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Lights Revs Up Her Little Machines
Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Last time we heard from Lights it was 2011 and she brought us to Siberia. This week she’s finally returned from the cold with Little Machines. One of those little machines should be a race car, as for Lights, the last three years have been a wild ride.

In addition to touring, since her last album was released the Canadian synth pop artist married Blessthefall singer Beau Bokan, and the couple had a daughter. Much like the Wonder Woman tattoo that graces Lights’ back, however, she would prove to still be “unstoppable” in the studio during this time. Case in point, we now have Little Machines.

Hot on the heels of the release of Little Machines, I caught up with Lights to find out more about the album, and the mindset she wanted to get into before writing it. Lights also discussed parenthood, potentially having to share her toys, and the time her band was accidentally left behind in New York City.

Adam Bernard: You famously used to work under your bunk bed. How has becoming a wife and mom changed your process?

Lights: Well, the bunk bed is no longer. It’s unfortunate. I loved my bunk bed. It was so great, but I now have a grown up bed, and I’ve moved my studio into a separate room. It’s actually been really nice.

I think there are little things like that, that could change, but ultimately not a lot has changed.

I think people think that going into parenthood, and raising a child, and getting married, you have to become a different person, and I think that only happens if you let it. I still game with the baby sleeping beside me, and write music while she’s sleeping, and record, and spend as much time on social media.

It’s like life has gotten better, not different.

Adam Bernard: With two parents who are musicians, your daughter has to be getting the most incredible musical background right now.

Lights: She loves noise, and just hitting things. I’ll sit down and play guitar for her, and she crawls over and then mutes all the strings so she can feel the vibrations in her hand. It’s a little bit hard for me to play the song because I can’t hear the chords I’m playing after a while, but she definitely is interested in it.

I want her to grow up loving music, but it always ends up that you want to do what your parents didn’t do. Whatever your parents do isn’t necessarily cool, so I really envision her being an accountant or something, so we’ll see.

Adam Bernard: That would mean later in life she could handle all your taxes, and that kind of stuff.

Lights: There you go! I can turn this into something profitable.

Adam Bernard: I know you have geek tendencies. I have geek tendencies. They’re a wonderful thing to have. So what kind of magical wonderland have you set up for your kiddo?

Lights: You know what’s so funny, and I get a kick out of this all the time, her room has the least amount toys in it, probably, out of the rest of the house, and that is so weird. I’ve been collecting figurines, and action figures, and Pop! Vinyl figurines for years now, not to mention weapons, and video games, and those are all scattered through the house, and you go in her room and it’s like a little pile of clothes, and a nice painting on the wall, and it’s very mature. I’m like, wait a minute, something’s weird here.

Adam Bernard: Eventually she’s going to have to steal your toys.

Lights: Eventually she’ll maybe wanna play with my figurines, and I’ll have to loosen up about the ones I’ll take out of the packages.

There are literally superhero paintings in the living room, and a nice, pretty, inspirational painting in hers. There’s a little bit of a discrepancy between the decorations. I’ll just have to make that line up a little bit more over the years.

Adam Bernard: Moving to your music, when you went from The Listening to Siberia the synths became a little dirtier, there was more distortion at times, and the music had more of an electronic feel to it. How do you hear yourself progressing musically with Little Machines?

Lights: I really feel like Little Machines is the last two records combined. I guess that would be a natural progression because you take what you know, and what you’ve learned over the last little while, and what you’ve released, and what you think people know of you, and then you mash that all together and say OK, this is what I can do next.

I think that that’s all a subconscious decision. I don’t think that I go in mentally making myself do that, but when I look back now at everything, that’s what it looks like to me.

You get the synths, and the energy, and the beats, and the live dynamic of Siberia, but you get the songwriting, and the tenderness, in some ways, of The Listening, and that worked out really well for this record. I think it’s a perfect blend of my past work. It’s my favorite I’ve done, and I hope that every record (I release) I can say that about.

Adam Bernard: Was there an overarching feeling, or emotion, that you’d say inspired the lyrical content of Little Machines?

Lights: I would say a good percentage of the content that I was writing was about being young again. I was going through a bit of a frustrated period where I was trying to be inspired, and write, and nothing was coming. I realized that I was thinking too much about making something successful, and not about (making) something that I loved.

That is the great challenge of being a musician, I guess, that battle, and sometimes you lose it, and sometimes you win it. Do you create something for the masses, or do you create something that you think is really good?

I think the way that I reconciled that for myself is I just put my mind back somewhere where I enjoyed it again.

When I first started making music it was like nothing could tear me away. I just wanted to create all the time, and it the most exciting time of my life. It’s like magic, and you’re like in an alchemy lab, and you’re creating things, and it’s crazy. I had to remind myself of that, so I thought a lot about when I was younger, and when I was a kid, when you’re so full of imagination, when you look at something and you see things that a grown up, logical, mind wouldn’t see.

We should be able to think like that all the time, but as you get older, you don’t. So I had to remind myself of a lot of that, and a lot of the songs ended up being about that. “Slow Down,” “Meteorites,” “Running With The Boys,” and “How We Do It” talk about that. A lot of the songs on the record are about that sort of regression back to something that was imaginative, and naive, kind of.

Adam Bernard: The latest single is “Up We Go,” and after seeing the video I have to ask, can I ride on an elevator with you sometime?

