French Twist | Sultry Singer SoKo Brings Raw Emotion To Her New Album

SoKo knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it. When I visit her hotel room in Manhattan, the French singer/musician/actress sends everyone else out of the room and invites me to sit with her on the bed. “If I do this,” she says, “I want to be able to connect.”

It’s this insistence on connection that’s won the 29-year-old so many diehard fans. Born Stéphanie Sokolinski in Bordeaux, France, today SoKo lives in California and is openly bisexual, vegan, and straight edge. 

Her confessional, lo-fi indie rock has earned her comparisons to Conor Oberst and Björk, as well as high-profile spots on tour with Kate Nash, Daniel Johnston, Foster the People, and M.I.A. Her first album, 2012’s I Thought I Was An Alien, drew from her most gut-wrenching experiences, and clearly, it resonated; it’s not unusual for fans to cry in her arms after shows. “The first record was really personal and intimate, but it was really hard to perform live,” SoKo says. “I would burst into tears during the show. It was almost too personal and too intimate.”

With her new record, the highly anticipated My Dreams Dictate My Reality, SoKo’s exploring a more punk and goth-inspired sound. “On this one, I wanted to do music that was still dark and resonates with the deepest secrets that I have inside of me, but at the same time, makes me feel happy,” she says. Producer Ross Robinson (the Cure) was a welcome collaborator—the two recorded the album over seven months in Robinson’s oceanfront home, a place she describes as “the safest place” for creating music.

SoKo is also a flourishing actress, with credits in nearly a dozen French films and a César nomination for Most Promising Actress for her role in 2009’s In the Beginning. However, she says music and acting play very different roles in her life. “When I’m acting, I don’t touch an instrument, I barely write,” she says. “And when I do music, I don’t read scripts or anything. I completely separate it.” She explains that acting is a break not only from the uncomfortable road warrior lifestyle of the touring musician, but also from an uncomfortable emotional place. “I can only write what is me 100 percent—raw, deep, real, and vital,” she says. “When I write, it feels like if I don’t do it, I’ll fucking die. When I’m in that mode, I can’t do anything else.”

It’s this rawness, this relentless drive to live in the moment, that makes SoKo’s shows such unique experiences. She plays in churches, art galleries, garages, and just about any other venue you could think of, and she doesn’t believe in set lists. At one of her recent shows, at a record store in Savannah, GA, she demanded that the crowd take off their tops, “boys and girls, no bra.” It was a moment that only happened because of her ability to read a room. “That’s the kind of thing you can only do if you’re allowing spontaneity in your shows. You can’t plan it,” she explains. “I was singing with no top too,” she assures me. “I was like, ‘Let’s all be French together!’”  



By Liz Galvao
Hair: Ian Scott Dorey
Makeup: Jeffrey Baum
Photographer: Michael Lavine

This article originally appeared in the print version of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

Soko's Upcoming Tour Dates:
3/8 - Oslo, Norway @ John Dee
3/10 - Stockholm, Sweden @ Debaser Strand
3/11 - Aarhus, Denmark @ Atlas
3/12 - Berlin, Germany @ Bang Bang Club
3/13 - Vienna, Austria @ Flex
3/14 - Zurich, Switzerland @ Mascotte
3/15 - Lyon, France @ Club Transbo
3/17 - Lille, France @ Aeuroneuf Club
3/18 - Paris, France @ La Maroquinerie
3/20 - Hamburg, Germany @ Molotow
3/22 - Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Bitterzoet
3/23 - Brussels, Belgium @ Botanique Orangerie
3/25 - Manchester, UK @ Ruby Lounge
3/26 - London, UK @ St. John's Church Fulham
3/28 - Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory (Burgerama)
3/29 - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
3/30 - Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg
3/31 - San Diego, CA @ The Loft, University of California - San Diego

Lez Zeppelin, AC/DShe, Misstallica—And Other Female Tribute Bands That Rock

It seems wrong to say that any of these lady bands are out to pay tribute to anyone; they rock so hard on their own. But bands like Lez Zeppelin and Vag Halen are doing so much more than covering old faves—they’re out to take on the male dominated world of rock and roll, one metal band at a time.

Lez Zeppelin 

Founded in 2004 by lead guitarist Steph Paynes, Lez Zeppelin thinks of themselves as a “she-incarnation” rather than a tribute band. They have recorded albums with former Led Zeppelin engineers, are known for having gained global recognition for their renditions of some of the greatest rock songs of all time, and have even been acknowledged by Jimmy Page, lead guitarist of Led Zeppelin, himself who said “They’re extraordinary, very sensual… They’ve got energy and enthusiasm and they’re superb musicians.”

Watch the group live in Paris here:

Vag Halen

Torontos finest female art rock group with the best pun yet, Vag Halen, covers hard-rock classics by Guns-N-Roses, Led Zeppelin, and Motorhead. Referred by Chuck Klosterman as “the most-powerful all-female band in rock history.” This rag-tag group of lesbians are head-banging and hip-thrusting the sex back into rock and roll.

