Interview with SOKO

Published on October 21st, 2014


soko purehoneySoko is at the tail end of a transformation when she pauses to share with PureHoney what is going on with her new album. We caught her in the middle of mixing her sophomore effort, which she has titled My Dreams Dictate My Reality. If her new, lusciously layered, new wavey single “Love Letter” is any indication, she has ditched the spare instrumentation of her first full-length for something more ambitious. The 27-year-old told us she is nearly finished with mixing and is looking forward to performing several Florida shows, not only opening for Foster the People but also hosting some intimate shows in smaller venues.

Soko preferred to conduct the interview via email, so the exclamation points are her own. But they stand as testament to her excitement about sharing the latest about her new music and revealing a few candid details of what inspires her to use music to express herself. She also seems quite lighthearted, as there are more than a few laughs in her responses. Though she’s also not above admitting she is a control freak and unlovable (though, she really comes across as quite endearing).

This writer actually first became familiar with Soko, who has more than 10 years of experience acting, in quite a serious work: the art house period piece film Augustine. It was a 2012 French movie that examined the true story of a patient key to defining hysteria in the 19th Century. We broke the ice with that.

Hans Morgenstern: I must admit, I had to spend some time searching my memory for how I was familiar with you. You were the star of Augustine! I reviewed the movie (read it HERE). It’s a spectacular performance because you bring out the power of Augustine and still maintain an awareness of restraint. It was a difficult era for women. What inspired you to take the role?

Soko as lead in Augustine

Soko as lead in Augustine

Soko: Oh, no way? Wow, that’s crazy. Well, thank you so much for the kind words. I loved making that movie so much. I fought really hard to get the part. They saw 800 girls and didn’t want to see me at all, and I knew I had it in me to nail that part, so I kept on insisting that they see me for the part. I loved that it’s a real story, and painting the crazy destiny of a courageous woman, very strong, very tortured, and who gets a breakthrough and becomes free of all the weight that has been put on what women should and should not do. That was very inspiring.

Are you selective about your acting? What are your standards for a role?
I don’t really feel like an actress, even though that was my first “job.” Making music is my absolute vital everyday life. For me to take on a movie, it really has to be something special that challenges me to learn something new, be someone new, inspire me to learn new stuff and also making sure that the characters I choose will be inspiring to women. Showing strength and passion and vulnerability is all I care about, so, if a script touches me, brings me to tears, then, that’s what I want to do.

Now you are on the way to South Florida opening for Foster the People. Do you have a plan to stand out as a warm-up act?
Ha-ha. Well, I’m just doing my thing, you know? I love performing so much. I’m so glad to be opening for my friends. It makes it even more fun. I always play so wholeheartedly and put all my soul and pain and love and sadness and blood and sweat in it. Performing takes so much out of me because it makes me re-live all these intense songs that I wrote, so I’m always all shook up when I sing.

Besides opening for Foster the People you will have some intimate shows. What will be your approach with these shows?
Same, there’s no plan behind performing. Other than doing it, it’s life or death when you’re up there singing for people. I guess, for the intimate shows, my set will be longer, and obviously more intimate! I end up talking a lot and interact with the audience a lot when I play small places. I actually feel a lot more comfortable doing that! I always try to set the mood to make people feel at home, like they’re sitting through a “living room show” type of vibe! soko purehoney

So I hear you are mixing the new album now. What has evolved about your songwriting?
I sure am, should be done in a week!! So exciting, I wrote this album all by myself in Paris, post breakup, and was having a really hard time, spending nights flirting with my bass (put a lot of chorus on it!) and my drum machine and writing very sad, minor songs but weirdly Goth and upbeat and sort of punky too, pretending I was Robert Smith, and all the lyrics are very personal and related to childhood and dreams and how I’m really immature on certain levels! Ha-ha! Sort of refusing to grow up, but at the same time, having to embrace and accept all these responsibilities, so it all sounds very conflicted! And dark but also feels upbeat and happier. I don’t know. It’s all of that at the same time! I’ve been calling this record “beach Goth” or “beach punk” coz that’s all the images I have for it! Ha-ha! The title is “My Dreams Dictate My Reality,” and it was produced by Ross Robinson (who produced The Cure, At The Drive In), and it’s definitely very Cure inspired!

I’ve heard “Love Letter.” (FREE download on this months PH comp!) The music sounds more luscious for you. Are there any new instruments/sounds that fans should expect to hear in the mix?
Well, yes… ha! Actually, it’s a lot more synth-based. It’s got a lot of drum machine, synthy string ensembles, lots of reverbed-out and chorused-out atmospheric texture and NO acoustic instruments… and has a lot of surfy guitar riffs.

