At first glance, Canadian synth-popstress Lights looks as if she'd been created in the basement lab of some suburban geek-rock fanboy. Beyond the otherworldly beauty and the long, jet-black hair, there's the World of Warcraft–inspired Twinblade-of-the-Phoenix tattoo on her left forearm (never mind the ginormous Wonder Woman ink on her back), the calf-high Lara Croft combat boots, and the photo shoots where she sports a Torn by Ronny Kobo strong-shoulder dress adorned with the freaking Starfleet insignia from freaking Star Trek. With that gold braided headband and her trusted keytar straddling her pixie waist, she might finally be the thing to pull teenage boys off the couches and away from their Wiis.
But unlike most of today's rising pop creations, Lights is genuine and self-made. She's affable and approachable, and she confesses to being a gamer, an Internet addict, and a graphic-novel nerd. Her music is overly positive, bubbly contemporary synth-pop; it wouldn't be a stretch to cast her as the female version of Owl City.
But Lights — born to missionary parents in 1987 outside Toronto as Valerie Poxleitner — has a plan. So as she temporarily switches her trademark synthesizer for a Fender cutaway acoustic guitar to take on a sold-out six-date solo tour that hits the Middle East on Saturday, fame seems inevitable.
Last week saw the release of her Acoustic EP (Doghouse), a five-track collection of previously released songs (the Top 40 Canadian chart hits "February Air" and "Savior") and new material that includes a cover of Rancid's "Fall Back Down." "It's so raw," she says by phone from Los Angeles. "People are really taking to it. I've always had this [acoustic] idea in my head, because the only thing that can really carry you is your song. Everything else is excess. This is really raw, really natural."
Signed as a writer for Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Lights self-recorded the EP at home in March during a week off from her 67-date tour with Owl City. She says the popularity of her acoustic YouTube videos influenced the release but warns she's still in love with electronic music. "It's definitely not a new direction, but it's always going to be there," she says about this stripped-down fling. "I'll always be electro. I'll always be a fan of that kind of production."
Production is key. There are more than 107 uploads on Lights' MySpace video page, ranging from live performances to music videos to on-tour updates to fan interactions. Her channel on YouTube has generated nearly 14 million views. "It's exactly part of the process. Not to say there was a game plan, none of this was planned. But I'm an online person. I love forums and videos, even just lurking. If it wasn't for my career, I'd be online way more often. It's an easy way for me to keep in touch with fans and show them who I really am."