Interview Highlight: Soccer Mommy

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Soccer Mommy is the project of twenty-one-year-old Nashville native Sophie Allison. DJ yan yan caught up with the indie rock artist to chat about her transition from bedroom recordings to professional production, the ditziness of Geminis, and cartoon characters.

Hi, DJ yan yan here. Hope you brought some great snacks because we’re dipping into an interview with Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy. Sophie, how are you doing tonight?
I’m good, how are you?

Pretty great! You guys just played at Slim’s and you swung by Bottom of the Hill earlier this year. It was cool seeing you in both contexts, in different crowds. How was it playing in the Soccer Mommy crowd versus the Pavement/Stephen Malkmus crowd?
Yeah, it’s definitely different. I think it seems like it’s a good reception both ways, but it’s always just different playing in front of a crowd that’s super hyped to see you, versus just opening. Even if people like it, it’s kind of awkward. And you’re just talking, and everyone’s like silent. That’s the part that gets me, [when] I’m talking in between and they’re just staring at me, which is awkward. But it’s fun both ways. It’s a lot less pressure when you’re opening for someone.

Yeah, I was singing along to your stuff, and I felt eyes turning to me, haha. But you guys killed it nonetheless. You opened for Paramore earlier too, how was that?
That was really cool. That was by far the biggest venues we’ve ever played, which was really different. Fortunately, they had the same sound person running sound every night, so it wasn’t like we got up there and the sound was so weird. I think we pretty quickly got a good-sounding stage, which helps the vibe when you’re on this huge stage and taking up just a small piece of it, and there’s so many people there who have no idea who you are and don’t care who you are. Even if you’re good, they just might be waiting for the band they want to see. But having a good sound on stage definitely helps with the anxiety of that.

For sure. Speaking of good sounds, what influenced the guitar tones on Clean, your new record from earlier this year? I found it very lush.
Yeah, I don’t know. There are so many guitar tracks on the record. We found ourselves tracking a single chord like 20 times, and different tones and stuff. That’s kind of what makes the record for me, the layering—the amount of different sounds that are subtle, but go into the overall sound of it.

The different styles of music I was listening to [inspired me]. I was listening to ambient artists and shoegaze artists. I definitely wanted the guitars to feel full and big, which you definitely get through putting 20 guitar tracks on it. Layering all these different tones can add a depthness to it for sure.

Which ambient artist in particular?
Like, William Basinski was a big one I was into. I mean, those aren’t really guitar songs, but the sound itself is just really warm, full sounds that you can kind of make with a guitar if you manipulate it a lot with reverbs, delays, stuff like that.

Or like Slowdive, which is a band that’s huge for me. So stuff like that, you can add this huge sound behind guitars, this really lush sound to it.

How was it transitioning from a DIY bedroom solo project into a full band with more resources at your disposal?
It was great. I really like recording my own music and making something out of it because it felt really rewarding. But at the same time, it always felt like the songs never turned out to the full extent of what I imagined. I can only make the chorus sound so [big] with what I knew what to do. Sometimes, I think I made it sound in a way that I liked and was happy with, but I could never make it as powerful as the stuff on Clean because I never had the resources or the money, or equipment even.

And I just didn’t really know how to record or produce stuff. I’ve always really had images in my mind of what the song should sound like and ideas for how big they should sound, but couldn’t really reach them within my grasp.

You mentioned big images with your music. You just released the music video for Scorpio Rising just a few days ago. Could you talk about that music video?
I just told the director I wanted it to be really shimmery and kind of haunting, almost. Very surrounded by solitude and this summer feeling of a humid, outdoor Southern summer. Stargazing or something, or being out in the middle of the night under the moonlight, because that’s something I did a lot around the time that a lot of the stuff on Clean was happening. That was before I started touring, [when] I was having more of a real life back home from college, so I wanted to capture that.

We shot it in Nashville and got that vibe for sure, just from being in those exact areas I was thinking about. I think it turned out really well.

