photos/ Spencer Kohn
writer + stylist / Erica Russell
makeup / Alyne Halvajian
hair / Lynsey Laskowski
“It’s a combination of everything that I know,” Lights explains from the phone, just a touch of white noise distorting her typically crisp, effervescent voice as she waxes poetic about her new album. “It’s about taking everything you know and have experienced or gone through in life and applying it to your next body of work. I feel like it’s the best record I’ve made!”
Little Machines was released back in October, and is an album which Lights claims contains the eleven finest of the fifty or so songs she wrote for it. “While Siberia was all about experimenting with sounds and The Listening was all about beautiful pop songs and melodies. For this, I took those two concepts and put them together. It’s a perfect blend, but even better.”
Three albums into her career, songwriting is not as easy as the Canadian singer-songwriter-musician makes it seem. “I had close to three years between records. That’s a lot of time to write and I was shrugging off the pressure to just crap something out,” she admits. “That pressure exists and it’s frustrating. You get writer’s block. It causes a lot of issues but when I finally relaxed, I knew I just wanted make songs that I would love playing and are really honest.”
Honesty is a trademark of the aptly-named and equally bright artist, beloved by fans for her warm personality and inspirational humanitarian work (thwarting world hunger and raising awareness on breast cancer are just a few of her philanthropic endeavors). But it is Lights’ unwavering unwillingness to bend to industry expectations or tropes that solidify the artist as a one-woman herald for girl-power.
“I’m absolutely a feminist,” the artist exclaims enthusiastically when asked. “I think women are incredible and deserve everything that they work for. Women in music work so hard and sometimes they even have to work a little harder. I am so inspired by powerful women throughout history, and I researched the careers of some powerful women in music like Bjork, Kate Bush, and Cyndi Lauper. I was so impressed with what they experienced. It is a complicated thing sometimes but I’m so glad to be a woman.”
Like womanhood, Lights is also excited about motherhood, something which the artist says has made her feel fearless. Over the past few years, she has created a family for herself alongside musician husband Beau and had a baby girl, Rocket, last February. “It influences my entire perspective on life,” Lights says joyfully. “It makes life better; it makes things more promising and makes me more ambitious. There’s more to prove now after having a child. You want to make them proud. And if all else fails, you still have your family, and that makes everything else less scary.”
Inspired heavily by anime series like Attack on Titan and Full Metal Alchemist (“The art and energy of anime and manga is great!” Lights gushes), the album is primarily a love-letter to nostalgia and the joys of youth. As a title, Little Machines “largely epitomizes the main inspiration behind record which is digging back into my past, into my history and those nostalgic feelings. It reminds you how much you love life and takes you back to the way you were when you were younger.”
Never one for pigeonholing, of course, Lights – who painted, turned to poetry, and listened to a lot of Patti Smith while writing the record – reveals a double meaning to the album: “It also represents all of the electronics behind it. Part of the total joy of making the album was all of the little pieces that went into making it.”
Much like all those little synths and beats contained within the record, one might argue that the trajectory of Lights’ bright path as an electro-pop powerhouse has been similarly comprised of many metaphorical wheels and cogs: family, fans, and musical collaborators.
“We’re all in it together,” Lights muses. “It’s like a team! It’s not just me putting things out there by myself. It’s my life and everyone is sharing in it with me. And I’m very, very lucky for that.”