If you're a fan of Minnesota native Adam Young's Owl City, you're likely a fan of Toronto's LIGHTS. The two artists have been good friends for several years now. Over the summer she appeared in his video for the song "Deer in the Headlights," which portrayed the sometimes reclusive Young in a different vein.
To be in the shoot, LIGHTS took a break from recording her latest album, Siberia, which has since been released. Fans of her brilliant debut, 2009's The Listening, will find this album a little different -- it's a grittier palette of electronic pop, courtesy of collaboration with fellow Canadians Holy Fuck.
In advance of her sold-out show at the Triple Rock this Friday, we caught up with LIGHTS to chat about her new album and her Minnesotan pal.
Why Siberia? Were you feeling particularly desolate while creating it?
You know it's funny, my perception of Siberia is a little different than the common reference you think of when you hear that word. Creating this record was really exciting after spending some time shedding those expectations of a first record and not wanting to make the same thing over again. I really wanted to try something new and push the music and really make the music I enjoy listening to instead of making the first record over again. So we found this new kind of sound happening with dubstep elements in music and brought in Holy F***. I don't know if I can say their full name in print. I brought Holy F*** in to really grind up the record and make it grittier. Once I established this dark new direction it was really was like walking unknown territory. There were moments in the studio when I would get butterflies thinking "wow, this is new. I've never heard this before. Totally uncharted land, it's exciting, adventurous, and bit scary and those are all to me what Siberia is. I've always been fascinated with that land.
You are of course one of the top artists making electronic music, but if you go on Spotify, your top tracks are all from the acoustic EP from last year. Do you know why that is?
Wow, that's interesting. Very cool. I think there's something people are drawn to naturally about music sounding more raw and in its natural state and even with this new record it is electronic, but it's a lot more live and lot more real than the last record. The songs "Siberia" and "Flux and Flow" for example, those were pulled from our first jam session with Holy F***. This jam sessions were live, the songs were played in live. On the previous album they were laid in track by track and you could perfect them. But there's a something more real about this one and I think people are drawn to those elements especially now with so much sounding so perfect. You can hear some mistakes.
Like Martin Gore of Depeche Mode always said, the songs have to work in their most basic form.
Definitely. And if you can strip something down and the song still shines put whatever the heck you want on it. I actually spent some time away this year just on my own making sure all the songs could translate acoustically and could be performed acoustically, because if you can't play something like that just on its own what's holding the song together? Nothing.
You appeared in the video for Owl City's "Deer in the Headlights" with the less-and-less reclusive Adam Young. What was that like?
He's even come more out of his shell than ever, he's a amazing. We actually did the shoot in L.A., and he invited me out for the day. It was so fun and he's always supported me so much. I'd drop anything to go out and help him. I went to L.A. for a day, dealt with L.A. traffic on my own for the first time, and drove a few hours to this canyon in the desert where we shot the video. I pulled up at long last after fighting the worst traffic ever to this spot where there was this little convenient store that looked like it had been abandoned, and a DeLorean, and some gear in the parking lot. I though "this is going to be a fun video."
And Adam looking like quite the bad ass.
He's looking like a bad ass he really is! He's really come into his own and I think that's something I noticed with myself in the past couple of years. You find yourself in it and at the beginning it's a little rough, but that's like anything it's hard, but you get into the path.
You also sang on "Yacht Club" on Owl City's last album. Was that done over the Internet, or did you guys meet up in a studio?
It was the Internet man! That was the basis of how our relationship started in the first place. We met on MySpace and started tweeting each other and all that kind of stuff. It was only fitting that this collaboration took place online. He sent me what he wanted me to sing and I sent it right back to him. I had Shad the rapper from Canada on two tracks [on Siberia], and that was all done via email sending things back and forth. Great collaborations can happen like that nowadays it's bizarre.
OMD tried that and told us that they wound up writing only three songs in the space of a year.
I think for certain collaborations you need that. Even on Skype that might be a complicated thing.
"Day One," which closes the album, is a bit of a departure. What's the story behind that song?
"Day One" is an interesting track. That's actually the last nine minutes of our first jam session completely live, completely invented as you're hearing it which is quite the antithesis of electronic music. It's just us jamming and the next day we came in and listened to that track. We pulled the song "Siberia" and "Everyone Breaks a Glass" from it, and we were sitting around and the sun was setting over Toronto and we were listening to this track. It was the middle of winter, and I said "this is awesome. This is going on the album, I don't care."
How does it feel finally getting the record out after working on it for so long?
The record came out (October 11) and I've been having such a good time listening to the feedback on it, hearing what everyone's favorite track is. It just feels so exciting to see the reaction. I've been the only one knowing these songs. It was this little secret you can't let out, and now I get to hear what everybody's favorite track is, it's very cool.
For the audio version of this interview, listen to PF's Tape Recorder Episode 14. It also features an interview with Never Shout Never's Christofer Drew, and clips from that band's new album, as well as Siberia.