You’ve said personal experiences inspired your earlier music. Is it still the same with these new songs?
I can only write about what I know, about what feels vital to me, because what touches me about music is when I can hear people’s wounds wide open, so I always try to go right where it hurts, and write about that! It’s always very uncomfortable for the time being, but then gives me a sort of relief, and the chance to move on after transforming dark thoughts into art.

SoKo by Ward_Kweskin

SoKo by Ward_Kweskin

Is there a release date or label yet?
Not yet, still trying to figure that out, talking to a few really interesting people but not sure yet where this records needs to go!

You’ve had some great success with viral videos and hit songs. Are there any creative ideas you plan to use for your follow-up album or single?
Ha! Uh, yes, the success of that “First Kiss” video was pretty unexpected and amazing! Still such a fun little story to look back at and be like, “yup, this really happened.” Millions of people heard “We Might be Dead by Tomorrow”! It makes my heart melt but at the same time, feels totally unreal! I’m about to put out another single soon, and I’ll direct a video for it. I’ve really been enjoying directing all my videos for the first album so planning to do that for this one too! And I’m working on my ‘zine right now. I’ll be selling it on tour. It’s called “Daddy Issues” (obviously!).

There is a special pressure that comes with a sophomore release. How do you approach new music with that pressure, if you even feel it all, of course?
I put so much pressure on myself all the time for everything I do coz I’m such a control freak perfectionist, but I’m actually trying to let go a little bit more this one and with the experience of the first one, be a little easier on myself and do things faster… ha-ha! I think I did a lot of opening up and growing up since my first record, so I feel more calm and serene about this one, and I’m actually really excited to go and tour these new songs!

Love was a major theme on the last album. With “Love Letter” It looks like it might be inspiring you just as much in this album. Is that so?
Well, “Love Letter” was a song requested by my friend Aaron Rose. We made this little video for it for the MOCA [Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles]. We took some words from Nikki De Saint Phalle from one of her books and then animated her drawings to the words I picked, so it’s like this little lyric video. Aaron chose me because, obviously, he thought that her words are very similar to what he thinks I always go through, so that was a good match! The rest of the songs on my record, I actually wrote. Everything I write is always somewhat about love. Love songs are the best! But it addresses a lot of deeper issues, childhood-related, I guess. It’s more about childhood and dreams than it is about relationships!!

What is it about love and relationships that translates so powerfully to song?
The feeling that we’re all equal in the struggle of finding that perfect match, the perfect person to complete us. We all go through rejection, desire, love, lust, passion, fights, jealousy, resentment, sex withdrawal, cuddle withdrawal, and this infinite craving of wanting to be held by some loving arms for the rest of your life, so when this vital feeling is translated into songs it just melts me. My favorite song ever is “Unlovable” by The Smiths. These lyrics are just too heartbreaking. I cry almost each time I listen to that song, mostly because I can relate to that feeling of being unlovable too! Damn, Morrissey is the best!

Recently, we saw this excellent French film, La Jalousie. You can always count on the French to deliver powerful relationship films. You, yourself, also write so profoundly and humanly about relationships (truly, excellent lyrics!). What is it about the French experience that is both so insightful and concerned about “amour”?
Ha, ha, ha! I haven’t seen that film. I don’t know. We’re just very fiery, passionate, 100 percent kind of people. It’s black or white, no in between, so when we love, we love fully, and when we’re heartbroken, we scream it to the world. Ha-ha!

soko purehoneyYou were an actress before you released music. Did you feel any prejudice turning to this medium of expression?
I started acting at 16, yes, but I started playing music at 5 years old, took on piano lessons then, and at 20, really started writing my own music, and that was such a relief for me. I’m never really concerened about what people think. I do what feels right, and I assume that if people do things from a loving, vital, passionate place, then there’s nothing wrong that can happen from it!

How do you balance between acting and music?
I haven’t done a movie since Augustine. First, because I wasn’t really interested in anything and also because I had this second album all in my head and needed to lay it out before I could move on with my life, but now that I’m almost done, I have four movies booked for 2015, so bring it! I’m ready! And I’ll let my agents and label and stuff discuss my schedule! They have to figure out that balance for me! Ha, ha, ha!

Are  more info about these films?
These four different films, all directed by women (randomly!), and I’m the lead of all of them, and all of them are very strong, very different, challenging roles, so I’m really excited about them and all the prep that goes with it!

Thank you for your time! And Miami Beach is looking forward to seeing you here.
Same! : ) Come say hi! I don’t bite!

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~ Hans Morgenstern  |  The Independent Ethos  |

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