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Lights artist photo

Behold the ‘authentic creative vision’ of Lights

It’s been a decade since Lights toured Australia, but despite the years that have passed, fans certainly haven’t drifted from the Canadian sonic alchemist.

That’s not to say Lights hasn’t come a long way since the days of Siberia, her sophomore record that would spark the flame of her inaugural sojourn to our shores. The fangs are sharper now, the eyes more steeled and the oeuvre more eclectic. It’s the same Lights who won us over with home recording sessions while at the same time being an entirely new Lights all together. The acoustic guitar, for example, if further out of frame – but always within reach.

It’s this ability to stomp one foot around whether she likes, while keeping the other firmly planted in the realm of Lights that’s kept her career so strong. While many of her peers to come up through the Myspace wave of DIY artists have since added their bones to the pile, Lights is more hench than ever. By tending to a creative ecosystem that almost never duplicates, Lights has ensured that it’s never a dull moment in her world and there’s almost always something to capture your attention.

Whether it’s comic books, chillwave reimaginings, tattoos, high-profile guest features or meaningful collaborations, there’s an infinite number of seasons in Lights world. Fortunately the time conversations are friendly with Earth’s, allowing for BLUNT to speak with Lights ahead of her arrival.

Last time you were here, you toured with The Jezabels and you got to play some of our bigger venues, but now, you get to play some of our more intimate ones. Is that something you’ve even thought about?

Lights: I like the big shows as much as anyone else because it’s epic, you have more room, and chances are the sound is better. But, when you get to do the small ones, it’s kind of, for me, crucial in building a fan base and building an understanding of the show from the ground up. I was never one of those people who got big and played big venues only. I’ve come up, I’ve built my markets from the ground up.

I think that’s a big part of being able to have staying power. I’m excited to be able to do those rooms because that’s when you really get to feel the sweat and have those intense moments with the songs, and you get to stop the show and talk to people because you have that closeness. There’s a degree of we’re all in this together with those little shows.

It’s interesting you brought up staying power. Without putting too fine of a point on it, not a lot of artists who came up through Myspace are about to come and tour Australia off the back of releasing a brand new album. What do you credit your staying power to?

Lights: I have had time to sit and percolate on that. There’s frustrations with my career, but there’s also moments that I stop, and I’m grateful. I’ve never blown up on TikTok. I’ve never had a smash single, but what I do have is authentic creativity and vision, and I work my ass off. I’m always giving my art in the truest form that it can be. I don’t, probably to a fault, let it get diluted down by trying to get a hit or trying to let too many people get involved so that I don’t have to do the work. I did the whole comic thing. I even tied the comic in to with PEP. I spend countless hours making sure everything is fun and Easter Eggy for the fans even though there’s maybe only a limited number of them that even look at that stuff.

There’s a lot there for the fans of mine that are still around, and it keeps them around because we’re all growing older, we’re all changing, and our tastes are changing. You can’t stay the same. Part of that is the evolution. I think part of that is growing up together. I’ve shifted my mentality from, how can I make this as big as possible to how can I keep doing what I do and what is it that I do? I’m the one who creates the roll-outs to all my releases. I’m the one that comes up with music video content. I’m the one who produces most of my stuff at this point.

It’s like I’m driving this little fun bus that’s been going at the same speed for a decade, and I can’t complain. I mean, I’m starting to maybe think about working on a sixth album. There’s not a ton of artists who can say that. I am pretty proud of that. So, the fact that I can come back to Australia a decade later and still have people around and for someone who’s never had hits and never been a massive artist, I think that’s something to be proud of.

Talking about the bus that you drive, what’s the fuel for it? What pushes you away from just going back to the safety of what you’ve done?

Lights: I think it’s just my taste. Obviously, it’s my taste and interest that guide what I create, but the more toxic component of what drives me is literally mental health. If I don’t create, I just hate myself. It’s kind of a fucked up relationship with creativity, but my sense of value is in what I can create. I’ve never looked in the mirror and been like, yeah, what I offer the world is beauty or power. What I have to offer is what I create. That’s what I’ve built my identity around. So, it’s kind of dark. I have to continue creating so that I don’t spiral.

