a world where you can be [a warrior] if you can just think it up. ([I] clearly heavily prefer RPGs).”
LIGHTS’ fancying herself as a warrior makes the fact that her fan community is called the “LIGHTS army” all the more appropriate. And although she has chosen a more realistic means of representing herself since releasing The Listening, (no Wonder Woman wrist cuffs to be seen in her latest music videos), fantasy still played a role in the making of Siberia, her sophomore album released in October through Last Gang Records. While working on Siberia, the singer drew inspiration from the work of fantasy artist Clyde Caldwell, whose images primarily feature women much like LIGHTS herself—solo females who proudly do things their own way.
“His art is dark and otherworldly; the stars of his work are women with awesome weapons, elemental or electronic, typically fighting some kind of evil force. That rules,” she says, explaining how Caldwell’s art inspired her. “Creating a soundtrack to another world makes you think outside the box, naturally. Clyde's worlds were a good place for my mind to be during the making of Siberia, which is darker and heavier than anything I'd made before.”
The metaphors of combat and destruction on Siberia, (which LIGHTS has previously characterized as a somber yet ultimately hopeful album), readily paint her as an inhabitant of one of Caldwell’s contentious worlds. “No weapon can sever the soul from me / Not the sorceress, not the money / All my cleverness, all my cunning,” LIGHTS assures in “Banner,” while drawing on imagery of ruin in the determined “Flux and Flow”: “Well, I guess I lost this round / The mountains have come down / I won't go where they go / Oh, I'll be back around.”
LIGHTS’ voice, sweet as baklava, builds such serious backdrops over pounding electronic beats, making Siberia simultaneously pensive and danceable. A deliberate shift away from the refinement of her previous album, Siberia has a coarser, lo-fi texture with a less fantasy-based aesthetic to accompany it; the cover features a black-and-white photograph of the artist, rather than repeating the comic-style illustration of The Listening. LIGHTS says that for now, the aesthetic theme for her next album is unknown.
But in terms of her short-term future plans, she asserts “there will be tons of touring for the remainder of the year. This summer is a lot of one-offs and festivals and [I’ll be] back into full-on tour mode this fall/winter. Also working on a special acoustic something-something. Keep your ears peeled!” An order to which, in spite of her recent aesthetic shift, one of her comic-loving fans might reply, “Understood, Captain!”
LIGHTS - "Banner (Official Music Video)"