Little machines, big impact: An interview with Lights
Lights (aka Lights Poxleitner Bokan) is a Canadian musician. Her music is labeled as electro-pop, shimmer pop, or some even call it dreamstep (dubstep, but dreamier, which I LOVE). The Canadian artist broke out onto the scene in 2008 when her music was featured in an Old Navy commercial campaign.
Since then, she’s grown up a lot–creating two albums The Listening and Siberia, releasing an acoustic version of Siberia, marrying Beau Bokan of blessthefall, having her beautiful daughter Rocket Wild, and now releasing her third album, Little Machines. The record is about growing up, living life, being nostalgic, trying to keep that child-like innocence and curiosity, and recognizing all the little things that make life good.
Lights was also named the 2014 Hard Rock Pinktober ambassador! The annual campaign is now in its 15th year, raising millions of dollars for breast cancer awareness and research. They kicked off Pinktober with a small concert and signing event at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square.
I had the awesome chance of hanging/interviewing the coolest person in the room. Lights and I sat down in Hard Rock’s green room and talked about Pinktober, her new record, her perfect family, and also about a lot of sweet things like baby belly beats and what song got her over her writer’s block.
How does it feel to be the 2014 Pinktober ambassador?
Oh SO good. It’s such a powerful campaign and I’m so proud to be a part of it. Hard Rock is such a recognizable brand and they are so well-ingrained with music and philanthropy, so when they asked me, it was a no-brainer. Especially because I’ve had fans come to my shows dealing with cancer. . . coming before the shows and hanging out with them and talking to them and just seeing how hard it is and how much of an issue it is. It’s rife. It’s shocking that 625 women are diagnosed with breast cancer a day in America alone. So yeah, it’s such an important cause and I’m super excited about it.
I was also going to ask about why you joined the cause or if you had a back story because people usually do, but you touched on that when talking about your fans.
Exactly, and that’s one of many. I know so many people who have been touched by cancer and fans battling cancer. And everything that we can do is important. Every little thing counts and if you could get on a platform as big as Hard Rock and preach it from that platform. . .and using my platform as well, I think more and more people will know. Hard Rock has contributed great amounts to breast cancer research. Diagnoses have gone down and it’s just a great cause and I’m really proud to be a part of it.
It’s also cool because each year a different artist is connecting the cause to their fan base.
Yeah, that’s the thing! You’re exposing a great cause and your music. It’s such a no-brainer. I’ve had tweets coming in from Japan and Dubai, where people are seeing the campaign. Places I’ve never even been, so it’s unreal.
So congrats on two babies (Little Machines and Rocket) this year! How does it feel?
That’s totally how it feels–tumultuous and exciting and strangely stress-free right now–as crazy as release week is. The record has been out for a week and I should be falling apart, but I’m just so excited that everything is finally chill.
The hardest process is the cusp of it coming out and before it comes out when you’re finishing it, that’s when it’s so crazy. And that goes for birth too–leading up to the time and the recovery. That was early this year. So yeah, it’s been a wild year and now it’s just the payoff. I’m settling into motherhood and the albums out and people seem to be loving it. We’re doing a release show and I’m Pinktober ambassador for 2014. There are just amazing things happening and I couldn’t be happier.
I really love the record and heard you recorded “Muscle Memory” while in labor. Are those the vocals actually used on the record?
Well, I was finishing up the song when I knew I was going into labor and it wasn’t hard labor, but I knew it was labor and that I was going to have the baby that night. You know what’s funny? You have no idea what to expect going into it and so I didn’t prepare. I was just like, “yeah, I’ll probably be fine.” I felt some tightening when I was doing vocals that day and at the very end of the day around six or seven, I was doing the “ohs” at the end of the song and I remember stopping and being like, “I’m having the baby tonight.” I went home that night and actually had her the next morning, but it was a long night. And I was back in the studio three days later finishing the record. It was wild.
That’s insane! I saw that Beau tweeted that he and Rocket are on tour with you #tourdad, which I love. How’s it feel touring with your family?
“Stay-at-bus dad” is what we call it. It’s the best. It chills you out. I think one of the cool things about it–other than having your family on the road with you, which is great–it forces you to sit down every few hours and like, level. When you have to feed her, you have to take a break every few hours because you need to. You don’t realize how much that does for you emotionally just to sit down and take a breather for 15 minutes every few hours. When things are busy or you get swept up in something, it’s so important to just stop and smell roses. It makes the days more fun and last a little longer.
Yeah, it has to be less stressful too because you’re not worrying about where he is and how he’s doing.
Yeah! When you’re separated, you’re always looking ahead and never living in the moment. It makes you live in the moment a little bit more and I need that, especially when things are crazy.
