Lights could have simply released another much-awaited album and pleased her millions of fans across the world. But the alt-pop sensation decided to not only release a comic book series to coincide with her fourth record, but to create the story, add in music videos, and do ALL the artwork herself. Skin & Earth isn’t just a musical release. It’s a revolution.
This two year undertaking started with a longtime love of two mediums – music and comics. Lights is an avid comic fan and always admired the way that rock bands like Coheed and Cambria and My Chemical Romance entwined the two. There had yet to have been a female to dabble in this type of fusion – so she decided that if she wanted to see it, she might as well do it herself. “I had to teach myself how to do everything along the way,” she admits. “Initially going into the project, I didn’t really know to what extent I could pull it off. I thought, maybe a 20 page comic that will cover the whole album, which turned into a six issue comic with 160 pages in total. I did all the art and writing and lettering, all the songs correlate and all the videos bring it to life, and it’s turned into something that I would never have imagined I was capable of.”
Enaia, the heroine of Skin&Earth, is not quite Lights turned comic book character, but more of a reflection of the singer. And she’s not indestructible. Lights created the type of female protagonist that she likes to see in comics: “She’s kind of silly, doesn’t take herself too seriously. I’m not interested in the characters that are perfect, that are necessarily superheroes, even. She’s looking for hope in this hopeless world, and she’s not strong all the time and I think that’s more relatable than somebody who is always strong.”
Both the comics and the album are able to be enjoyed separately – music lovers can revel in her gritty new sound and comic enthusiasts can get lost in the story – without necessarily needing the other. Lights says there’s a little something for everyone in this multi-faceted endeavor and wants as many people to hear, read and enjoy it as possible. “And that way all of the countless hours that I put into my comic book will be worth it because more people will see it.”
“You always gotta push yourself into the worlds that you love, and I’m so thankful that I did. Getting to alternate between video, art and music has been so great because when I get exhausted from one I can move to the other, and it always keeps my creative spirit alive.”
Singer, songwriter, wife, mother – why not add comic creator and illustrator to the list? Despite constant and typically conflicting tour schedules, Lights is very happily married to Beau Boken, lead singer of metalcore band Blessthefall. Let’s face it: their daughter, Rocket Wild, didn’t really stand a chance against a non-musical life: “I honestly didn’t know what she’d be into, because a lot of times kids don’t wanna do what their parents do, especially if you have to be away from them a lot. But she’s definitely gravitating towards entertainment, and I have a lot of videos of her singing my songs and she knows all the words!”
The alt-rock power couple is so solid, in fact, that over the years she’s had trouble letting herself explore darker themes in her art. But now, Lights channels Enaia in her songwriting: “I was able to sing about things and write about things that I’d never been able to express before because I never had the outlet. Songs like ‘Savage’ or like ‘Fight Club,’ aggressive songs, they’re angry and about fighting. These are things that if I were to write about from where I am in my life right now, people would question the state of my relationship. These are things I’ve experienced in my life, whether or not I’ve experienced them in this moment is different. But I know these emotions and I know people that are going through these emotions, so I’m capable of writing them and I feel good, and I need to get it out. But because I’m able to speak through her, there’s no question.”
“I’ve released this voice that I’ve never found before, and I’ve been singing different. I’ve been singing more soulfully, and slightly different, and carrying myself with a new layer of confidence because she has opened up a whole new part of me.”
Lights isn’t afraid to be thrown into the “pop music” category. In fact, she embraces it. “I wanted to make something that was as inclusive and accessible to as many people as possible, probably because I wanted to challenge myself to create that kind of art. Mainstream pop music is an underappreciated art form because people dismiss it as very simple. But it’s actually the challenge of creating something so simple with so much depth, saying something that means so much in so few words.”
Yet again proving her layers, a big musical inspiration behind Skin&Earth, right next to Drake and X-Ambassadors, Lights tells ROGUE, was prison music. She got her hands on old music that prisoners would all sing together back in the day to get them through all the hard work they had to do. “It’s just this haunted, beautiful, soulful music and there’s a darkness to it. A couple of the songs definitely started from a place like that.” Not an influence you’d expect from a pop singer, right?
But I suppose you wouldn’t expect a comic book, concept album, either. The creation of an edgier alter-ego, and an entire world, for that matter, has allowed Lights to explore a side herself that she has traditionally shied away from. “It allows a whole new aspect of my voice, both vocally and emotionally. I’m thankful for the outlet – it’s so liberating.”
Photography by Rachel Fisher
Styling by Justin Lynn
Hair/MU by Lani Barry
Written by Jenni Dunn