Canadian Pop Star Lights Merges Comic Art With New Album

Lights headlines Summit Music Hall on Tuesday, February 13.
Lights headlines Summit Music Hall on Tuesday, February 13. Matt Barnes
“As a woman, I always find myself to have more of an affinity with female creators, and I just never saw a female recording artist [create a comic book],” says Lights, a Canadian alt-pop artist. “I thought about what a cool thing it would be to watch an artist come out with a concept album accompanied by a comic. I would just daydream about it, and then one day it just hit me that I should do it.”

The task she embarked upon wasn’t an easy one. Lights had to learn how to visualize a story, create a narrative plot and format a comic book. Despite these challenges, she successfully published a six-volume comic accompanied by a concept album in a project dubbed Skin&Earth. The album and comic revolve around the story of Enaia, Lights’s fictional avatar.

“I’ve had three full-length records up until this point, and I’ve said a lot of the stuff that I felt like I needed to say,” says Lights. “I think that was part of why I wanted to channel through a fictional third person. I wanted someone I could speak through to say the things that I never felt I was allowed to say.”

Lights set Enaia’s story in the last city of a post-apocalyptic world ruled by a super-corporation and plagued by extreme class divisions. Amid the wreckage, Enaia searches for hope and love.

Lights came to a realization about her own sexuality through the story of her fictional alter ego.

“So Enaia is bi, and I think I learned a lot about myself while writing this character. I learned a lot about my flaws and a lot about how I would react to things,” says Lights. “Even though she’s not me, you get to know a lot about me through the character, because I wrote her from my heart and discovered a lot about myself.”

“I wanted her to love this guy, and then I wanted her to fall in love with this girl. It made me recognize the fluidity of love and the fluidity of sexuality. We spend a lot of time labeling who we’re allowed to love and not just loving the people who you want to love.”

Lights was also able to explore her history of depression through Enaia.

“Until now, I never really felt free to talk about [mental illness] without getting into some in-depth conversation," she says. "When this idea of the comic came up, I really wanted to make a commentary on that.”

“I've discovered in my life that you can’t find your strength or identity without going through hard times. That’s what makes you who you are, and it’s a part of your journey that you can’t wish never happened,” says Lights. “That’s what spawned this idea for an origin story of a woman with power and that doesn’t come with these huge, horrible, dark obstacles.”

In the Skin&Earth album, Lights’s agile voice drives home simple lyrics that resonate with the electronic synths that form the backbones of her songs. The album oozes with emotion in a way that feels honest, not overwrought. In her live performance, Lights plans to incorporate visuals as well as a story arc derived from the comic.

The overarching message of Lights’s project is fitting. “There’s actually a page in the comic — there’s literally zero art on it, and it took me like five minutes to make it — but it’s one of my favorite pages in the entire comic. It’s a black page and there’s one little speech bubble in the middle that says, ‘After all, it’s only through the darkness that we can reach the light.’ That’s what this whole story is about.”

Lights: We Were Here Tour with Chase Atlantic and DFC, Tuesday, February 13, $21-$24, Summit Music Hall, 1902 Blake Street, 303-487-0111.

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Sage Marshall is a freelance writer and editor covering outdoor recreation, environmental issues, Denver's music scene, the arts, and other Colorado stories. You can check out more of his work and connect with him here.
Contact: Sage Marshall