Lights (musician)

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Lights
Lights 09 20 2017 -5 (37009966944).jpg
Lights performing in 2017
Born
Valerie Anne Poxleitner

(1987-04-11) April 11, 1987 (age 33)
Occupation
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • illustrator
  • author
Years active2001–present
Spouse(s)
(m. 2012)
Children1
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • synthesizer
  • keytar
  • guitar
  • piano
Labels
Associated acts
Websitewww.iamlights.com

Lights Poxleitner-Bokan (born Valerie Anne Poxleitner, April 11, 1987) is a Canadian musician, singer and songwriter from Timmins, Ontario. She is known for singles "Drive My Soul", "February Air", "Ice", "Second Go", "Toes", "Lions" and "Up We Go". She was awarded the 2009 Juno Award for New Artist of the Year and two 2009 Astral Media Radio awards during Canadian Music Week. As a recording artist, she stylizes herself mononymously as Lights (previously LIGHTS).

Her debut EP Lights was released in September 2008 and achieved commercial success which enabled the release of her first full-length album, The Listening, on September 22, 2009. Her second album, Siberia, was released on October 4, 2011.[4] Both albums have been certified gold in Canada. Lights released her third studio album, Little Machines, on September 19, 2014, which debuted on the Canadian Albums Chart at number five. Her fourth album, Skin&Earth, which featured "Giants", was released in September 2017, accompanied by a graphic novel of the same name. Her albums won the Juno Award for Pop Album of the Year in 2015 and 2018. Her fifth album, the instrumental synthwave How to Sleep When You're on Fire, was released on June 11, 2020.

Lights has collaborated with artists including Bring Me The Horizon, Deadmau5, Felix Cartal, Owl City and Sleepy Tom. Lights signed with Fueled by Ramen in 2019 and released Skin&Earth Acoustic which included three new songs.

Early life[edit]

Lights was born Valerie Anne Poxleitner in Timmins, Ontario to missionary parents Virginia and Eric Poxleitner on April 11, 1987.[5] She has one older sister, Jess.[6] She spent her childhood in many parts of the world, including the Philippines, Jamaica and Ontario.[7][8] She was home-schooled by her mother, and was also taught guitar by her father. Lights produced her first song "Saturn's Rings" with an eight-track recorder she purchased with inheritance money from her grandmother in 2001.[7] She moved to Toronto at the age of 18 and changed her name to Lights, a nickname derived from her surname.[7] Although there was already a signed band named "Lights", officially changing her name allowed her to use it despite the prior claim.[7][9][10]

"Lights has always been my nickname for starters and it does come out of my last name. It's kind of what people have been calling me for so long and it totally explains what my music is about, it's about lightening people's moods and stuff. I’ve always loved writing L's and my real name does not start with an L."

– Lights, 2008 interview[8]

Music career[edit]

2006–07: Musical beginnings[edit]

In high school, Lights played guitar and sang in the metal band Shovel Face[11] and accumulated a following through her Myspace page. Lights began her music career writing for Sony/ATV Music Publishing[12] and composed music for the CTV television series Instant Star.[13] She and Luke McMaster are credited with composing "Perfect", sung by Alexz Johnson in the role of Jude Harrison. In 2007, she contracted with Jian Ghomeshi, who acted as her manager until late 2014.[7]

2008–09: Lights and The Listening[edit]

Starting in early 2008, Lights toured cities in the Great Lakes region, in both Canada and the United States. Around the same time, her song "Drive My Soul" rose to No. 18 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart.[14] In late 2008, she toured the United States.[15]

In August 2008, Lights signed a record deal with Toronto-based label Underground Operations and an American partnership deal with Warner Bros. and Doghouse Records.[16] Her self-titled EP was released on iTunes in July and on vinyl in September. Her second single, "February Air", which had been used in a commercial for Old Navy in early 2008,[8] was released in December and sold about 12,000 copies.[17] In 2009, she released a third single "Ice" to Canadian radio stations with a homemade video on her Myspace.

