Reinventing The Acoustic Album: Interview with Lights

On April 8th, Canadian musician, Lights, released Midnight Machines; a post-dancey-synth, late night acoustic version of her 2014, Juno Award winning album, Little Machines. Introducing the record’s release date was the single “Meteorites,” which gave fans a taste of what to expect from the rest of the 8 track album. With just one single, listeners were introduced to this dream world full of soothing sounds and calming vibes. When that last chorus hits and it feels like you’re standing in a cathedral with arms open wide, and Lights’ ethereal voice fills the room and radiates through the vibrant stained glass windows — you know you’re about to get an amazing record.

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And it doesn’t stop there, as Lights has done more than can be said with this record. The most amazing part being that she took the upbeat, synth-pop originals comprised of strong experiences and meanings and slowed them down to give them a whole new sound, yet still convey the original messages. She has the skill to exchange her synth-pop sound for an acoustic guitar, without leaving anything behind.

“Up We Go,” originally a pumped-up anthem for believers and the determined about moving forward through hard times, has now made us look back and reflect on those times, while reminding us that better times are ahead. And Running With The Boys, originally a youthful jam about the old times, is now a wave of nostalgia that you feel like you can bask in.

In an interview with People Magazine, Lights remarks:

“I wanted people to hear every word really clearly because I put a lot of emotional energy into each line. I also wanted to show the versatility of a song. An upbeat song, for example, means one thing, but when you hear it with really vibey, mellow ambience around it, suddenly the same words may mean something else. Music is so powerful that way: It dictates and soundtracks our moods. I just want to create something that can be there for everyone.”

The album is extremely emotional in the best way, and allows you to sink into it wholly. Listening to the beautiful and eye-opening Midnight Machines feels like sitting on a cloud, or in a fantastical land. Yet these songs are about real experiences and she completely transforms them into relatable lyrics for her listeners, whether they are upbeat or slowed down. It’s almost like Lights knows exactly what her fans and listeners need at the time, and it shows up perfectly in their laps.

In one of the two new songs on the record, “Head Cold,” Lights writes about a personal experience about feeling stuck, but she reminds us that everything passes, just like a head cold. There was one feeling though that was not mentioned in many of the reviews and interviews I’ve read over the past two weeks: romance. Between “Same Sea,” “Don’t Go Home Without Me,” and the second new tune, “Follow You Down,” you fall in love with the moment that this music is filling and with the people and moments the songs make you remember. “Muscle Memory” ties the record together with a sexy ending, only enhancing the romantic feelings.

Lights has done an acoustic version of her records since her very first, The Listening, in 2009, which was followed by Acoustic. Then with Siberia in 2011, and Siberia Acoustic.

Lights tells Metro why she does these acoustic albums:

“It’s mostly been fan demand. They asked for it all the time and it was pretty much the reason I’d do any of the acoustic stuff in the first place. As an electronic artist, I think you hear your lyrics totally differently when you hear them up close. Like “Up We Go” has a totally different feel when it’s played acoustically — it’s not the better year anthem it is [on “Little Machines”], it’s more of an intimate, quiet, emotional song. “

Midnight Machines though, is not just another acoustic record. As Lights does with each album, she experiments and makes it different. Over the past year fans have heard her play “Up We Go” and “Muscle Memory” acoustically for interviews, but those could not have prepared us for what she delivered with Midnight Machines. She reinvented what an acoustic album could be. There’s something raw and natural about these versions even though they include more components than her previous acoustic releases, such as a string quartet, arranger, and cellist Kevin Fox, who was featured in Siberia Acoustic.

If this album was the first time you ever heard of Lights, you might think this is what all her music sounds like; that’s how good at this she is. The late-night vibe of this record is haunting and beautiful all at the same time, a true success. I can’t wait to see what Lights does next but for now, I want to let Midnight Machines just sit a little, and enjoy it.

 

Not only did Blush get to review this amazing album, but we got to ask Lights herself a few questions about Midnight Machines, her art, her fans and her ever-changing style.

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Mikayla Madigan: Midnight Machines had an amazing release; making #1 in America on it’s release date is a huge accomplishment. What do you hope listeners (either new or old) get out of this album?

Lights: I wanted Midnight Machines to fill any mood gaps that Little Machines had. This should be the record that you can put on late at night, on long drives, when you’re drunk, when you’re sad or when you’re making out.

MM: Midnight Machines has an extremely elevated emotional tone, compared to the upbeat, synth originals — yet still conveys the same message of the originals. Was this emotional tone an intentional creative choice or was it natural for you to express while arranging the acoustic versions and recording?

L: It was all really natural. I mostly enjoy music when I’m alone, playing guitar and totally zoning out. This record is basically that but elevated, so it was pretty easy to make.

MM: You have mentioned that you design most of the art for your albums, including the logos for Little Machines and Midnight Machines. How do you decide what the art is going to be for each album and does the logo for Midnight Machines (or other albums) relate to it’s sound?

L: I take the guidance of the music for each visual project. I just turn on whatever I’m trying to depict and quite literally listen to it on repeat until the vision starts to form. The LM logo is actually a few elements that describe my sense of self, that one goes a bit beyond the music.

MM: You have a huge, dedicated fan base (including myself). The fans seem to know you so well through social media and by meeting you at shows. How important is it for you to show your fans who you are and share your life with them through all of your success?

L: Ah, thank you! The idea of “fan” used to make me really uncomfortable as I always saw everyone on a level playing field. So in order to never allow myself onto a pedestal I always wanted to meet everybody and feel like we were on a friend level; friends that just enjoyed music. As time went on it became a really symbiotic relationship because if I get to know who’s listening I can write with them in mind, and make decisions based on what I think they’d like. We’re all in it together.

MM: Lastly, Blush Magazine is from the Fashion Institute of Technology, so throwing in a style question is a must! You’ve had such an incredible style evolution over the years. Would you say your style changes along with how your music changes?

L: I would’ve always said they were kind of separate evolutions but I think in recent years my sense of self on stage really dictates what I feel good wearing. If I’m in something comfortable and powerfully feminine, I actually tend to perform better.
Check out Lights and her new record Midnight Machines on Spotify and iTunes. Watch the video for “Meteorites” on Youtube and follow @lights on Instagram and Twitter.

Mikayla Madigan