Lights: {laughs} That was crazy. It took us 14 hours to get that three minutes. It was well worth it, but holy crap that’s a lot of scenes to choreograph. There were moments in the day when I was just like, “This is not gonna happen.” There are so many things going on, and trying to choreograph that many things was like pulling teeth, but it was amazing. It turned out so good.

Adam Bernard: It was a one shot video in the end, right?

Lights: 100%. Even the projections, that looks like green screen, but when the doors open to the galaxy in the bridge, that’s all projection, that's not green screen, so that had to be lined up, as well. There were so many things that went on every second, and I was just standing there trying to nail the performance so that everyone else could do it.

Adam Bernard: You just wanted to make sure that if something went wrong it wasn’t going to be you.

Lights: Exactly, and there was one time where I sang a wrong lyric, and I was just like ARGH! Oh my goodness. I thought I screwed it up for everybody, it was horrible. I watched it back and was like OK, I’m not telling anyone, no one noticed, but I just told you, so now you know. {laughs}

Adam Bernard: Clearly I didn’t notice either! Everything that went on in the elevator was wild, but I’m thinking with a 14 hour shoot that couple making out in the corner had a heck of a day.

Lights: Seriously! In their defense, the first half of the day was spent getting the sets choreographed, because the sets in the background had to be perfect. Every time the doors opened there had to be a new set. There were a lot of parts. It wasn’t all attached. They had drop-in chairs, and bikes, or whatever. So there was a lot of that happening for the first half of the day. Then when we got into lighting, and moving people around. Then we got the make out couple in there, and it was hilarious.

They’re engaged, so they didn’t have a problem with it, but it was like make out, make out, make out, OK, cut, let’s reset. They’d put their shirts back on, and we’d all laugh, and then we’d do it again. It was awesome.

Adam Bernard: Whatever ad went up on CraigsList for that role, I need to respond to it next time.

Lights: It must have been so funny for the people coming in, not really knowing what they were getting themselves into. We were there til pretty late, and everyone had kind of weird roles in it, but it turned out to be really great.

Adam Bernard: You will be touring this fall. With that in mind, what’s been the wildest, or most interesting, thing you’ve seen, or experienced, while on the road?

Lights: Interestingly enough, you don’t get to see that much in the cities. At times you wish you could walk around, and experience things, and feel like you’re a world traveler. You go places, but you’re at the venue, and unless there’s something around, or there’s super easy access, or you have a vehicle, you can’t go anywhere, so there’s not a ton of craziness that goes on, but there’s stupid little things that happen. You see bar fights break out. Your bus leaves without the whole band, and you realize that you’re two hours out of New York City and nobody’s in the bus except for me.

Adam Bernard: You left the band in NYC at one point?!?

Lights: It wasn’t me. I was alone in the bus, and I woke up and it was going, and I thought, “What’s going on?” We were over the bridge already, and I look in people’s bunks and nobody’s in there. I was the only one in the bus, and I ran up to the front, I’m like, “Where is everyone!?!” (The driver) had no idea.

A bus driver comes back to the bus and expects everyone to be in bed, or in the bus.

Adam Bernard: You don’t use that bus driver anymore, do you?

Lights: {laughs} No. Everyone else had the time wrong, in his defense. He assumed we were all sleeping. I think it was actually 4am, and no one was in the bus.

Everyone had a good time in New York City.

Adam Bernard: What’s the most lost, or out of your element, you’ve felt in a foreign country?

Lights: That’s a good question. Some countries, like Belgium, you go there and they speak a couple of different languages. I think there’s French and German (and Dutch). I’m walking around, trying to find a coffee shop, hearing people walk by me in packs, and some of them are speaking French, and some of them are speaking German, and I was just like, “Where am I? What is going on,” not knowing what the local language was. That was a moment for sure.

I think the other ones would mostly be in Southeast Asia. I went in 2010, and that situation, I went with World Vision, because I work with them, and there are some moments where it’s just so different from what we know, in our culture, that you just kind of sit back and feel out of your element sometimes, and that’s good. It’s good to feel that.

Adam Bernard: Final question. You’re Canadian, so I have to ask, when are you going to get around to putting Bryan Adams on your money?

Lights: So you’re saying that’s not Bryan Adams on our money? Looks like Bryan Adams to me.

Adam Bernard: {laughs}

Lights: That is a great question. There needs to be at least some limited fives with Bryan Adams on them, or I’m resigning my citizenship, because he’s amazing, and I love his songs, and his photography. He’s a multi-talented guy. They need to put someone young on the money, too. I’m vouching for that. I’d buy that money.

Adam Bernard: If you’re buying it that would kind of kill the point of it being money, wouldn’t it?

Lights: I would spend more money on that money than it’s worth.

Adam Bernard: That would make the money priceless, which I think is an oxymoron.

Lights: Exactly, and that’s why they should put Celine Dion and Bryan Adams on it.

Adam Bernard: Celine Dion, too?

Lights: The person I probably have the most albums of is Celine Dion. I don’t know why. I think I learned how to sing from Celine Dion.

Adam Bernard: I would have never assumed that. Celine Dion?

Lights: Right? She’s amazing. When I was in my pre-teens I knew every song, every word, even the French ones. I didn’t know what the (French ones) meant, but I sang them.

She had such vocal control that it was a challenge for me. I was like, “I need to be able to sing this song perfectly,” and it really taught me vocal control. She’s awesome. What a great vocalist, man.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:42 PM  
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