A lot has changed since the last time we heard from Soko. The last record, 2015’s My Dreams Dictate My Reality was a punk infused outburst of an artist who had a lot of feelings and anger to scream out into the world. Feel Feelings has moved away from that emotion onto calmer terrains, echoing the quieter beginnings of the artist’s musical output. “Yes,” Soko agrees, “this LP is definitely a departure. I wanted it to be slower and more sensual than the previous one. I did punky and angry and I am very happy that I did. It was great to tour that record and to express those emotions.” Feel Feelings is likewise still concerned with emotions but the emotions of an artist who has found a middle ground, peace within, and who does not need to burst out into angry punk anthems.
All the Emotions
“Actually, the record has been finished for two years”, SoKo tells me. For her it has been quite the ride to finally get it out. It was done before she even got pregnant, but then she had a child, acted in three movies in a row, and got interrupted by a global pandemic. But now, Feel Feelings has finally seen the light of day.
It must be strange for an artist, a creative mind constantly working, to release something that has been finished for a long while. For Soko that was definitely the case, she says. But given the political climate it felt important to release a record today that speaks about acknowledging one’s feelings and their validity. “It was definitely the right time to release it. It was the right time to release a song called ‘Oh to Be A Rainbow’ during pride month, it has always been the right time to talk about domestic violence, to talk about mental health, and about things like being authentic and true to oneself.” The LP touches upon many different emotions, experiencing the widest range of feelings throughout the twelve songs.
Soko has not only brought a new record into the world, but also became a mother last year giving birth to a son. Indigo Blue even joined her zoom release party for a minute to be admired by fans from all over the world. The small family is currently isolating in Los Angeles and has finally had to let go of their dream of spending the summer in France. “It is fine”, Soko says. “We have the luxury of being able to pause and to slow down without much of a worry.”
While otherwise she might have been out touring across the globe with the new record now, the new mother also values the time she gets to spend with her child. When thinking about going on tour at some point Soko says, she would definitely want to take Indigo with her as she has not spent a single day away from him yet. But the family life comes with new challenges as well. “Indigo had a horrible night last night. So, I was up all night”, she yawns.
Mother and Musician
For most of us this year brought enormous changes, but for Soko being a new mother, even more things changed. In old interviews the singer prides herself with routines she sticks to meticulously, like writing every day. When I ask the 2020 Soko about it, she laughs out loud, “I do not think I have written a song since I had my baby. Mom life makes it difficult to write even once a month.” However, the artist is very proud that she stuck to her motto for such a long time and wrote every day.
Soko considers herself very lucky to be in a stable relationship now with her partner taking care of the baby while she is chatting to journalists on the other side of the globe. “I really do not know how single mothers do it,” she shakes her head. In times of global pandemic, most things have been forced to happen online which actually benefits Soko’s schedule as a mother. This way she can take care of things from within her home.
Living in the Moment
Another motto the singer had on previous records is “living in the moment”. But I imagine, that having a child it must be hard not to worry about the future all the time. Still, Soko says that she manages to not project herself into future very much and that has not changed since she had her baby. “I had the realization that projecting oneself into the future causes anxiety, very early on. So, I actively forced myself to stop doing it. I am so anxious about getting through each day – how am I going to get through this day full of promo – if I project myself into the future too much, I would go crazy.”
If anything, Soko says, having a baby has taught her how to embrace the motto even more. “I cannot even tell my friends let’s hang out next week because I don’t know where I will be next week. I haven’t ever been able to plan like that but especially now, having Indigo, their schedule always comes first.” So, to meet up with Soko nowadays you have to be spontaneous. Having a child, forces you do adapt and to be flexible with your own needs because theirs will always come first, she explains. “Things always change. Just when we got used to a nap schedule and sleeping through nights, something changes, and we have to start over again.”
When we talk, Soko seems centered and self-assured, but Feel Feeling is not bursting with confidence. The artist works through all kinds of feelings, struggling with lost love and lack of stable relationships on the LP. “A lot of the things I wrote about on the record have manifested into my life now,” she says being in the happy relationship that she craved on many of her songs. Replaceable Heads, for example, is about stopping oneself from keeping up the pattern that makes you go from destructive relationship to destructive relationship. A couple of years ago, in the formative writing process of Feel Feelings Soko had put a halt on seeing people to work on herself, “to be able to have a better life and to attract better people. And it worked,” she grins.
“For a while, I felt like I was at a dead end with my life, like I had already lived and outlived all of my experiences and dreams. Even career-wise I felt like it could be bigger, but I was very satisfied with where I was at. If I had told my ten-year-old self that I am doing what I am doing, she would be freaking out. So, I felt like I had kind of done it all – and then I got pregnant.”
Parlez Vous Français?
Aside of gay anthems like Oh To Be A Rainbow and the confessional Being Sad is not a Crime, Soko’s new release features a song in her mother tongue.
Blasphémie, is the first track ever that the artist wrote in French and it is one of the most beautiful songs on the LP. “I never thought I would write in French. I have written in English for half of my life now but it just sort of happened.”
“Writing in French gave me the freedom to unleash a sensual poetic side that I could not express with the other songs. I am really attached to the song.”
With writing in French came the realization that she wanted the entire LP to have more of a French ring to it. Even the tracks that are not in her mother tongue but in English, have the sultry sound of the French language woven into the instrumentation. “It was a reaffirmation of where I come from and I deliberately stirred into that direction. I wanted to be like – hey I am still a French girl.”
Looking For Love
Soko is not sure whether there will be more tracks coming in her native tongue yet, but if it feels as natural as writing this one – for sure, she says. Intuition and spontaneity play a big role in Soko’s art, as well as, in her private life. They shot the video to Looking For Love, for example, with only a few days of planning. She teamed up with the director Gilbert Trejo to make her vision come true. “I said ‘I have a costume and I want to be in the woods with a horse’, and he said ‘cool let’s do it in three days’,” Soko tells me, valuing the creative and spontaneous energy of the director.
Usually, she directs her videos herself but with this one she wanted to pass the load onto someone else she trusts. Soko is an artist who is used to being in charge of the entire creative process, not even leaving the edits unsupervised. “I am with my editor through the entire process because I know what I want to see. I have my version of myself and I know which parts I want to have represented in the videos”. The unique concepts to all of them are also written by Soko. For this record she released a couple of equally creative videos all telling a distinct story, while still conveying a cohesive handwriting.
On Feel Feelings Soko experiences the entire emotional range and it is no wonder that she cannot yet think of any future projects. “I am still very inhabited by the record,” she says. “It took such a long time to be released and it would have been strange to move on from something that is not even out yet. Now it is out, but I will take my time and see what happens. The LP covers so many emotions, I need to let them breathe for a bit.”
Feel Feelings is out now via Babycat Records.
Artwork Design by Clara Castiel with all proceeds going to Black solidarity funds.