Canadian vocalist Lights, born Valerie Poxleitner, calls me in the midst of being stranded at the airport in Chicago. Yet despite her flight’s delayed status and the possibility of being stuck in transit with no end in sight, her light voice exudes cheer—her enthusiasm for our conversation clear as day as she dives head-on into our conversation about her fourth album Skin&Earth. And with collaborators like Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots and producer Big Data, she has all the reason in the world to be amped. Not to mention the accompanying comic book series that the electro-pop artist has produced to go along with the album.
“I’m a huge comic fan,” she admits. “I’ve always wanted to see the crossover between music and comics and I think people are ready now more than ever.” Lights suggests that in today’s society, consumers of entertainment are actively seeking out mixed-media projects. “People want more out of their experiences. I think [my comic] encourages people to get invested in the entire record, which is awesome,” she says.
As a two-time JUNO Award winner, Lights is an accomplished artist with a unique creative vision, exhibited through the comic book series which she wrote and illustrated herself. “I just wanted to try it,” she says. “What started as a somewhat small idea turned out to be something legit and real. I never knew I could accomplish something like that. I hope it shows that if you put the work in, you can accomplish whatever you want.”
The comic book focuses on a female character in a post-apocalyptic world, and if that sounds like it might have taken inspiration from real life, it did. “She’s a little rougher around the edges [than me],” Lights explains. “But, she responds to things the same way I do. She has my outlook on things and I understand her really well.” Lights says all of the album’s songs are based on this character’s story, something that allowed the artist to tap into a pool of inspiration from her past. “I basically created this conduit for me to talk about a side of myself I never really had before. I was singing with a new voice suddenly,” she reveals.
Making a comic book series from start to finish allowed Lights to explore the untapped creative and emotional facets of herself. And as she enthusiastically convinces me of the importance of the comic format, it’s clear that the heroine in her book is facing demons worth talking about. “The comic is one of the greatest platforms to use to talk about issues that matter without hitting people over the head with them,” she says. “You can talk about confrontational issues like classism, racism or environmentalism through a beautiful story.”
For example, the ‘dark spirit’ that her character has to face represents depression and is meant to bring awareness to the issues which surround mental health. “I want people to see that the darkest things can become your light. Just because you have something haunting you doesn’t mean you’re troubled, it means you have an opportunity to overcome something and become more powerful.”
With gritty tracks like “Savage” featuring Josh Dun and anthematic bangers like “Giants,” Lights offers a range of artistry, catering to her own emotions along with those of her comic’s character. Although two standalone items, when combined, the album and comic book are even more powerful as a pair.
Skin&Earth is available now and you can see Lights on tour with PVRIS this fall.