Always pushing boundaries, alt-pop phenomenon Lights has never shied away from a challenge. Through her first three records, Lights built an incredibly passionate fanbase, selling out tours around the world, earning 100M in U.S. streams, 200K in U.S. album sales, and two JUNO Awards, not to mention the 2M + rabid fans who follow her every move online. Yet through this success, she felt like she had more important things to say through her music but just didn’t know how to get them out.
Then came 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.
Thus came Skin&Earth, the Canadian singer’s fourth record and her most open and vulnerable 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.”
Growing up with Calvin and Hobbes, Herman and The Far Side, Lights has been a lifelong fan of comics including current favorites like Saga, Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet, and The Wicked + The Divine which all star or are created by other strong women. Comics have even influenced her music all the way back to her first record, The Listening, with her character Captain Lights. “It's always made its way into my aesthetic and the way my art is. But never to this degree.”
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&Earth 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.”
From humble beginnings in their Northeast Australia hometown to worldwide acclaim and ferocious sets on some of the planet’s biggest stages, the alt-pop trio Chase Atlantic are riding high on a wave of their own creation. And with the recent release of their much-anticipated third EP, DON’T TRY THIS, and a sophomore full-length on the way, 2019 looks to be their biggest year yet. Mitchel Cave and his older brother Clinton formed Chase Atlantic with their best friend, Christian Anthony, in 2014. Classically trained as musicians and singers, the brothers began their obsession with programming and production as teenagers. Spending days locked away in their bedrooms working on beats, they began combining sounds from their favorite genres—from pop to electro to rock and R&B—fusing together an experimental sound that retained catchiness and hooks. Adding live instrumentation and vocals to the mix, the trio recognized their work’s undeniable groove and edge, an eclectic and unique hybrid of dark, rhythmic, and emotional sound—not to mention their shared bond and ability to make singular decisions as a hive mind. “We’re on the same wavelength,” Mitchel says. “We have the same outlook and that’s why we’ve been such great friends for such a long time. Our music-making is synergistic; we all share the same musical brain. We make music that is hard to define by genre but easy to enjoy.” They began releasing their music online and quickly developed a following in their home country, with fans flocking to their infectious live shows and embracing the confident honesty in their storytelling. The viral single “Friends” caught the ears of Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden, who signed Chase Atlantic to their esteemed LA-based music company, MDDN, in 2016. They released a pair of EPs and a self-titled debut LP in 2017, leading to an endless string of sold-out headline shows and tours around the world, including festival slots at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Firefly, Reading & Leeds, and Vans Warped Tour. Despite all the rapid-fire success, the band work hard to maintain and increase their high-level work ethic, sticking to their guns when it comes to their method of making music and refusing to compromise any of their creativity, control, or—most importantly—their joy. “To be where we are today with music as our career, having grown up without a lot, it’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Mitchel says. “We went from staring at the same four walls for 18 years to seeing the whole world. We have to keep our heads—everything in moderation. Well,
music-making should not be in moderation, but everything else. As long as we’ve got our headphones and laptops, we have all we need.” The DON’T TRY THIS EP finds Chase Atlantic operating at the height of their powers, with six songs that showcase the wide-ranging breadth of their abilities to reveal a darker side of their existence. From the rafter-reaching synthesized dreamscape of opener “What U Call That” and the slowed-down, emotional melodies and instrumental and vocal flexing of “You Too” and “Lust” to the revved up, live-for-today vibe of “Like A Rockstar” and electronic hypnotism and trap on “Devilish” and “GreenGreenGreen,” the EP highlights the band’s sonic eclecticism, knack for hooks, and cool, confident delivery. The wide variety of influences includes alt-pop, rock, R&B, and hip-hop, and will hit home with fans of Post Malone, The Neighbourhood, The 1975, and The Weeknd. “It all comes from a real place and it’s a good reflection of this point in our lives,” Mitchel says. “A lot of it is from out on the road and about our real life experiences. We’re not trying to flex too hard on anyone, or say we’re doing any better than you are. Music is about enjoyment—we’re trying to make the best music we can and be as real as possible.” Chase Atlantic are taking a similar approach to their new LP, fueled by their obsession with creation, songwriting, and beat-making and refusing to conform to any one sound. And as their spotlight only continues to grow, they understand that everything they need to get by is already in their possession. “Nothing has changed in terms of how we’re making our music; we’re staying true and putting all of ourselves into it. We’re always learning and trying different things while being as expressive as possible without losing integrity. We know more now and have so much more life experience and things to say. Life has been a whirlwind the whole last year, but this year’s gonna be even bigger. We just keep making tracks and doing what we do. We’re in it for the long journey, and we have a broad spectrum in terms of our music making. And we’ve done everything ourselves—we’re gonna do our own shit no matter what. We know exactly what we want to do, and we know what it takes to bring the music to the level where it needs to be. We’re gonna do our shit ’til the day we die.”