with Jeremy Fisher
7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2
For as long as the world’s been inhabited by sci-fi and fixated on the possibility of worlds beyond our own, dreamers have submerged themselves in imagination and illusory thought. While one might dub them crazy, others bow down to heavy, black-heeled lace-up boots and tug at shadowy black coats in adoration. Among these worshipping devotees, electro-pop singer-songwriter Lights Poxleitner – or simply, Lights – stands first in line.
“I definitely have a heart for sci-fi and the space culture,” says Poxleitner. “I think the beauty of being a musician and an artist is that you can creatively inflict the things you’re interested in upon your art. I make music, but everything around it is everything I’m interested in, like games and superheroes and all that.”
All that, for Lights, entails World of Warcraft virtual games and the anime meta-series Sailor Moon. Poxleitner, who legally changed her first name from Valerie to Lights a few years ago, even dreamed up an alter ego, Captain Lights, an animated avatar she slapped onto the cover of her full-length debut album, The Listening. She then starred in her own motion-comic series, Audio Quest: A Captain Lights Adventure, a collaborative effort with Marvel animator Tomm Coker.
In the wake of her splashy debut, Poxleitner, a tattoo-enthralled 23-year-old who was homeschooled until eighth grade, says she knows how her idiosyncratic style appears to others.
“I’m not delusional,” says Poxleitner, who adds that her uncommon upbringing instilled her with confidence. “I’m like, ‘I wanna be a musician. That’s gonna be my job,’ and no one told me that it was unrealistic until I went to school for the first time. That’s when you start realizing, ‘Wow this is actually how the world is.’”
Dangling between the spheres of sci-fi lover and delusional optimist, Lights’ high-pitched, highly synthesized vocals and earworm melodies hold an unlikely place in the overflowing pool of contemporary electro-pop artists: What you see is not what you get.
The ever-beaming Poxleitner and her superhero alter ego may operate on different ends of the universe, but she believes her songs “should be such instinctive melodies that your soul knows it” and she claims to “make music for the world.” It’s a lofty goal that she traces to the ideals her parents surrounded her with from an early age.
“My parents were missionaries,” says Poxleitner. “We lived in the Philippines and Jamaica for a few years. They started a church out in the Philippines, and the thing about worship music is it’s very melody driven. It’s meant to be learned on your first listen. That really taught me a lot about songs.”
If the dichotomy of Poxleitner, the earthy product of globe-hopping missionaries and Lights, the spacey, fictionalized Auto Tuner is puzzling, the same Janus-like quality in her music can be downright frustrating. While The Listening bubbles with synthesized electronic chatter, it also masks Poxleitner’s raw, entrancing voice, a talent that’s only truly revealed on her 2010 EP, Lights.Acoustic. This stark division in song and self points to an oddly isolationist tendency, especially for a pop star.
“I don’t actually have that many friends, and that sounds kind of depressing when you first hear it, but it’s actually not,” says Poxleitner. “I’ve been raised in a way that I don’t need tons and tons of people to keep me happy, as long as my crew around me are people that I really love and trust. And my family, even though I don’t see them often, [we] talk to a lot, we text and I BBM [Blackberry Messenger] with my dad.”
It’s yet to be seen if Lights and the real Poxleitner, the keytar-sporting cartoon and the guitar-strumming chanteuse, will come together as one, but the Juno award-winning artist feels comfortable with her trajectory.
“I’m not gonna go somewhere completely different,” she says. “I’m hoping the music’s a little stronger [in the future], the instrumentation’s a little stronger, the words a little more meaningful. I just want everything to be a reflection of how much I’ve grown over the past two years. Let’s hope that I’ve grown.”