I first became aware of Soko’s music whilst unpacking, after having moved for third time last year. Her delicately, introspective debut LP I Thought I was an Alien popped up in a YouTube search for ‘full albums’, and further encouraged an afternoon of nostalgic musings!
Soko, who currently resides in LA, is a french born musician, who left home at 16 to become an actress. Turning instead to music at 19, Soko soon found success in 2007 with the release of her quirky, passive aggressive song ‘I’ll Kill Her’, a single taken from her five track EP Not Sokute. After taking a musical hiatus, Soko later followed up with I Thought I was Alien in 2012, which featured the song -made popular by the viral video First Kiss- ‘We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow’. Throughout her musical career, Soko has supported musicians such as Foster the People, Pete Doherty and Kate Nash, and has sold out many european venues. Her music has also lent itself to films such as Spike Jonze’s short film Mourir Auprès De Toi and feature film Her!
Ahead of the release of Soko’s much anticipated second album, My Dreams Dictate My Reality, I travelled to Paris to meet Soko at her french based record label, Because Music. Arriving reasonably early, I positioned myself at an empty desk and patiently awaited her arrival. A short time later, the mood of the room changes, as the flamboyant musician arrives, she thinks I am a new employee and politely introduces herself with two elaborat kisses on each cheek. Whirling around the room with hellos, her attention soon becomes directed back to me, when informed I have come to interview her. We enter a quiet room, and while I adjust into interview mode, Soko’s energy calms, as she curiously susses me out. Laid out on the coffee table are my notes, a sheet of paper, which probably appear to anyone other than myself like a chaotic jumble of nonsense!
Soko: It feels like looking inside of your brain!
AMBY: It is a little bit like that. How do you write notes?
Soko: I write very linear, like all in a block… trains of thoughts. I like your rings!
AMBY: Oh. Thank you!
Soko: Wow… That’s beautiful! Is it amethyst? Show me the other one, is it a cameo? Holy shit! These are so good! Where did you get it?!
AMBY: My Ma gave it to me for starting secondary school!
Soko: Oh, cute!
AMBY: I must have had oddly large fingers as a child… What were you like as a kid?
Soko: Um… I was borderline autistic, not like diagnostic, but I had no friends. I was a complete recluse, I grew up with five brothers and sisters but had a hard time communicating emotions. I was surrounded by death all the time, it was horrid, it felt like a battle for survival every day.
AMBY: When did that start to change?
Soko: I left home at 16 (headed for Paris), I wanted to be an adult, to lead my own life.
AMBY: Why did you choose Paris?
Soko: I had seen on t.v something about an art school, where I could act and sing and dance and whatever, you know the troubadour kind of shit they were doing.
AMBY: Was it a scary move?
Soko: No, that was awesome! Except the school was so competitive, and people were mean, in a way I had never seen before. I had this crappy agent that I started working with and they were very jealous because I would miss school to go to auditions. After 6 months I just stopped going. I didn’t want to be the kind of person who waits around for other people to have desires for me. So I decided to empower myself and not wait for anyone to tell me If I am good enough, if I am pretty enough, valuable enough, talented enough. I just wanted to be in charge of my own destiny!
AMBY: When did your mind turn to writing songs?
Soko: I had been writing my whole childhood; poetry, journals or whatever. I would give poems to people, my grandma has poems that I wrote on her walls and shit, it’s really embarrassing, don’t tell anyone. But yeah, I was so obsessed with music. I was in New York, staying with a musician friend, when he would leave, I’d get a good look at his keyboards and guitars, thinking oh my god I wish I could play! So I had to teach myself.
AMBY: How long did it take for you to learn how to play the guitar?
Soko: I still don’t know how to play shit! I wrote most of the songs for this record on bass. Initially, I had my friend bass player come over to record, but then Ross Robinson (who produced my record), was like, ‘Soko, I know you love your friend, but, I want to hear your fire, your mistakes, the weird note that you’re gonna come up with.’ So yeah, I ended up playing all the bass for the new record!
