‘Why shouldn’t I be the one to do it?’: Lights unveils new Skin & Earth LP and comic book series
Canadian electro-pop singer-songwriter Lights may have lightened up her normally brown hair to a “vibrant red,” but she’s gone dark on her latest album, Skin & Earth, and the accompanying comic book series.
“It’s a whole different look and that was inspired by the comic,” she says.
“The character in the comic book, En, I designed her to have cool hair ‘cause in comics lots of characters have nice bright hair. But I also modelled her look based on something that I think I could pull off so I gave her kind of my hairstyle. I landed on red because I think I grew up loving Little Mermaid.”
But the story of Skin & Earth isn’t anything like a Disney film as Lights explains.
“[Set during] dystopian [times] before future earth was built, it was just the idea of a young woman who has her heart broken, she sinks into a deep depression, and in her depression meets a spirit and [it] becomes her darkest friend,” she says.
We caught up with Lights in Toronto recently to talk music, comics, ex-manager Jian Ghomeshi and more.
Why an album and a comic book?
It’s happened in the alt-word, here and there, Coheed and Cambria, My Chemical Romance, but never in the pop world and never with a girl. So I was just, ‘Why shouldn’t I be the one to do it?’ I’ve always drawn. My art it’s not professional and I had to take it to the next level on this project.
Why such a dark direction this time out?
It was commentary on depression and mental health, things I’ve dealt with in the past, and vices, and how it can become your greatest love and darkest friend and thorn in your side. Basically she [En] has to dig deep within herself to overcome this and come out stronger for those experiences.
Did you think you could always be strong?
That’s the whole point of the story. There are times where you don’t think you can be one of those strong women. You’re not one of the leaders right? But that doesn’t mean you’re not. And that doesn’t mean you’re not a trailblazer. I think notoriously comics are about superheroes, untouchable beings, but this character’s not. And that’s what I find I’m more attracted to when I’m reading books. It’s people who are real, flawed, make bad decisions and have to pick themselves up again and find their strengths.
How recently did you experience this depression?
When I first moved to Toronto [at 18], I was struggling with depression a lot. Facing the world on my own for the first time. I’m thankful for that time I had to self-reflect ‘cause I learned a lot about myself. And you kind of go through the ringer to figure out how to go through it.
How hard was the split with your manager of 10 years, Jian Ghomeshi, in 2014 following his very public scandal?
At the time I didn’t really have much to do with the whole thing. He was my manager for 10 years. I learned a lot from him in the industry. But I didn’t actually know him very well on a personal level. We weren’t best friends or anything. So it all took me by surprise. And I think we were all dragged through this unfortunate situation for everybody but luckily we came through it. Every era is its own era and we’re into the new era. And it feels good.
The new album also deals with fighting, anger and sex, subjects you’ve said you have never written about before. Why now?
I think in the past, I’ve put up these walls disallowing myself to sing about things that I thought would raise questions about my personal life. So I think what it took is for me to channel through a character to tell these stories of things that I’ve actually experienced. It’s funny it took a fictional character for me to be my most authentic self.
Could the comic book be turned into a TV show?
I have ideas... never-ending ideas of where it could go.
Why have you decided to re-record the first single, Giants, in four new languages – Tagalog (the language of the Phillipines), French, Japanese and Spanish?
I want this project to reach as far as it can get. I want to make translated versions of at least version one [of the comic] that I can put out with these translated versions of the single. I’ll do hybrid versions. Tagalog will probably be the easiest one actually [to sing] because I grew up there. The hardest one will be Japanese.