Singer/songwriter/author Lights released her impressive concept album Skin & Earth last year alongside an epic post-apocalyptic comic book series of the same name.
Now, she’s gearing up to release the graphic novel edition — featuring all six original issues plus additional bonus content — and as the triple threat tells Billboard, she has approximately one million more ideas in store for the Skin & Earth universe. “It’s fun to be on that path of discovery as opposed to doing the same old thing, and it’s a total learning curve,” she laughs. “You want to pull your hair out sometimes, but it’s gonna be incredible!”
Billboard caught up with Lights just before her sizzling set at Firefly Music Festival on Friday (June 15) to talk about what fans can expect from this new aspect of the project, her recent experience covering a Tegan and Sara song with a 60-piece orchestra and plans for new music.
The Skin & Earth graphic novel is due this July. What are your thoughts on that?
It’s so crazy. I’m so stoked for it because the project is such a new idea. I think every step of the way, we’re figuring out how to do it better, and at the graphic novel stage, we’re able to incorporate the music so it’s even more prevalent. There are actually scannable QR codes on each chapter page that take you to micro-sites that will auto-play the music and show the music videos and bring you to some of the merch that’s directly from the comic. There’s also guest art, including [art from] Jim Lee, who’s like the head editor at DC Comics. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time.
I just love that you wrote and drew this whole series, then decided to do more work.
Oh, yeah! It’s just the beginning. I’m like, look what I can do! I can go to the Moon! I can make an app. I can build a robot. Well, I can’t go to the Moon, probably.
Will there be back matter in the graphic novel?
Right, so sometimes [authors] put in fan Q&As or interviews, or a “how this page was made” kind of thing. It’s cool to have that inside look at how the comics are made, because I actually learned a lot about making comics through those pages by reading them over the years. So I had a lot of fun putting those together for the graphic novel.
It’s like going behind the scenes of a music video.
Totally! It’s like, “Here’s how I built this page, here are some fans in cosplay, here’s how I built this outfit.” It’s just cool things like that.
Do you have any other big ideas for the universe in the works?
Oh, my God, endless! This whole story feels like the beginning to me. There’s more to come. The world is endless, and the opportunities are endless. I’m actually doing my own panel at Comic-Con this year. I can’t announce anything else yet, but there’s cool stuff coming.
You just had your first art exhibit, too.
That was crazy! My big takeaway from that is how special it is to see comic art in a fine art setting. I think a lot of the time, comic art is dismissed as…not art, and comic writing is dismissed as not literature. It’s a constant struggle in the comic community to be considered a book and to be considered art, but it’s just as time-consuming as any other art, and it’s just as powerful of a read as any book. I’ve actually steered away from just calling them “comics.” I just call them books. There’s so much time you put into it, you know?
What have been some of your favorite fan moments or reactions to the initial Skin & Earth series?
It’s funny, because the book is basically featuring two different halves of my brain. The Mitsuki character is like the perfect persona of the woman I wish I was. There are lots of Mitsuki fans out there. She’s got this dark side, and I think that everyone kind of identifies with that. And then the En character is the flawed person that I am.
I think that there’s constantly somebody different that you can identify with. It’s interesting just seeing all the characters that people choose as their favorites and seeing them cosplay or [seeing what] lines they want to quote.
The most recent video you put out, “We Were Here,” is so great. I love when the car blows up, which of course also happens in the comic.
You can see us shaking, because it was loud and scary! If you look closely when the car blows up, you can see her grab me. We were the only ones allowed that close to it.
What’s your favorite song to play live right now?
I love playing “Savage.” That’s a banger live, and it gets me amped up, so I always sneak it closer to the beginning of the set because I’m just like, “This is my favorite jam.”
Have there been any fan favorites that have emerged from the album?
A surprise song is “Morphine.” It’s got this intimacy that I love, and I didn’t expect that when we made that song. It almost didn’t make the cut, but it’s been a discreet fan favorite.
You’ve had a busy couple of weeks: You just performed a tribute to Tegan and Sara at the Governor’s General Awards alongside the National Canadian Orchestra.
They’re the best! It was really stunning and beautiful. It was my first time working with an orchestra. I lead with an acoustic guitar, and then it filled up the room around me halfway through. It was just like a big blanket of music — it was cool.
You don’t get to experience that often in contemporary music. It reminded me that there’s a lot of rich history with music, and a lot that isn’t incorporated as much into modern music. I hope that we can find a way to keep this incredible, thousand-year history of music alive in current music because you don’t really hear it.
How did you decide to cover “I Was a Fool”?
Oh, it was immediate! As soon as they were like, “Hey, Tegan and Sara were wondering if you’d be willing to cover a song for honoring them [at] the Governor General’s,” I was like, “I Was A Fool!” It’s one of my favorite songs ever.
And you just got announced as support for Young the Giant’s fall tour!
I’m excited! “My Body” is another one of my favorite songs ever. They’re just a good band. I’ve heard lots of good things about them as dudes.
Anything else in the pipeline you want to mention?
Well, there are a lot of people asking about a Skin & Earth acoustic [album] and when that’s coming out, and I will say this right now: I’m working on it. It’s going to be something that no one has ever done.