MEB staffer Sarah McGonagle recently had the chance to chat with with electropop wonder Lights. They discussed the recent release of the acoustic version of Siberia, how the songs will be translated in the live setting, playing the Skate & Surf Festival, and much more.
MEB: You just released Siberia Acoustic on April 30th. What made you decide to release an acoustic version of Siberia?
Lights: I think, partly the reason I started doing acoustic stuff was – aside from it being really natural for me and the way I write sometimes, and the way I play when I’m at home – I was getting a really good response from fans on YouTube years ago when I started doing it, and that’s what made me want to put out the first acoustic EP. Then I started doing it at more shows and radio visits or little things here or there, and then I just kind of became part of it. Putting out acoustic versions and learning how to play every song acoustically and make sure that it can play that way, stripped down.
With Siberia being such a huge release for you, were you at all worried about the way fans would receive the acoustic version?
No, I was only confident in it, because I put a lot of effort into songwriting and making sure the songs alone can shine that way. Sometimes I even look forward to showing that side of it – as long as I get them right! And it did take a little while for some of them to translate over properly. It took a few different versions until I found one I was really comfortable just playing, and I got to soak with that material for two years before the release of this album. So, at this point, everything is really fun and enjoyable to play. I love showing people that version of it, it’s like an entirely different song.
Your music is spread across so many different genres, with some even calling it “dubstep” or “indie pop.”
Yeah, there’s a whole bunch of things that I introduce to the material, for sure!
Is experimentation with different genres important to you as a musician?
Yeah! It’s whatever’s exciting you, you know? I always have a hard time describing my genre, I don’t even know what it is. I call it “weird pop” or something. It has a bit of everything in it, I think that it’s just what’s turning you on, what parts of music are exciting. I hear things I like in Rage Against The Machine, or Nirvana, or Scream, or Joni Mitchell. You can hear things you like in everything, and who’s stopping you from using it? It’s music. You can do whatever you want. It’s great. (laughs)
You’re set to play the return of Skate and Surf on May 18th. Are you excited?
Yeah! I mean, it’s going to be a return to that whole Warped Tour world, and I haven’t played that scene since 2009, so it will be interesting.
You did stop by a few Warped Tour dates this past summer with your husband, (blessthefall vocalist) Beau Bokan.
Yeah, I did. I didn’t play or anything, but I definitely used to go to Warped Tour all the time, so I definitely love that world. But in terms of actually playing a show in it, it hasn’t been since we were on Warped Tour in 2009. It’s always fun. It’s a different kind of energy out there. People just jump around and have fun.
Are there any artists you’re planning on seeing at Skate and Surf when you’re not performing?
I don’t even really know who’s playing. (laughs) I know Fall Out Boy’s playing, and they haven’t played in a while, so I’ll be sure to catch them. We’re playing in between Streetlight Manifesto and Mayday Parade, so I’ll just stay on stage for all of it!
How is this acoustic tour different from tours you’ve done in the past?
It’s entirely different. I’ve done a little acoustic tour before, which was nice and it was very intimate, but it was more of me just banging away at an acoustic. This time we’ve spent a lot of time getting the songs to a real performance state. Every song is played differently, every song is delivered differently – it takes on a life of its own. I have a cellist with me on this, and it’s just beautiful. One of the things that I kind of enjoy about it in contrast to the full band show is that I can just communicate with the audience, really, I don’t have any reservations or anything that’s blocking me from connecting. It’s very conversational and natural, and really letting loose. I can do anything. I could stop in the middle of a song and make fun of somebody if I want! (laughs)
Is the audience at these shows different from those at your full band show?
I’ve been seeing a lot of fans that I know well coming out, but I also think the acoustic stuff might reach out to a bit more people as opposed to the electronic stuff. Just because I think with this music, you don’t have to identify with a genre, it’s just acoustic music. Any kind of music can be translated acoustically if you have a good song. To enjoy the album or to come out to and enjoy the show you don’t have to be a fan of electronic or of any certain kind of music. I think it’s more of a broad range of people that are coming.
You just celebrated your first wedding anniversary with Beau yesterday, congratulations!
How do you two find time between touring and recording to spend with each other?
It’s really hard. It’s just taking the time when you have it. Like, yesterday was our anniversary and I mean, I’m on tour and he’s recording. It’s taking those opportunities. So, I had a day off and I was nowhere near him, but it’s taking those opportunities and doing something with them. Like getting up and just booking a flight and going, and making sure you take every chance you have to make it work, because that’s the only way it’s going to work.
You two are very private about your relationship. I’ve heard people say they didn’t even know you were married! Is it important to you as a couple to keep some things private and to be open about others?
I think so. To bare it all would probably put an unhealthy influence on the relationship in some ways. There are certain things I’m really open about, and that’s everything to do with music and a lot of my personality, and I’m very open about all those kinds of things – things that people can’t influence. Not that people can influence us, you just never know. I mean, it’s not really people’s business to comment on. With music you’re allowed to do that, that’s people’s MO, you’re selling it to them and you want them to enjoy it. When it comes to your relationship, nobody is really allowed to say anything about it, so there’s no need to hear it. People are always going to say something about everything, and you can’t let that affect something that’s so personal.
You’re very hands-on with your Twitter, you talk to fans and really make time to reach out to them online. Is that something you find important to you as a musician and as, well, a human being?
Yeah! That’s exactly it. Your last comment there about being human, I think that’s largely one of the reasons why I do it. If you kind of disconnect yourself from the people who are listening to your music, there is a disconnect and you forget why you’re there and who got you there. Always maintain that everyone’s at the same level. It doesn’t let anything go to your head and it keeps you aware of what [the fans] like, and what they want. You always have to be aware also that your entire audience isn’t on the Internet, to look past it. At a show, it’s easy to just look at the first five rows of people and that’s it, but there’s a bunch of people behind them. It’s taking all that into consideration. But I think it keeps me stable and when I’m sad, I go on Twitter and people are very encouraging, I like it!