I love your cover songs–from Lana Del Ray’s “Video Games” to Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” How do you choose which songs you cover? And are there any songs that came out recently that you’d love to cover?
Oh, thank you! Um, songs that I love. Songs that I think are so great. I’ve done Joni Mitchell, Bjork, The Who, U2–just songs that I think are really powerful and impactful. I wanna do a cover of Future Islands’ “Seasons!” I’m gonna do that one next. . .I think.
Can’t wait to hear it! Any collaborations with Beau or Rocket (Blue Ivy-style)?
Well, interestingly enough, I think I was the first person to put baby belly beats on a record. The drumbeat in “Portal,” the first song on the record, is me drumming on the baby belly. So she contributed to the record in that sense. And Beau actually sang on one of the bonus tracks called “Lucky Ones.” He did the low octaves in the last chorus and it just adds this really cool base tone in the last chorus. The song needed a low-end vocal. I can’t reach that low and the song’s low as it is, so having him sing on it was the only option. And the song is about us and it’s nice to have him on it.
That’s so cool. Also, I saw a photo of Rocket opening the piano app on an iPad, so it’d be really funny if you added like a piano beat by her.
I know! She plays! She plays all the time. She loves making noise on keyboards. She loves it!
So cute! What’s the hardest song that you put together/wrote on the record?
Ironically, “Up We Go” was probably the hardest one. It took the longest to write. It’s the hardest to sing. Sort of the hardest for me to start performing live because it’s really high all the way through it, so you’re always at the top of your vocal range. Doing those vocals for the record when I was pregnant was even harder. And I think the content of the song itself. . .the reason I was writing it was to get myself out of a tough spot and it’s kinda like when I was writing, it wasn’t because I was out of it already, it’s because I wanted to get out of it. So it’s like UP WE GO. Right?! You know, let’s hope that it’s like, “up we go.”
So it actually took about a month to write that song from front to back. I ended up going back and changing the verse a couple of times and finally nailed it when I got out of that thing [writer’s block], so maybe it did help.
It’s crazy how writing can just pull you out of that. You’re in a tough spot or feeling really sad or something, writing it down can help and you’re like, “Wait, did that just get me over that?”
Totally! Seriously, creativity is so important for getting out anxiety or any kind of angst or any kind of stress. It’s so cathartic and therapeutic and so important. That’s why I love getting Rocket into it at a young age because I feel like every kid should get involved with music because that’s how you express what gets bottled up over time and just frustrates you.
Speaking of creativity, you also draw, which is awesome. I found that you made a comic book for your first record The Listening and was wondering if you’d make one for Little Machines?
Yeah! Probably. I mean, I did that first one as my first bio and the first time people were seeing anything about me, that was it. We were giving people comics. It was a comic that I wrote and illustrated and everything. It was a really cool way to introduce myself to people.
Then following up, we did a 10-episode mini series online animated by Tomm Coker and written by Daniel Freedman. These are two legit comic writers and artists. It’s called Capt. Lights and it has the music from the first record as the soundtrack. It was a wicked thing to do. Since then I haven’t had much time to sit down and write a comic because I’ve been busy with touring and everything. But I’ve been managing to do a lot of artwork and storing up paintings for maybe an art show sometime. I made an exclusive painting for the preorders for Little Machines of “Up We Go.” I did one for Fan Expo. And I’m doing one for Kids Help Phone, which is an online relief for young kids going through depression or suffering anxiety to talk to and communicate with people. A great, great cause and I did a painting that’s going to go on a shirt to support kids. It’s cool to use your powers for good sometimes.
That’s awesome. If someone hasn’t heard your music before, what three songs would you tell him/her to listen to?
I would say “Running with the Boys,” “Speeding,” and “Flux And Flow.” I’m just giving the ones I like playing live the most.
Is there anything else you want to say to the HelloGiggles readers about Pinktober or Little Machines or you?
I’d say go listen to the record, enjoy it, feel the moment you’re in–let it take you away for a few minutes. And go to HardRock.com/Pinktober and if you like the shirt, pick it up–15% of that goes to breast cancer research.
Lights is incredibly chill, a stellar performer, and has thee cutest family around. Seriously, go check out Little Machines, because it is amazing. I would say check out a specific song, but I can’t. I love the entire record from “Portal” to “Muscle Memory” to “Lucky Ones”–all incredibly awesome in their own way.
Catch her on tour! I got teary-eyed seeing “Don’t Go Home without Me” performed live. Oh, and if you’re visiting a Hard Rock hotel in October, request to stay in a pink room and they’ll donate 25% of the room’s rate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation!