Even over a crackly speakerphone, Lights sounds exactly like you might imagine: she's peppy and perky, with a sprite-like voice you might recognize from her tinkling synth-pop hit "Drive My Soul" cheerily extolling her affection for comic books, her Xbox 360 and the video game Skyrim. She giggles about her fortune, about "Drive My Soul" becoming a hit out of nowhere; she laughs that she's not the club-going type.
But over the course of our conversation, the pint-sized 24-year-old belies a sort of profundity in her pixie voice. It's more explicit in her songwriting, which is both doe-eyed and doleful over bright yet brooding synth beats. But it's clearest in her decision to become the artist formerly known as Valerie Anne Poxleitner---a few years ago, Lights became her legal name---sundering the line between who she is as a person and what she does as a musician, with a thorough seriousness that seems impossible for someone her age.
"Making sure you don't have to live with two different names---it's actually very emotionally hard to feel like you have to be someone when you're making music and someone else when you're not," she says. "With my music in particular, which draws so much from my personal life, if you feel like you're writing as a different person, you feel disconnected."
It's that kind of pensive heaviness, the kind that speaks to a dreamy, world-worn wisdom, which has marked Lights' still-fresh career. She says the title "Drive My Soul" was the providential result of a misheard radio lyric, the beauty of which she couldn't shake. She literally wears her sci-fi affectations on her sleeve, with tattoos of Wonder Woman and World of Warcraft weaponry scattered across her arms and torso. Just as she says it was almost "natural" to change her first name because of where she was in her life, her recently released second album Siberia reflects where she is now. "It's about exploring, about finding new territory and it's a little scary but a little exciting," she says.
Sophomore efforts often reflect artistic maturation, and while Poxleitner's always seemed to have it, her closeness to her music made it a learning process to incorporate other musicians on Siberia. After a mostly solo debut that earned her the 2009 Juno award for best new artist, Siberia features Canadian guest content, from rap verses by Shad and production by electronic duo Holy Fuck.
"It takes knowing yourself as an artist to walk into a session with another established talent and make a really cool combination of the two," she says. "I think a couple years ago before I had even gotten confident in my craft, I don't think I would have been able to make this collaboration."
When she plays here on Friday night at the Rebecca Cohn, it'll be her first show in the Maritimes and just the fourth stop on her three-month, 41-city tour. But despite working with Holy Fuck's Brian Borcherdt, a Yarmouth native, she doesn't quite know what to expect.
"It's important to me that my music reaches people. I know what I'd like to get out of music; I like to be moved by it. It's a dark art---by dark art, I mean it's almost magical, it's something that almost doesn't exist, and if you don't use it you can waste that power and it's useless."
Here, she doesn't laugh. She's quite serious.
Lights w/Nightbox, Friday, January 20 at the Rebecca Cohn, 6101 University 7:30pm, $26/$31>
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