It’s been a thrilling ride for fans of Canada’s Lights. Since her debut as an unstoppable force on the airwaves of Myspace, Lights exploded into nothing short of a phenomenon. The Synth-pop sensibilities of her earlier work gave way to Siberia, and it was overwhelmingly clear Lights had outgrown the label of ‘Myspace Artist’.
Towards the end of September, Lights pulled back the sheet on her new album Skin&Earth, a concept album released in conjunction with a comic book series detailing the exploits of the protagonist Captain Lights. The content contained within the project was meticulous, thoughtful and essentially, very goddamn cool. With soulful, but crushing depths mixed in with thumping, dreamy highs, it’s obvious that with Skin&Earth, Lights is in her arena.
We caught up with Lights post-release to learn more about the project.
The Neversphere: There’s so much going on with the album, the release and the comic book. I’d love to know, when you sat down in the war room to discuss the album, what were some of the ‘boxes’ you wanted it to ‘tick’ for want of a better term?
Lights: At the brass tacks of it, I just wanted to make a comic album. I wanted to make something that tied with a comic, something that had a story and a greater purpose, and a mixed multimedia project because I know that’s something that’s going to happen more often, so I wanted to be one of the first ones to do it; because I love it so much! I love comics, I love the medium, I love the ability to tell stories and hide Easter eggs. Obviously, I love music, I’ve been doing it for a long time, I was looking for a fresh perspective. This other character allowed me to sing and say things that I never felt I could before. Suddenly, it became this conduit for this authentic side of myself that’s been buried for a while.
I wanted to prove myself that I could do it. So, I wrote this whole damn comic, I’m still finishing Issue #6 right now, there’s 6 in total, the first 4 are out. It’s been such an awesome journey. It’s been mind blowing pulling it all together, seeing it all happen and people resonate with the character. I’m seeing people in cosplay at shows. Every day feels like a dream.
The Neversphere: Good to hear you’re enjoying it, can go either way…Either artists can’t wait to do a multimedia album release, or they describe it as the most horrible experience of their career…
Lights: [Laughs] I don’t think I could ever not do something mixed-media now. I just loved the multifaceted aspect of the whole project. In this day and age, listeners and fans of music also want to augment their listening experience. If there’s visuals that go with it that interpret colour palettes, in tactile form, or bring up an authentic visual for what the song is about, I think that brings a lot more depth and dimension to music. People are more ready for that than ever.
Another part of the thinking going into it was ‘Nobody’s dumb‘…I think there’s this mass perspective that people are dumb or something? But no, people are smart and like being challenged. But also, if comics aren’t your thing the music stands on its own. If you’re not into the music, the comic stands on its own. They’re stand-alone items, which isn’t something I expected to happen but as the project progressed, it did. But, when you listen to them together and you do want to put that amount of energy into it and you do care that much about the project, you can start to connect the dots and suddenly it’s this amazing, augmented experience.
The Neversphere: One of my takeaways from the experience was just how unique the music is to the comic, and vice versa. Was it challenging to create these things simultaneously but as free-standing entities?
Lights: It definitely was challenging but I’ve never had more fun with my record I’ll tell you that right now. Before I even started writing, I had this idea for a story and it was separated into 12 parts. That’s when I knew what the 12 songs were going to be…I went into every songwriting session saying, ‘This is the part of the story we’re writing today, this is what happens, this is the mood you need to capture and this is what it needs to sound like…‘ It really cut out all the meandering time at the beginning of a songwriting session where you’re trying to figure out what you want to say. None of that existed, we just launched into pure creativity.
I think that the people I was writing with really appreciated it too, because nobody goes in with a storyline in mind, you know? It just established a really creative environment and it was fun! I had so much fun doing it. All the ideas for the songs started to come together and influence the visuals I had in mind for the comics. I’d close my eyes, listen to the song and determine what colour palette I’d use for that chapter because when I close my eyes and hear a song, I see colours and a lot of other people do too. It was just so fulfilling. To balance my creativity between these two mediums was super emotionally healthy for me, because when I got tired of one medium I could move to the next. It kept me really balanced.
The Neversphere: Thematically, I feel the album sways from having fangs one moment to being completely delicate the next. In my opinion, a good example would be the flux and flow between Savage and New Fears. What themes did you find were interesting you when you started writing the album?
Lights: A cool thing about creating a comic counterpart is that you’re able to discuss things that are important to you without preaching too hard. There were a few things I wanted to talk about that I was enabled to by the comic. One underlying theme of the whole album is mental health. I’ve dealt with depression in the past. So many people deal with emotional vices and addictions or whatever it may be. God knows I’ve gone through my share of things. It’s something we need to talk about more and that become the meaning of it all.
Long story short, it’s about a woman who becomes entranced with this dark friend who almost becomes her lover, and she has to overcome it. That is the ultimate metaphor for any kind of vice, really. The story became this massive, beautiful metaphor for this idea and as the story builds, other ideas and commentaries work their way in one of them being the environment. The story takes place in the last city on Earth after the apocalypse happened; we don’t want the world to get to that point. There’s commentary on corporate greed, and how they keep taking and taking even though it’s the last of what they’ll be given. It was a cool opportunity to talk about things that matter.
The Neversphere: The commentary on mental health I think is really important and more artists need to do that. Now that you’ve spent time studying it as an underlying theme of the album what did you learn about mental health at the end of the album process?
Lights: Obviously, I’ve made my own progressions and discoveries through my journey in order to get to a place where I’m about to talk about it. That became the biggest discovery; that you have to recognise where you’re struggling. A lot of people choose to push it out or choose to believe it exists. This is a present being. It’s a living thing as obvious as cancer and we need to understand its existence. I think that’s the first in any kind of recovery for anything. It’s a living being that you’re confronting.
The Neversphere: You’ve only been here once before, with The Jezebels but I can tell you now there’s a worthy legion of Lights followers in Australia, when are you coming back?
Lights: This is a good question! I know I’ll be there. It’s just so damn far. It’s an expensive place to get to and unless you know what it’s going to be like at shows it’s hard for agents to commit to booking there, that’s the reality of it. But once we get there and start seeing what it’s like – because I really don’t know, I’ve never headlined a show there – but that’s my dream, man! I’d love to get out there and see what it’s like and do my own show, that’s my dream. I really want to.
I know I’m going to be there. I know it. I will say, my single Giants has been translated into 4 languages so hopefully it goes to all the corners of the world.
The Neversphere: Well if you hit Japan or South East Asia you’re in the neighbourhood! You may as well just swing by….
Lights: That’s my plan…
…That’s my insidious plan.