AMBY: That’s pretty cool. Do you have to be in a particular mood to write a song?
Soko: Usually I dream of them or hear them somehow. Sometimes when I am driving, I get into a meditative mode. I hike a lot in LA, so if I hike by myself, the rhythm of my feet will kind of feel like a drum beat.
AMBY: Your new album’s called My Dreams Dictate My Reality. What made you decide on that title?
Soko: My first record was sort of a downer, performing the songs was always like a heartbreak and made me want to fucking slice my wrist [laughs].
AMBY: Well that’s not good!
Soko: Everything in my life was falling apart, I just wanted to fucking go to bed and never wake up. That was how I felt, I wanted to make what I was dreaming about a reality. So with this one, I was in that state of mind where I wanted to make my life better. So it was like completely getting rid of all those people that were cynical, sarcastic… you know, that make you feel like shit because if they do, they feel better about themselves.
AMBY: That is such a necessity!
Soko: So, I cleaned up my whole surroundings and focused only on the people that made me feel good about life. Now, I just feel so supported and cared for, which I didn’t before. I feel like you attract who you are, so if I’m fully confident in being myself and not being scared of it, then I am going to attract like minded people. I have to say yes to everything because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Like last year, I said yes to do a thing for my friend’s fashion line, WREN, which ended up being that viral video on the internet.
AMBY: Ah yes, the kiss video…
Soko: Just trying to turn everything into a positive experience, instead of wishing I were doing something else. When I went on tour, I… Sorry, I jumped from one thing to another.
AMBY: That’s okay!
Soko: I’m, talking really fast… Er, when I was on tour my musicians’ were like ‘Oh this is work, we need to be here at that time.’ I was like ‘Well I guess you are on the wrong tour, because yes we are at summer camp right now!’ I’m a fucking kid. There is a song on my record called Peter Pan Syndrome, I don’t want to be an adult, I want to be a carefree child forever, because my childhood was completely stolen from me!
AMBY: I think the worst thing in life is looking at an adult and not imagining them as a child.
Soko: Yes! It’s like, if you are already an adult you may as well already be dead. There is not one day that I want to pass that is not going to be memorable for the rest of my life.
AMBY: You currently reside in LA, what made you decide to move to there?
Soko: I was living in Seattle. I was going to move to New York, everything was set up and then I had a dream (that I don’t even know), when I woke up I was like, I have to move to LA!
AMBY: Did you know anyone in LA?
Soko: Just one person, a photographer I had worked with for Vogue. (Putting on a voice) I was like ‘Hey David, I know I don’t know you really well but I’m moving to LA!’ He was like ‘Oh cool, who’s picking you from the airport?’ I was like ‘No one’ he was like ‘Okay cool, I’ll come and pick you up’ then he was like ‘So where are you going?’ (Soko) ’I don’t know, just drop me at a motel or something, I’ll figure it out’ he was like ‘Okay, well do you want to stay at my house?’ and I was like “Yeah!”.
AMBY: You are quite the free spirit!
Soko: Yeah, always.
AMBY: Are you a Gemini?
Soko: No, I’m Scorpio, very stubborn, passionate, craving for adventures all the time. Are you a Gemini?
Soko: And you do stuff like that too?
AMBY: It’s the way to live, you only get one life!
Soko: Yeah, it was the best thing ever! Three nights in, I went out and met a girl who was like ‘Hey, I like your music, I work for a label and we would love to sign you. Where are you staying, do you need a place to stay?’ and I was like ‘Yeah I do’ That same night I had a blind date with Robert Pattinson!
AMBY: So you are quite content with LA then?
Soko: I love it! it was 100% what I was supposed to do, and that just because of a dream!
To hear Soko’s thoughts behind the concept of her new album, click here.
Interview by LaToyah Gill | @D_untamedartist