Windsor music and comic book fans crossed the border to experience Juno Award winner Lights (AKA Valerie Anne Poxleitner) performing live at the iconic St. Andrews Hall in Detroit on Friday, March 9, 2018.
Lights’ 2018 tour showcases her fourth studio album, Skin & Earth, the most unique concept album ever created in the music industry. This is the first time a concept album has been released in conjunction with a comic book series. Skin & Earth serves as Lights’ most ambitious project yet, it was released alongside a companion comic book series of the same name created, written and illustrated in full by Lights.
The comic features En, short for Enaia, a fictional character from a fictional world created in Lights’ imagination that is not altogether different from herself. Throughout a year long process, she began secretly working on an unprecedented idea writing and drawing her own comic book based around this alter ego of sorts. And on top of that, just to make things more difficult – an album to coincide with the whole thing.
Skin & Earth is Lights’ most open and vulnerable project to date. “In the past, Lights wouldn’t write about being angry or Lights wouldn’t write a song about fighting or Lights wouldn’t write about sex,” she says. “So En is me in another dimension, and I was able to write about all the things that I never wrote about before.”
The setting for Skin & Earth revolves around the last city left in a post-apocalyptic world that is lost to famine & plague, devoid of hope. A super corporation called Tempest runs everything from the media to the water rations to the schools. “There’s a lot of commentary in the story about how we’ve taken and taken and taken until there’s nothing left and that’s how this apocalypse has happened and that’s why they’re in this last bastion of humanity.” The environment being a topic close to Lights’ heart, she states, “It was awesome. It was freeing.” She continues, “That’s the whole vibe of the record and the comic. This meandering search for hope in a hopeless world that you really never know what you’re gonna get. You really never know what’s gonna happen until the end.”
Lights received advice from comic heavy hitting friends the likes of Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Runaways), Jamie McKelvie (The Wicked + The Divine) and G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel) on the project. Initially wanting Vaughan to write the book, she says “He reminded me that I’m a writer already. He gave me the faith in myself to believe I could do it.”
She seemingly transcended through to a new level of creativity while working on Skin & Earth. “Once you open that part of your brain, you open the floodgates and it never ends. From that day on, a year and a half ago, it has never ended. My mind is constantly flowing with ideas. And I’ve never been more creative or inspired and I’ve never had more faith in myself to actually accomplish something.”
The album form of Skin & Earth also brings help from some of music’s brightest including Corin Roddick of Purity Ring, Big Data and Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots. “Everything that happened on this record was really fun and natural and felt like we were all working towards the same goal,” she says. “It was this organic mutual fan-ship kind of thing that brought it all together.” She continues, “This is the most fun I’ve had doing a record. I’ve never felt that I understood a record more and I’ve never felt like I understood a reason for a record more.”
Each track weaves effortlessly between topics of hope, hopelessness and romance including the anthemic first single “Giants” and the gloomy “New Fears” where she says “The sound is generated by the mood of that chapter. Chapter 5 is very moody and dark and the song emulates that.” New themes began to emerge for Lights during the writing process as well for this album. “There’s a song on the record called “Savage” and there’s anger in it – I’ve never written like that before,” she says.
For advice on how to consume the Skin & Earth record and comic book combo, Lights suggests that “they’re better absorbed separately and each of them augments the other. So you can listen to a song on its own and it’s something completely standalone. And then you can read the comic on its own and it’s standalone as well. But when you put them together and you start to connect the dots, there’s something so much deeper there.”
Ultimately for Lights, the most important takeaway from the story of Skin &E arth is of a young woman entranced by a spirit that she and she alone must overcome. “This is based on internal, emotional stress and turmoil – stuff that I’ve dealt with and stuff that a lot of people have dealt with. I’ve always believed that all those battles can be fought and you come out of this stronger. And that was the foundation of the story,” she says. “At the end of the day, if nothing else, I want people, especially young women, to see in this character a little bit of themselves – see that an ordinary person can do amazing things and fight battles nobody else can see, and there’s no shame in that. In fact, there’s a lot of beauty in it.”
Lights has received praise from critics including Buzzfeed proclaiming “It’s time for Americans to fall in love with Lights,” and Billboard highlighting “concept albums are nothing new, but it’s the lengths to which Lights takes her fourth album Skin & Earth that sets it apart.” Further acclaim comes from ELLE, DuJour, Forbes, NYLON, PASTE,
Idolator, Alternative Press, Newsweek, and Playboy, who have dubbed Lights a “Real-life musical wonder
Lights has built an incredibly passionate fan base over the course of her four records, selling out headline tours across North America and Europe, earning 100 million in U.S. streams, more than 200,000 in U.S. album sales, two JUNO Awards, and three Gold album certifications; not to mention the 2 million + rabid fans who follow her every move online.
Lights’ tour stop in Detroit thrilled fans who experienced her immersive world of pop music and comics coming to life right before their eyes.
For more information about Lights music, comic books, and tour schedule visit http://music.iamlights.com
Photos by Kevin Blondin / Eyes On Windsor
Kevin Blondin is an aspiring photographer studying public relations at the St. Clair College Mediaplex. He is dedicated to promoting artists, entertainment and events in the Windsor-Detroit area. Kevin has recently launched Sound & City Photography which can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.