Yeah I definitely got the ghostly vibe from it, you shrouded it in glimmer haziness. There was a specific image that grabbed me—the uprooted flower. And I noticed in the lyrics, too, you talk about this uprootedness.
Yeah, I wanted to have flowers in the music video because I feel like that comes up a lot in a lot of the songs. That was the director’s idea to have the flowers in the field, and the one inside [on the chair], the inside shots too that were pulled out of the other scene.

But yeah, I think it does really work really well with the lyrics.

And in terms of the lyrics for that song, Scorpio Rising, it talks about maintaining the cool and detached imagery. Trying to portray yourself in a certain way, but ending up sacrificing stuff because of that. I think that comes up several times in your music.
Yeah, I think a lot of people can connect with that. I’m a Scorpio Rising, and that kind of really connects with that [mentality]. And other people who have that get it too.

I don’t know if it’s necessarily, like, about a desire to look cool, but more about not looking vulnerable externally. Guarded. Just keeping yourself detached from human connection a little bit. Not even necessarily doing it on purpose, just doing it as a safeguard.

Right, protecting yourself so you don’t get hurt in the meanwhile. On the topic of astrology, Scorpios tend to be intense and mysterious, which is your ascendant. But you’re a Gemini sun. I kind of went through Twitter and found a commonality of following Astro Poets. They recently tweeted “Signs that have Big D**k Energy.”
Which ones was it?

Gemini was one. And so is Sagittarius, which is what I am.
Of course. It wasn’t going to be an Earth sign.

Right. So would you agree with that take?
I guess so. I don’t really know about Geminis. They seem a little too ditzy. I feel like Scorpios do [have BDE], Leos do. I just don’t know about Geminis. They’re kind of too much of an airhead to have any kind of energy really giving off, besides chaos. I think chaos is only what they really emit. But yeah, I don’t think [the take] is too far off.

Speaking of social media, I notice that your Twitter and Instagram profile pictures are goth Quinn from Daria…
Is it Quinn? I don’t know who… honestly, this character was just someone I saw in the background of the scene and I screenshotted. I think I saw it a couple times in an episode, and I screenshotted her because I was like, “This looks like me. That would be a great profile picture.”

Because Quinn has… no no no, that’s not goth Quinn. That’s the one with the braids when she’s wearing all black. No, it’s just some random cartoon character.

Oh yeah, right. I love her stare into the camera, that was great. And your cover photo is DW from Arthur. So I was wondering, since cartoon characters wear the same outfit every day, what would be your outfit if you were a cartoon character.
Oh, that’s hard. Probably some jeans, a cropped shirt, and, like, a sweater over it. A cardigan.

To keep toasty.
To keep warm, to layer.

Are you swinging by LA next? Or heading up north?
You would think we were, but we’re flying to Australia for two days [and then] right to Austin to meet right back to this tour. It’s going to be awful. I mean, it’s going to be fun.

I mean, it’s winter in Australia now, then you could have your sweater.
That would be nice. But the 14-hour flight will not be nice.

Wait, you’re leaving tomorrow?
Yeah, not even an off day, Mac. [Looks at tour manager] Not even an off day.
[Mac: There’s an off day when we get to Australia.]
[Sophie says sarcastically] Cool. That’ll be fun.

Have you been there before?
No, never. But it’ll be fun, it’ll be cool.

Marmite… that’s the spread they eat.
Yeah… kind of sounds gross.

And, uh… oh, I feel bad, that’s the only conception of Australia I have right now. Marmite.
I just think of H2O, the show.

Oh! With the mermaids?
Yeah! [Laughs] That’s all I can think of about Australia. I just expect it to look like that, and if it doesn’t, it’ll be a letdown.

I guess just wrapping up, any more plans in the foreseeable future? Just touring so far?
We’re coming back to San Fran in October for Treasure Island Music Festival.

Oh right! I remember being excited about seeing your name on the bill.
We’ll be back then, and then we’re doing the West Coast tour to get there. We do San Fran, then play LA too. And then, you know, East Coast.

And then we’re going back to… can’t say that yet.

The manager is shaking his head.
The thing I was about to say, you don’t get to hear. But East Coast and West Coast.

Haha well we’ll be sure to keep updated on that. Thank you so much, Sophie, for taking the time to talk with me.
Thank you too!