The first day of the spring tour for Canadian electro-pop musician Lights coincides with the release of her acoustic version of the 2011 album, Siberia. Properly titled Siberia Acoustic, the new album from Lights isn’t a simple stripped down version, but rather, as she puts it, “an entirely different animal.” Taking to the road will be Lights with her guitar and a few guests to help release the new sounds into the world.
Sounding energized and excited for new music and touring, Lights also made things surrounding the new album seem almost spiritual. Interestingly, earlier this year she took to the far regions of Canada to perform at an igloo church during the coldest time of the season. Fans at this intimate performance were treated to a few songs from the new album.
While at home a few days before participating in another charity event, Lights took time from tour prep to speak about the new album and the many changes that have happened to her music and herself.
How are you getting ready for tour?
With this tour, it’s kind of one of those things that I can do while sitting here alone. It’s just writing this setlist that has a whole mixture of “ifs” and “buts” depending on what kind of crowd it is and what kind of night that certain things will get played and certain things won’t.
Are there any particular songs that you’re most excited to play?
There’s going to be a cellist and a couple of guests coming here and there across the tour, but yeah, it’s pretty much just an acoustic guitar. Different favorites arise in the setlist whether it’s a full band or acoustic. Like, I never enjoy playing “Suspension” as much as I do acoustically. There’s something really intimate and personal about it and so is “Peace Sign.” I love playing them with the full band as well. It’s just an entirely different song and energy that comes out.
Your first day on tour is the album’s release date. Is it exciting to get a reaction before fans have had time to really listen to it?
I’m excited. I’ve always done acoustic stuff and acoustic versions. With this, I tried to do things differently and obviously vamped up versions, bringing in new elements and changing parts. Take “Fourth Dimension,” for example. This is one that’s actually going to be released separately. I figured because this is an acoustic album and I wanted to keep it sweet and special. It’s almost an entirely different record and it just felt it had to be 10. But take that as an example. The bridge is pretty much dubstep in the original. How you do that acoustically right, you kind of have to reinvent how that part goes. I had to change chords and melodies and I even took lyrics away. That’s one thing that I’m interested in seeing how people are going to receive it.
Why did you choose to only include 10 songs?
Well, some are definitely harder to translate than others, but I think, like I said, it’s an entirely different animal. I think 13 songs is a long album for acoustic. But everything is recorded and everything will come out eventually. It’s also nice to have some songs to put out here and there.
Why did you bring in a couple guest vocalists on the album?
Originally the idea was to have guest vocalists on everything, but it’s hard to nail an artist down. Everything on this album was down personally. It was emailing and texting people and asking them. The ones that actually worked out were phenomenal. Owl City, Cœur De Pirate [Béatrice Martin] and Max Kerman of Arkells are just really talented people. Two of which I’ve toured with before and therein lies the friendship. Béatrice I’m just a fan of and I really thought it would be special to have her translate parts of the song into French. She had to literally rewrite every chorus and she put a lot of effort into making it sound poetic and beautiful. You’re bringing in another person’s personal spirit into yours and that can only make something stronger, it can never make something less. I love collaboration.
You make it sound so spiritual and recently, you performed at the Inuvik Igloo Church. How did that come about?
The original idea came from CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] actually and they’ve been doing these with artists where they take them to cool locations and have them play music. It’s the music in a new spot and together, there’s just something really cool about it. The whole concept itself is really refreshing and exciting and I’m always looking forward to that kind of stuff. It didn’t work out for dark season which is basically all of December, but we did end up going a week after the sun started coming back, which is a special experience itself. Because seeing the people’s faces when they see the sun, this little orange ball on the horizon, it was unforgettable. That’s a collaboration on another level. That’s me, CBC and everyone in Inuvik collaborating on a really great experience that everyone can watch.
And part of the reason was to help the community because their food bank had been broken into. Yeah, that happened to be this other factor that helped make this work. Food is really expensive there. Everything has to get shipped in there if it’s not grown there or caught, it’s because it’s so remote and far away from everything. Their food bank was unfortunately ransacked twice in the matter of a year. So instead of charging admission to a show, it was to bring food or donations.
I also saw you’ll be joining the National 30 Hour Famine Night for World Vision in a couple days.
Do you like to make sure you do a lot with these charities and events?
I do a lot of work with World Vision in particular. I think it’s important to motivate young people to try and make a change and bring music in the process—it’s really a good way to spread a good message and encourage people to get involved. So basically every high school kid that’s doing 30 Hour Famine, they’re raising money that goes to World Vision, which goes towards feeding hungry children. So it’s a reflection of what they’re giving up is what the other kid is getting. And you can tune into the webcast to watch performances, and there’s going to be speakers.
Did you pick venues that had intimate settings for this tour like you had at the Igloo Church?
It’s funny, when you actually end up going on tour, you don’t get to pick out the exact locations. I’ve been touring for a long time and you watch every time you come back to the cities, the venues get a little bit bigger. It is making me a little nervous and that’s good. It’s one thing to keep 200 people captivated just by yourself, but to keep six or 700 people captivated, therein lies the challenge.
We’ll see you at the Bowery Ballroom. What do you do to de-stress before a performance?
After the last acoustic tour, there were a couple shows where the bus was stuck in snow and we couldn’t get to the show. But my tour manager whipped opened the curtain in my bunk at 9 a.m. and said, “You’re getting on a flight and you’re going to play the show by yourself.” That was the first time I’ve done an acoustic show for 700 people and it was awesome. Sometimes you can say [with] a full band performance there’s some kind of wall there, you’re more mysterious, it’s loud. But when it’s an acoustic tour, it’s kind of the opposite. You want to communicate with body language and eye contact that you can’t do with the full band. That keeps me calm.
I’ve played the Bowery before and it’s a great place.
And I do love your new hair color. Do you feel you’re having more fun as a blonde?
Yes! Thank you. It’s a big step. You can’t stay the same forever and that goes for everything. I was kind of like, “Why not?” because it’s the most extreme change you can do to your hair to make it the opposite color. I’ve been just working on stuff at my house and gone out maybe a few times since going blonde. So I can’t tell you if blondes have more fun but I guess we’ll see. Talk to me in a couple months.
Lights will play at the Bowery Ballroom on May 14 and take part in the Skate And Surf Festival May 18. For more information, go to iamlights.com.