The commercial success of the EP and its singles enabled Lights to release the full-length album The Listening in September 2009.[18] She promoted the album with the August 10 release of a music video for "Saviour",[19] the first single from the album. The single was released on September 22 in Canada.[20] Its US release was held until October 6 while she left Underground Operations for her own record label, Lights Music Inc.[21] Lights re-recorded "Ice" for the new album and released a new video on November 10.[22] According to Lights, the artwork for the album cover was inspired by Watchmen, 28 Days Later, and Sailor Moon.[21]

Lights won the 2009 Juno Award for New Artist of the Year.[23][24] The Listening sold more than 80,000 copies and was certified gold in Canada.[25] In September 2009, Lights toured with the British band Keane on their Canadian/Pacific Northwest tour.[19]

During this period, Lights also contributed vocals to Ten Second Epic's song "Every Day" and appeared in its music video.[26] The song appeared on the Big Shiny Tunes 14 compilation album and the music video was nominated for Best Independent Music Video at the 2010 MuchMusic Video Awards.[27] She is also featured on the soundtrack (songs "Ben" and "Climbing") for the 2008 Canadian film One Week, starring Joshua Jackson.[28] She was a guest vocalist on the album A Shipwreck in the Sand, released in 2009 by post-hardcore band Silverstein from Burlington, Ontario.[29]

2010–2013: Acoustic EP, Siberia, Siberia Acoustic, and tour[edit]

Lights performing in Toronto, 2010.

From January to May, she toured with contemporary synthpop artist Owl City in Canada, the United States, and Europe.[30][31] She was featured in "The Yacht Club" on Owl City's 2011 album All Things Bright and Beautiful, and appeared in their music video for "Deer in the Headlights".[32] Lights also appeared as a special guest for pop-rock band Hedley's The Show Must Go... On The Road Tour, and with These Kids Wear Crowns.[33][34]

Lights released an acoustic EP titled Acoustic in July 2010,[35] with a special performance at the University of Waterloo, where she had received most of her inspiration for the album. Later that month, she began a six-date US tour. In September, she joined Hedley for the eight-show Ontario leg of their Canadian tour.[34] Lights appeared as a guest vocalist on the songs "Crucify Me" and "Don't Go" of Bring Me The Horizon's 2010 album There Is a Hell Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven Let's Keep It a Secret.[36] and on The Secret Handshake's song "Used to be Sweet".[37]

Lights performing at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, May 2010.

In October 2010, Lights released the digital single "My Boots" and began a concert tour with Jeremy Fisher.[38] At a November show in Toronto, she was presented a trophy by the Canadian Recording Industry Association for The Listening's gold certification, having then achieved 40,000 units in sales.[4]

At the June 2011 Utopia Music Festival, Lights performed three new songs, "Toes", "Where the Fence is Low", and "Everybody Breaks a Glass". The first of these songs was released as a single in August, to promote her second studio album, Siberia. She had signed with Last Gang Records, and concerns by label executives about her shift in style to a more gritty sound delayed the album's release to October 4 in Canada and the US, and later that month in Australia. Siberia received positive reviews and was nominated for a Juno Award for Best Pop Album of the Year.[39] It debuted at No. 3 on the Canadian Albums Chart, and sold more than 10,000 units in its first week.[40][41] Sales surpassed 40,000 and the album was certified gold in Canada on April 27, 2012.[42] Lights said in an interview that her favorite song on Siberia was "Flux and Flow".[43]

In March 2013, Lights released an acoustic version of "Cactus in the Valley", featuring Owl City, as a single in the UK.[44]

Siberia Acoustic was released in April 2013, and reached No. 7 in Canada. She toured North America in support of the album,[45] with Dear Rouge opening some dates and Lianne La Havas opening others.[46]

2014–2016: Little Machines[edit]

Lights live at the NorVA 2015

In July 2014, Lights' third studio album, Little Machines, became available for pre-order on iTunes with its lead single, "Up We Go", available to download.[47] The album was released on September 23 in the US and Canada.[48] It debuted at No. 5 in Canada.[49] "Running with the Boys" received radio play in early 2015 as the second official single, while "Portal" and "Same Sea" received promotional releases.[50]

In September 2014, the music video for "Up We Go" was released.[51] It was filmed all in one take and received more than 3.5 million views on YouTube by May 2020.[52][53] In October, Lights parted ways with her long-time manager Ghomeshi.[54]

Lights continued touring extensively in support of Little Machines into 2015.[55][56] On April 8, 2016, she released the acoustic EP Midnight Machines, which included acoustic versions of six songs from Little Machines and two new songs: "Follow You Down" and "Head Cold".[57] Lights and her band were featured in the 2016 video game LOUD on Planet X, as character avatars and with their songs "Same Sea" and "Up We Go".[58][59]

2017–present: Skin & Earth and How to Sleep When You're on Fire[edit]

Lights performing live in Los Angeles, California, August 10, 2019.

