For most artists, creating an album is a daunting enough task on its own.
But when Canadian alt-pop star Lights sat down to start creating her fourth record, she decided to take on an even bigger challenge.
“I’ve always wanted to create comics, being a fan of comics for so many years, I think you naturally just want to be a creator someday. It comes down to whether or not you have the confidence to do it,” said the B.C.-based musician, over the phone from Toronto.
While the idea to create a conceptual record with a comic counterpart was always lodged in the back of her mind, “I would always daydream about other artists doing it … and then one day, I was like, ‘Why don’t I just try?’ I decided I would go in, all-in. Before I started the fourth record, I decided there was a story I wanted to tell. It was a very simple story at the time—it evolved into something bigger—but I took that concept into every single songwriting session I went into, and made sure I was writing from this story.”
The result was Skin & Earth, a conceptual album/comic book crossover released last year. All six issues of the comic book—which Lights (real name Lights Poxleitner-Bokan) drew and wrote herself—were compiled into a graphic novel released last month. The story follows Enaia Jin, a girl looking for hope in a post-apocalyptic fictional world.
Each of the 14 songs on the electro-pop record corresponds with a chapter in the comic book—the graphic novel is even integrated with QR codes readers can scan to play the corresponding song.
The album was a massive success, earning a Juno award for 2018’s Pop Album of the Year. Recently, the rights were sold to start developing the comic series into a television show.
Lights will bringing the record and the story to the Whistler Olympic Plaza stage when she performs as part of the Whistler Presents Summer Concert Series on Saturday, Sept. 1.
The story’s main character serves as an alter ego of sorts for Lights, who audiences should remember from the breakout hits “Drive My Soul” and “February Air” that first put her on the map a decade ago. She earned her first Juno for New Artist of the Year in 2009.
She shares En’s long, bright red hair, and even got a tattoo that matches the character’s prior to Skin & Earth’s release.
“Because of my confidence, being able to channel the character, the songs are really dynamic and empowered and it’s really fun playing that stuff live. Channeling the character onstage; I feel a little bit larger than life, more so now than ever … I’m essentially cos-playing her every day so, to a degree, she’s onstage every night,” Lights explained.
“I gave her a hairstyle I could pull off,” she added with a laugh.
Writing from the character’s perspective also allowed Lights to be more vulnerable in her songwriting this time around, she added.
“I could be a little more honest than ever, because you don’t have any walls up when you’re writing from another person’s perspective. You can write all those things you ever wanted to say, and don’t necessarily have to feel like you’re writing about yourself, but it’s still what you needed to say.”
While Saturday’s show might mark Lights’ first time performing in Whistler, it won’t be her first visit to the resort.
“I’ve gone a thousand times, whether it’s snowboarding in the winter or coming and just hanging in the summer,” she said, adding that the performance isn’t all she’s looking forward to.
“My favourite fossil store is in Whistler … every time I go I take home a prize,” said the artist, who collects rocks and crystals when she’s not creating comic books or award-winning records. “Last time I bought a Megalodon tooth and added it to my collection.”