It’s been this relationship that I have with my art. If I go a couple days without exercising creativity, I go to bed like, “What the fuck am I doing with my life?” I start spiraling, so it’s like I’m chained to my creativity, and I make the most of it. I’ve developed this symbiosis in the relationship with my art. If I can maintain my mental health, that actually will propel my career as well, so it all has to work together but yeah, your girl can’t get lazy because then, she goes downhill. Always working.

If you’re going to hate yourself for something, it may as well be something that you can really easily fix.

Lights: Right.

It’d be bad if you were hating yourself for something that was-

Lights: Unchangeable. Yeah.

I always feel like if I put time in and I put four to six hours into something creative every day, I feel fulfilled. I feel empowered. That’s all it takes. I think that’s my recommendation to anybody who wants to create anything. I think there’s this mysticism around creativity where we feel like it strikes, and we spend all night. We stay up till sunrise creating, and then you end up with this masterpiece. That is not how it happened. It’s just chipping away and putting time in and building and listening back with fresh ears. It’s like, it’s just a repeated process, and it’s going to work but much more fun.

There are these ideas about what has to be done to create; there’s a lot of gatekeeping around creating, and I think it scares a lot of people off

Lights: We literally do. I think the best way I heard it put was when I was working on the comic. I can’t remember who said the quote, but the quote was, “The best writing is rewriting.” So, you have to just do it, and it’s going to suck, and then you just keep going.

Take as much time as you need. I mean, on PEP, for example, a song like ‘Salt and Vinegar’, it’s actually one of my favorite songs to play. That was like a two-year fucking Frankenstein of a song. The verses came from a different session. The choruses came from another one. The drop came from something else. I loved parts of all these songs and spent years listening back and trying to figure out what to do. Finally, I was like, “Fuck it. Let’s put them all together.”

There is no code of rules that tells you how to make a song good. You just have to try things. God knows I’ve tried mish-mashing songs together before, and it completely failed. I have five versions of every song, and the fifth edit usually sucks. You go back to the second edit.

You also collaborate extensively, with a range of artists and styles. How do you avoid losing yourself in these constant and high profile collabs?

Lights: Honestly, it’s a great question. I think it purely has to do with that I know enough about my abilities and my workflow and what I do to trust that it will come through, right? I’ve done a lot of different genres of collabs from Bring Me the Horizon to Seven Lions to hip-hop stuff like with Chaos and Shad. I’m not worried at all for one second that I won’t sound like Lights because I write the top line, I track the vocals, I edit them. I don’t hand anything over to anybody. I give them my finished vocal. I’ll let them put effects on it if they want, but I make the edits, so I have no concerns … There’s only two instances where I’ve released a song that I didn’t write, and it was the Steve Aoki and Mike Shinoda collab. I was like, “Yeah, right. Fine. I’ll sing whatever you guys wrote here.”

Then the Bring Me stuff I didn’t write. Those are the only songs I’ve ever put out that I didn’t write on. And those ones you could argue don’t necessarily sound like my stuff, but it sounds like me. I think that as long as you’re true to yourself as an artist, it will come through, and you’re never going to be stepped on by somebody else’s ideas. At the same time, I’ve also learned over the years through all the collabs I’ve done, that collaboration brings out the best in both artists if you allow it. If you stomp on the other artist’s ideas also, then you’re not getting what they have to offer. So, it’s about trusting the partnership and really loving what you hear.

My rules for the way I choose collab now is it doesn’t matter how big somebody is or how small. It’s if I just like the song. It’s just such an easy way to pick. I’ve had people send me shit that are massive producers and DJs, and I just don’t vibe. It doesn’t sound good. I try to write something on it. It’s not working. I just go, “No, man. Sorry, nothing’s coming,” but then somebody small, like I just did a collab with a local artist here named Movi. He sent me a track, and it’s sick. I’m like, “Cool, I’ll write on this. I love this.”

So, I think that at this point in my career, I’m lucky enough to be able to let literally my taste guide me.

Lights Australian tour dates

Sunday, 1st October
Stay Gold, Melbourne
Tickets: Oztix

Supporting Waterparks

Tuesday, 3rd October
Magnet House, Perth 18+
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Thursday, 5th October
The Gov, Adelaide Lic AA
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Friday, 6th October
Metro Theatre, Sydney Lic AA
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Saturday, 7th October
Princess Theatre, Brisbane Lic AA
Tickets: Destroy All Lines

Sunday, 8th October
170 Russell, Melbourne 18+
Tickets: Destroy All Lines