Bronya Francis meets the very special SOKO, a singer songwriter who has taken a rather roundabout route to arrive at her brilliant debut album. From Notion 54.
As a teenager, I was obsessed with France and Indie music, and through those two very strong influences, I came across SoKo. Through her very intimate, Garageband recorded songs, SoKo managed to express the sentiments of every other overly philosophical and self-analytical alt youth of the noughties. I felt that we were particularly kindred spirits at the time and proceeded to cut my hair in her style.
After those pretty emo MySpace days, SoKo grew up, whilst I grew my hair. She wrote an album – a double CD, in fact – and scrapped it all in 2009, taking an impromptu hiatus from the music industry, writing on her profile ‘SoKo is dead’. This really caused great upset amongst her devoted e-fans. However, many of them may not have realised that she only picked up the guitar around 2006 or 2007, the exact time that she rose to popularity online. On the subject, she later tells me “I had a love/hate relationship with MySpace because when it was what it was at its best, that’s all that people would talk about. People could have heard about my music through any other medium, but that’s what it was then.”
But we’re not here at a Soho music venue to dwell on her past; we here to enthuse about her very first album, ‘I Thought I Was An Alien’, which will finally be released in February. I walk up to her and there she is, standing in her floppy beige hat and earth-coloured, loose-hanging apparel. She gives me a kiss on each cheek and speaks in that half-French, half-American accent that I’ve heard singing to me through my laptop or iPod over the past few years. We walk into a quiet room and talk, quite effortlessly, for half an hour or so.
SoKo resides in the USA, claiming that your nationality shouldn’t restrict you, and throughout our conversation she peppers her sentences with recently acquired Americanisms. Strictly pro-LA, she argues: “You get to play with more people than anywhere else, I feel. I have friends always popping up at my shows and playing with me. I had a big house with Ryan from Local Natives and other people, and we’d always be playing music in the house and having musician friends come round and we’d just be jamming forever. It just feels very natural, the way you end up collaborating with people.”
On the ‘I Thought I Was An Alien’ album itself, though, you won’t hear many guest appearances from her friends. “I did it really all myself,” SoKo tells me. “I produced it and controlled everything. I did my own artwork, I directed my own videos, and all my photos are self-portraits.” SoKo’s personal and protective approach towards making her album comes across clearly on listening to the lyrically intimate set of songs.
We finish talking and she walks towards the stage to sound check for tonight’s gig, her jewellery rattling softly like the percussion part in the second minute of ‘First Love Never Die’. There’s something about her that draws you in that I’m not able to pinpoint exactly, which is frustrating. All I do know is that something, whatever it is, makes this SoKo girl quite special indeed.
- SoKo’s mate from LA, Jenny O, makes some lovely music (www.jennyo.com)
- SoKo is a massive fan of Daniel Johnston. So much so that one of the tracks on ‘I Thought I Was An Alien’ is inspired by him.
- The Serbian/Bosnian word ‘sȍko’ means ‘falcon’ in English
- SoKo is vegan, and doesn’t drink or smoke either
- SoKo’s favourite film is Camille Claudel, a film about the French sculptor