In April 2017, Lights announced the forthcoming release of her fourth studio album, Skin & Earth.[60][61] The album was released with a comic book series drawn and written by Lights, one song per issue, starting in July. New music was released with each edition on a monthly basis until the album was released in full.[60] Twenty One Pilots drummer Josh Dun collaborated on the album tracks "Savage" and "Almost Had Me".[62][63] The song "Giants" and its accompanying music video were released on June 23.[64] The song peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart.[65] She later released versions of the song in French, Tagalog and Spanish.[66] On July 14, Lights released the promotional single "Skydiving".[67] The album was made available for pre-orders on August 11 and was released on September 22, 2017.[68] Lights released the song "Savage" on August 11,[69] followed by "New Fears" on September 15, 2017. The album track "Fight Club" is featured in the video game Just Dance 2018.[70]

In January 2018, Lights launched the "We Were Here Tour" with Chase Atlantic and DCF, playing 46 shows across North America in support of the album.[71] On February 2, Lights released the music video for her song "We Were Here".[72] She joined Young the Giant's fall tour in October as the supporting act.[73]

In November 2018, Lights collaborated with Deadmau5 on his track "Drama Free",[74] which was released on his Mau5ville: Level 2 EP. In early 2019, she collaborated with Felix Cartal on the track "Love Me"[75] and with Sleepy Tom on the track "Amateurs".[76]

On May 12, 2019, it was announced that she had signed to Fueled by Ramen, which would release Skin&Earth Acoustic supported by a North American concert tour.[77] The acoustic album was released on July 12 with three new songs.[78]

On June 11, 2020, she released a seven track instrumental synthwave album on Bandcamp titled How to Sleep When You're on Fire. Proceeds from this album would be donated to the Black Lives Matter Vancouver branch.[79]

On July 9, 2020, Lights released the song "Dead End", alongside its music video. The song is part of a remix album with the same name which was released on August 7.[80][81]

Musical style and influence[edit]

Lights is known for her electropop and contemporary synth-pop tunes.[3][5][82] Her musical style has been described as electropop, electronic rock and synth-pop.[1][2] Lights described her own music as an "electronic landscape of moody sunset times".[83] The Listening was characterized as gentle indie-electronic alt-rock.[84] Siberia was characterized by a "heavier" sound than her previous works.[85] Allmusic's review of Little Machines described it as a "mature, electro-punk affair that proved Lights had grown beyond the twee, synth-and-folk artist she started out as."[86] Lights stated that her artistic influences were Björk, Genesis and Supertramp.[9]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Organization Work Award Result Ref.
2009 Juno Awards New Artist of the Year Won [87][88]
2010 Astral Media Radio "Drive My Soul" Favourite Single Won [89]
Favourite Solo Artist Won
Favourite Pop Artist Nominated
Indie Awards "Drive My Soul" Video of the Year Nominated [90]
Pop Artist of the Year Nominated
Juno Awards The Listening Pop Album of the Year Nominated [91]
2012 Siberia Nominated [92]
2015 Little Machines Won [93]
2018 Skin & Earth Won [94]

Personal life[edit]

Lights was introduced to Beau Bokan, the lead vocalist of metalcore band Blessthefall, at a Taking Back Sunday concert in Los Angeles, and the two quickly started dating.[95] After becoming engaged in September 2011,[96] they were married on May 12, 2012, and Lights added "Bokan" to her last name (now stylized as Poxleitner-Bokan).[97] They received matching tattoos to commemorate their wedding date.[98] Lights gave birth to their first child in early 2014.[99][100]

In December 2017, Lights came out as bisexual during an interview with People magazine.[101]

Discography[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Skin&Earth: Volume one (2018 graphic novel)

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2011 Epic Meal Time Herself Episode: "Fast Food Meatloaf (And LIGHTS is here too)"
2018 Talking Dead Herself 5/20/18 S7 Ep21 "Fear the Walking Dead 406"

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Artist(s)
2011 Deer in the Headlights Owl City

References[edit]

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External links[edit]