Creating a full-length album is a pretty ambitious feat on its own; writing, recording and producing a bunch of tracks into one body of work that makes sens and that you’re happy with to the extent that you’re ready for the world to hear. But, some artists like Lights are hungry for more of a challenge.
Much like prog rockers Coheed & Cambria, the Canadian singer/songwriter decided to do something that she’s wanted to do for years and create a comic book series to accompany her latest record, ‘Skin&Earth’, writing and designing the story line and the animations herself, and if that wasn’t enough she’s now also preparing to release an acoustic re-imagining of that album too.
Ahead of her set at her first ever Slam Dunk Festival in Hatfield, we spoke with Lights about the universe she’s created with the ‘Skin&Earth’ record and comics, where she’ll be taking that universe in the future, the soon-to-be-released acoustic record, new material, and more.
DP!: How did you come up with the concept of releasing a comic book tie-in with an album?
L: I just love comics! I think most comic fans kind of just want to create too, right? You see something in comics that you like and you just want to make it too. I think it was only me holding myself back from trying it for a long time. I’d say to myself “I could never do that”, because they’ve got all these amazing artists and you just doubt yourself immediately.
I had these daydreams about how cool it would be to have like a comic concept record, and thought “Wow, I could never do it”, but one day I just decided to try it. I started with a little story, just a few lines, and took that into songwriting sessions and started building songs out of it. Then I started fleshing out the story and eventually when all those songs were written, I started drawing the comic and it was done before I knew it.
DP!: So you wrote the songs before the story?
L: Well, the basics of the story were there and the songs were written about the story, then the story got fleshed out and then the drawing happened after the songs were written, because you can’t go back once the page is done.
DP!: Were you inspired by any other comics?
L: Oh, yeah, there’s been tons. There’s a book called Monstress that I love, there’s a story called Saga, a story called The Wicked & The Divine, Pretty Deadly… there’s just some really beautiful, empowering stories – sci-fi, dystopian, that’s the shit that I like. In particular, Brian K. Vaughan is an author and a comic book writer that I love, and he gave me a lot of wonderful advice in terms of how he lays out pages, which was invaluable, because I didn’t know what I was doing. Comics are laid out very differently, some are more complicated than others, but his are very easy to read, and he was like, “This is how many panels I put in a page, this is how many speech bubbles, this is how many lines of text”, just like basic info that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Because there aren’t really rules, you just decide on what you like.
DP!: You’re now re-imagining ‘Skin&Earth’ acoustically, what made you want to do that?
L: I’ve kind of been doing that for every record. It’s nice to show the songs from another side. I think you get to know the song a little bit more, you hear the lyrics differently, maybe it takes on a different meaning. In this situation, I tied it into the Skin&Earth world by recording each song in the location that was a corresponding location from a chapter in the comic, so the chapter in the comic where the song ‘Savage’ takes place is in the rain, so I replicated that by getting an umbrella and putting all my shit under it and recording it in the rain.
I’m gonna be releasing visuals for each of these songs so that people can see how they were made, but it was an awesome experience. Because of the nature of the project I couldn’t really bring in a team, so I produced and mixed it on my own, and that was kind of cool because it was the first thing I’d released where I’d kind of done everything on it.
DP!: You’ve released a new song called ‘Lost Girls’. Does this mean that there’s more new music on the way?
L: That’s a song from the acoustic record. So, the acoustic record is seven songs; four from ‘Skin&Earth’ and three new ones, but I’ve started working on new stuff anyway.
DP!: Do you plan to continue the same universe in your upcoming projects?
L: The universe will continue, for sure. I’ve already started writing the second arc of the comic, and there’s a TV show that we’re working on as well, so this is just the beginning of the Skin&Earth world. Whether the music ties as close to the comic as it did in ‘Skin&Earth’ is to be determined, but there will be more of both.
DP!: You’ve collaborated with the likes of Deadmau5 and Sleepy Tom in the past. Is there anyone that you’d really like to collab with still?
L: I’d love to collab with like, Drake, haha. I’d love to collab with CHVRCHES, or Tegan & Sara, as I don’t collab with many females, and I think we sound similar.
DP!: What does it mean to you to play Slam Dunk?
L: So this is my first time here, and it’s dope! It’s kind of like Warped Tour. I find myself not feeling like I fit in, but then I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I mean, I’m not a heavy band and there’s mostly heavy bands here, but then when I play EDM things, I don’t feel like I fit in there because I don’t make EDM. When I play Coachella or an indie rock festival, I don’t feel like I fit in there either. But I think I’ve found this place where I don’t feel I fit in anywhere and I think I like it. Because I’m able to play all these places and if you fit too well in one place you can’t go anywhere else.
DP!: Who are you looking forward to seeing today?
L: I want to watch my friend’s bands like All Time Low, New Found Glory, and Simple Plan. I love Glassjaw too actually – in high school I was a huge fan and I made a statue of Daryl Palumbo.
Her forthcoming acoustic re-imagining album, ‘Skin&Earth Acoustic’, is set for release on July 12th 2019 via Fueled By Ramen.