It’s no secret that indie-pop powerhouse Lights is a big fan of gaming, so it should come as no surprise that she now has her own avatar and tunes in the music-based game LOUD On Planet X. Pop Sandbox Productions approached the gaming superfan to be involved in the project that allows players to shoot down alien invaders by tapping to the beat of a track of their choice. Head below for an interview with Lights where she shares reasons to get excited about fighting aliens with music.
1. It shows Canada some love
The game’s developers, Pop Sandbox Productions, are based in Toronto, and Lights also calls Canada home. “Canadians love to support Canadians,” she says. “It’s kind of this Canadian game, and you don’t really get to see that often, especially on a worldwide app like that, so it was exciting to be part of.” However, she isn’t the only Canadian in the game: It also features Tegan and Sara, Metric, METZ, Fucked Up, Purity Ring, Austra, Shad, Cadence Weapon, July Talk and Monomyth among others.
2. It is a successfully funded Kickstarter project
Pop Sandbox launched the project on Kickstarter in May 2015, and quickly gained momentum. Lights was involved with it from the beginning when it was just an idea with photos and nothing to play yet. “I think any opportunity where gaming and music directly connect is special and not tapped into as much as it should be at this point, so it was a really wicked opportunity, and we were kind of with them all stages of the way,” she says. “Watching it all develop was so impressive and cool, [and] finally getting to play it and hear the song in the background was the best feeling.” She also provided an interview for the campaign page (as seen above) and signed cards featuring her character as rewards for backers. “I’m a gamer—I love gaming—and I fangirl over the fact that I’m in a game, so it’s easy for me to commit time to,” she says. “I mean, I wish I could’ve been in there coding the program development, but I don’t know how to do that. [Laughs.]” Pop Sandbox met their Kickstarter goal in a month and just shy of a year later, the game became available on console (Playstation, Steam) and mobile (iOS, Android) platforms.
3. You can actually play as some of your favorite artists
In addition to those mentioned above, the game also features CHVRCHES, Little Dragon and HEALTH, and you can play the levels as any of them. Each artist involved has an avatar modeled off of their appearance, something Lights describes as a “really unique piece of art” that isn’t the expected 3D look but rather something you could see in a comic. Lights’ avatar features the singer clad in the oversized olive green jacket, shorts and boots combo sported in her “Toes” video while her band rocks looks from the “Up We Go” video. “It’s so funny looking at our cartoon version of ourselves from an actual music video,” she says. Lights first played the game as herself, tapping to the beat of “Same Sea,” which she described as a rare experience. “I love gaming, and music in gaming is such an important aspect in creating mood and setting the vibe,” she says. “Playing to one of my own songs is really special, and I was sitting there listening to it like, ‘Man, this is a good song.’ [Laughs.]” Lights explained that it was exciting to hear the track as she had been playing it live for so long but had never really sat down and listened to the original studio recording since its 2014 release. “When you actually hear it, and you’re fighting aliens in the process, it brings a whole new life to a song that I’ve known forever.”
4. Each artist has two tracks for you to choose from
Lights’ chose singles “Same Sea” and “Up We Go” as the tracks to be featured in her levels, explaining the desire to go with high-energy numbers that people might already know. “They’re both high energy, and they have a lot of dynamics and a solid beat you can shoot with,” she says. “We needed something that had a rhythm, obviously, so that was a big factor in it as well.” Lights is featured on a third track, “Remember To Remember,” with Toronto-based rapper Shad from his 2013 full-length, Flying Colours. The two had also worked together previously for two tracks from her 2011 full-length Siberia. “It’s great to have him on there because he’s such a talent,” she says. “I have worked with him a few times and he’s just so easygoing, talented and amazing, and [the game is] a perfect match for him too.” Outside of her own songs, Lights also tried out “Closer” and “Back In Your Head” from Tegan and Sara. “It was great because their music is so rhythmic and energetic and playing to them was really fun too,” she says.
5. “It’s kind of like Plants Vs. Zombies meets Guitar Hero”
Lights described the game as being “kind of like Plants Vs. Zombies meets Guitar Hero.” Players perform on the stage to the left as aliens invade from the right, and you have to protect the stage. “You rhythmically shoot them with music to the beat of the song and use the amplifiers to hit them with the sound waves that explode their brains,” Lights says. “It takes a bit of getting used to getting them right on the beat, which is the same as Guitar Hero where you have to get in that right pocket, but once you get into this trance of shooting aliens with music, there’s nothing cooler than that.” The aliens advancing on the stage remind her of the monsters in Plants Vs. Zombies, stating how much she’s into that game as well (“This is coming from someone who actively plays Plants Vs. Zombies 1 and 2 and has leveled all the way up and is waiting on new content, so that’s high praise because I love that game.”) While it may draw comparisons to modern day gaming, Lights also says she can see where retro games could have had an impact on it as well. She revealed that she had a conversation with the developers about how much they all love those types of games and wouldn’t be surprised if it played a role in the design. “It is a little reminiscent of retro gaming because the graphics aren’t supposed to be realistic,” she says. “They’re cartoony and fun and kind of almost 2D, which reminds me of old Mario games, back when I used to play Super Mario.” Lights reminisced over playing Mario and Donkey Kong Country, stating hints of “side to side games” such as these can be spotted in LOUD On Planet X as well.
6. Music is your weapon
Unlike other games that may use swords and guns, LOUD On Planet X has you defending yourself against aliens with sound waves, amplifiers, fog machines and strobe lights. “It’s the only thing I can think of right now where you actually use music to fight [which] opens up a whole new slew of weaponry,” Lights says. “It’s the first time I’ve used sound waves as a weapon.” Lights’ suggests embracing the use of music in order to find the rhythm. “Just lose yourself and don’t over-think it [because] that’s the best thing about gaming as it is,” she says. “I game as an escape, and that’s a really important part of life—letting your mind be free. Immerse yourself in this other weird world for a while and have fun with it—that’s the point.”