Hybrid of influences creates Canada’s next pop star

In today’s music industry, image and marketing can mean the world of difference. But which elements are most necessary to concoct the next superstar? Blending in multimedia aspects and molding her public persona around her everyday hobbies are just two of Lights’ ingredients for musical domination.

At a sprite 22, Lights (born Valerie Poxleitner) has managed to nail together an impressive set of pop tracks, and a striking sci-fi loving image that is more than magazine cover ready. Judging by the audience at her recent sold out Commodore Ballroom tour opener, she also has ability to appeal to a demographic ranging from middle-aged couples to mall-fixated hipster tweens. But the manufactured façade seen by some critics is a sheer misunderstanding. A self-proclaimed geek, Lights, calling from her hotel room at a recent Edmonton tour stop, put the rumours to rest. “It really is all me. With the direction my career has been going,” she relates, “I can [integrate] my personal hobbies and art. I feel so fortunate that I can still make the hobbies I have part of my career.” She assures that what you see is what you get, literally. “There’s not a lot I’m hiding. I really do play World of Warcraft, going to bed,” she jests, commenting on her tattoo, inspired by the role-playing game.

Of course, fame and fortune allow for indulgence in her hobbies. A true fan of multimedia, Lights has let her visually artistic side and love of comics and outer space mesh together in a new venture called “Captain Lights.” On her recent tour, which launched in Vancouver earlier this month, song intermissions featured a big screen comic sprawl of episodic vignettes where an animated Lights dons a ray gun and heads to an intergalactic battleground.

“There is a certain degree of me living vicariously through Captain Lights, doing things I want to do, like fly a spaceship,” she confesses. Through venues like the cartoon episodes, Lights manages to incorporate the multimedia aspect, using her music as a springboard to reach other targets. “I hope there’s a lot for people to become a fan of. It gets people to understand where the music is coming as the core. There are so many sparks around it.” Based on a comic book Lights drew of herself, Captain Lights serves as a creative outlet that doubles as a marketing tool.

This synergy seems important to Lights, not just from a production perspective, but creatively. “It’s closer to the ambition I have. I want all my shows to be an experience. The way I see music, and the way I write my songs, there’s a visual side to it. There’s so much you can say in the music than the song itself. I wanted those dimensions.”

The live show evolved so much over the past year,” Lights expresses. Less than a year ago, she made the rounds across the country playing small bars. Now headlining a North American tour, and off to England in January, it appears Lights’ career is taking of just like her alter ego’s spaceship.  “It feels amazing and so satisfying. The way I dreamed it would. It’s been a crazy year for me. Barely a day passed where I haven’t worked hard. I’ve been ready for it a long time, and (success) is finally happening.”

But gaining notoriety is nothing new to Lights. Although her debut LP The Listening was only released in September, Lights shocked the Canadian record industry this spring, when she scooped the Best New Artist Juno trophy. “Getting the Juno for Best New Artist, for basically independent work was the best (prize) I could ever receive from my own country.” With only a six-track EP and a live show to her name at the time, Lights was well on her way to being the next force to be reckoned with.

Lights’ sound, an electro pop fusion combining synths and keytar, brings indie influences like The Postal Service and La Roux to the mainstream, banking on a sound familiar to many. “I write my music based on my own standards and what I want to listen to, and making music that I love.” Combating other musicians in her market who go for a more low-brow take on culture (here’s looking at you, Britney), Lights can be seen as an independent businesswoman who writes her own tracks, and creates her own business model.  “The milestones in my career generate as I keep progressing.”

You haven’t heard the last from Lights. With a tour booked to mid-2010, aside from some recording in January, like it or not, her keytar-infused pop is not going to be leaving any time soon.

//JJ Brewis

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