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February 2020

Lights: "Creativity is not formulated by genre; it's formulated by fucking mood swings"

One of music’s most ambitious artists, Lights has spun her ever-expanding world of music, comics and stories into her stripped-back full-length, ‘Skin&Earth Acoustic’.
Published: 10:29 am, July 18, 2019Words: Ali Shutler.
Lights: "Creativity is not formulated by genre; it's formulated by fucking mood swings"

Lights is a creative heavyweight. Recently signing to scene rulers Fueled By Ramen, she’s releasing a brand new acoustic coda to 2017’s ‘Skin&Earth’ album, featuring seven new, stripped-back takes on tracks from the record. Self-produced and mixed, it’s the latest instalment in one of the most fascinating artistic endeavours in ages. We caught up with her to find out more.

'Skin&Earth' wasn't just a record; it was a comic and a whole world. It feels like you put a lot into it.

It was so much work to create. The coolest thing about it, is me being able to feel like I've branched out into these areas of art that I never thought I could, and find success there. I was at London Comicon, my first UK con, with my comic and it, was a full panel, a full signing, and it was exciting to be able to do that. I grew up going to cons as a fan, and now in the last few years, I've been going as a creator, and that's such a cool thing. I've been inspired by the fact I've always wanted to do this thing, to create a comic, tie it into a conceptual record, put the time in and come out the other end loving every day of what I do, and that makes me want to do more.

Why did you decide to do an acoustic reworking of the record?

That's always been something I do. After every record, I do an acoustic version, but I do like to make it different than the expected thing. With this one, I had to ask ‘how do I tie this into the comic world?' For ‘Skin&Earth', each chapter is a song. There's a very specific colour pallet and location for each song, so I took that, found a location like that in real life and tracked within that location. That became the challenge of making it. This chapter one takes place by a river, so I guess I've got to go track a river, but rivers are really loud. This one takes place in the rain, how do you create an umbrella rig for your gear and get the recording of rain straight into the tracks you're making. It was really challenging and fun. I ended up engineering, performing, producing and mixing the entire thing myself. Apart from the mastering, it's the first time I've done an official release that I completed from top to bottom.

“You can't go in expecting everyone to like you, it's impossible”

What do you want people to take from it?
I want you to be able to sit down, get a glass of wine, whiskey or whatever you like, and just chill and listen to it or make out or fuck or drive or whatever it is. The thing you want music for, that's what this should be there for.

And what's next?

I'm doing an acoustic tour, and I'm bringing Tillie out for it cos she's a badass. I'm working on the next arc of the comic and then, September through February, I'm touring with Deadmau5. We have a song together called ‘Drama Free'. I've been doing a lot of EDM collabs, so I'll be back in the UK for Creamfields. I'm proud of this career that I have, where I can be at different places. It's fucking cool.

Do you ever worry that, because you play in all these worlds, people won't get you?

It's always a thing. And there's always people that won't. But there are always people that will. The one thing I've really learnt is that you can't go in expecting everyone to like you, it's impossible. It's impossible in life. I've been trying to teach my daughter that it's fine if someone doesn't like you. Most of us are raised to believe that we want everyone to like us, and if they don't, they're wrong. But that's not true. It's art; it's totally up for debate.

“I’ve been writing a no bras kinda thing, you know? Fuck bras, it's going to be that kinda record”

Have you always felt like that or was there a crystallising moment where that belief came into focus?
It's more general feedback, especially when I first came out. When you come out, and you're a new artist, everyone wants to weigh in. Now people know who I am and they know if they like me or not. The ones who stick with me know they're in for this ride and it can be anything. In the beginning, I was young and a lot more fragile and insecure. People would say 'Lights is shit, Lights sucks', and you'd want to know why. Why don't they like me? You get upset about it. Seeing negativity like that, you have to decide how that affects you. And I decided, it doesn't.

It feels like you could go anywhere next, musically or artistically.

I've been lucky. I don't identify with the genre, so if I wanted to make a country record tomorrow, I could, and my fans would be like, ‘sweet'. You go where creativity takes you because creativity is not formulated by genre; it's formulated by fucking mood swings.
I've been writing a bunch. Since the comic, I've been so creatively inspired; I'm flowing. I think anything goes. I've been writing lots on my own and having fun with really minimalist production and letting the vocals shine. I've been writing a no bras kinda thing, you know? I don't give a fuck, fuck bras, it's going to be that kinda record.

What's inspiring you at the moment, what are you drawing from?

Listening to stuff, watching stuff, seeing stuff, digesting stuff you like. You can't be a prose writer if you don't read. You can't be a musician if you don't listen to music. You can't be a comic creator if you don't read comics. I'm just taking in art in all its forms. There are so many different things out there, so just take it in, then you'll help refine the things you like, and it'll help you decide the things you want to create. It's like movies, don't watch shit you don't like. Only watch shit you like. Life is so short.

Taken from the August issue of Upset. Lights' album 'Skin&Earth Acoustic' is out now.

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