SOKO IS BUSY. Between directing music videos, winning awards for her acting, wrapping up a new album, and mastering new instruments, who knows when—or if—she sleeps (even more puzzling: how does she achieve that perfect, enviable bedhead?).
“I need my head totally clear from the other to be able to focus fully on one thing at a time,” says the French songstress and actress (Soko is shorthand for her given name, Stéphanie Sokolinski), as she describes her process.
“I’m a total monomaniac, so I need to just have one thing in mind otherwise I freak out.”
The multitasker is as comfortable stealing the screen as an epileptic girl in 2012’s French historical drama Augustine as she is sharing stages with lo-fi legend Daniel Johnston.
Right now though, she’s focusing on her music. Her headlining tour comes to Graveface Records & Curiosities on October 11.
For those whose notion of “Soko” is best served on the rocks with lime, you actually may have seen the French songstress and actress before.
Remember that “First Kiss” video going around Facebook last March, in which 20 strangers are paired up to awkwardly and adorably canoodle for the first time?
Soko, her blond hair tucked in a beanie, was one of its stars (she’s the woman who cutely requests that she and her partner “look at each other for a second” before diving in). Her song, “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow,” provided the perfect starry-eyed soundtrack to the clip.
Though viral content is designed to blow up before quickly dissipating in the wake of the next big thing, the video propelled “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow” to no. 1 on Billboard’s Streaming Songs chart.
Rightfully so. Her gently crisp vocals, laced with delicate guitar picking and string swells, make for a timeless “carpe diem” anthem.
The single is nestled in her warm, grittily folky debut studio album, I Thought I Was An Alien. Widely praised by indie blogs and tastemakers, her vocals give a kind of broken hope to strangely romantic, unflinchingly honest numbers with titles like “Why Don’t You Eat Me Now, You Can” and “Destruction of the Disgusting Ugly Hate.” It’s altogether a vulnerably complex, yet fresh, listening experience.
Soko just finished mixing and mastering a follow-up, My Dreams Dictate My Reality, due Winter 2015. While I Thought I Was An Alien’s inspiration dwelled on death and loss at a young age, Dreams turns to childhood, Peter Pan syndrome, and an ex-girlfriend for material.
“It is very different,” Soko says. “Less lo-fi and intimate and a bit more gothy, dreamy, punky, ‘80s sounding.”
February’s single “Love Letter” hinted toward such. While her early work may be best suited for meditative reflection or making out with strangers, “Love Letter” would be right at home reverberating through London’s historic Batcave.
Darkly seductive, doomy, and catchy as hell, Soko is singing lower and pushing the BPMs to get crowds dancing.
Perhaps this darker turn started in the writing process. As a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, she’s always challenging herself to try new things. At the encouragement of her best friend, Soko wrote the majority of the new album’s songs on bass, and the tone evolved from there.
“I guess the record started to be more intense and with lots of arrangements and epic drum machines and stuff,” she muses. “More spaced out in dream land.”
Having producer Ross Robinson on board, who previously worked with the fathers of goth pop, The Cure, certainly didn’t hurt, either.
“Ross Robinson pushed me to play all the bass lines on the whole record, and most of the melodic guitars too, and all the organs/synths! I definitely love playing bass more than ever!” Soko says excitedly.
In addition to handling most of the instrument tracking on My Dreams Dictate My Reality, she directs her own music videos (though “First Kiss” is not the official video for “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow,” Soko’s directorial approach is heavy on the PDA and charm, as well).
Directing is a welcome respite from her acting life.
“That’s actually almost one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “It’s so easy and fun for me to direct. I suffer such through writing, recording, performing. I’m so intense on set as an actress, and completely letting go and being there for the director.”
“When I’m the one directing, it’s just fun. My mind goes 100 miles per hour with crazy ideas and excitement!”
Savannahians get to see her between dates with once-indie-gem-now-pop-giant Foster the People, who hand-picked Soko for their tour.
At this rate, the Graveface show may be one of the last chances to see Soko in a smaller room.
“I do like playing intimate venues, and be really close to people,” she says. “I feel like that’s always my best shows. Where I feel the most connected! And easier to be fully myself.”
It’s a big change, but the auditoriums and theatres she’s gracing with Foster the People are growing on her.
“It’s actually my first time playing such big venues, and I was really nervous at first but the first show went so well, and since it’s just been really easy,” Soko says. “So, I’m actually starting to enjoy the bigger venues a bit more!”