AC/DShe

The trailblazers of female tribute bands, AC/DShe has been on the Highway To Hell since 1999. They only cover the early-era AC/DC songs, because lets face it, they rock the hardest, and have toured throughout the US and Europe.  

The Iron Maidens

Based in LA, and quickly becoming one of Southern Californias most well known tribute bands, The Iron Maidens, are hard-core professionals. These ladies don’t get by just on the popularity of the songs they cover, its their well-trained talent and technique that keeps fans crowd-surfing.

The Ramonas

London’s only all girl tribute band to The Ramones; Margy, Cloey, Pee Pee & Rohnny Ramona joined up in 2004 and have been touring around Europe and the US ever since. These girls are more about a good time than a political movement, but we love their angst all the same.

Misstallica

Formed in 2008, Misstallica, was originally a side project to their King Diamond tribute band Queen Diamond. They mostly perform Metallica's first 4 albums, with all the hard-core thrashing and flashing that every metal show promises.

 

images via Kyra Kverno, metaladies, Vag Halen, fewandfarwomen, ramonas, independent 

 

The Sleater-Kinney And Bob’s Burger Video Will Make You Want To Rock Out In Your Bedroom

...And just when we thought Sleater-Kinney couldn’t get any cooler (ha, we didn’t actually think that) their latest project stars Bob Burger’s character, Tina Belcher rocking out to a “live” Sleater-Kinney in her very own bedroom.

To be honest, we’re jealous.

This animated video is a collaboration of epic proportions. Carrie, Corin, Janet and the animators behind the TV show, Bob’s Burgers put together this video clip showcasing “A New Wave” from their recent album, No Cities to Love. If you haven’t heard it yet, please stop wasting time, it’s insulting. If you haven’t seen the video, check it out here and add, “being as cool as Sleater-Kinney and Tina Belcher” to your life goals list. 

images c/o youtube.com

Album Review: Emile Haynie | We Fall

 

Put every collaborating musician from super producer Emile Haynie’s We Fall into one room, and it would be music’s version of 2015’s “SNL 40” special. At first glance, the list of guest appearances in the Saturday Night Live special seemed ridiculous, hyperbolic. However, while there were some brief moments of brilliance, the immense pool of talent was ultimately diluted into a flavorless mess. Much like “SNL 40,” We Fall features too many voices, leaving Emile Haynie’s debut album lacking a cohesive narrative.

 

That’s not to say that individual songs from We Fall don’t succeed. Album opener “Falling Apart,” featuring Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt and the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, is a near-perfect orchestral pop song. “Wait for Life,” an outtake from the Ultraviolence sessions with Haynie, ranks as one the better songs in Lana Del Rey’s back catalogue. Even Haynie’s two solo tracks, his first productions featuring his own voice, hold up well amongst the immense talent from the rest of the album, though album closer “The Other Side” comes off as a more melodic version of Spiritualized’s 1997 classic, “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.”

 

 

The problem is that the vast majority of the tracks on We Fall are constructed as singles. Too often, they sound like Haynie producing songs for each artist’s respective project, rather than for his We Fall endeavor. “Fool Me Too” featuring Nate Ruess would fit almost too well onto fun.’s Some Nights, and serves as an extreme outlier to the cinematic sound of We Fall as a whole. Likewise, Randy Newman’s offering, “Who to Blame” is the best song Newman has released in ages, but it simply has no business being sandwiched between Romy (of the xx) and Lykke Li’s “Come Find Me” and “Ballerina’s Reprise” featuring Father John Misty and Julia Holter. Randy Newman’s jaunty and playful track breaks up the album to the point where it’s almost laughable, like an ill-timed funny commercial break during an intense movie on TV.

 

Furthermore, whereas Lana Del Rey’s “Wait for Life” serves as one of the best songs of her career, “Ballerina’s Reprise” unfortunately might be the weakest one of Father John Misty’s. Hot off the heels of I Love You Honeybear, which I believe will go down as one of the best albums of the decade, Father John Misty’s “Ballerina’s Reprise” pales in comparison. Against Honeybear’s outstandingly witty and sardonic lyrics, “I wrote a song where we act like adults/Oh well, it’s never changed/Let’s keep on keepin’ on” lacks subtlety. While it’s probably unfair to compare We Fall with Honeybear, it’s equally hard not to, as the albums were released only two weeks apart.

 

But does any album of this nature need to flow as a complete narrative? It’s not like any Mark Ronson or late-era Santana album ever did. Records like Version or Supernatural don’t have the central heartbreak narrative that We Fall does, and therefore, it’s much easier to separate individual songs like “Valerie” or “Smooth” than it is for almost any track fromHaynie’s debut. Pop albums are rarely meant to be listened to as a whole, but records like We Fall, even with the high number of famous collaborators, demand to be taken more seriously.

 

Full of strings and beautiful production, We Fall is definitely a solid listen, with several flashes of brilliance like “Falling Apart.” However, the puzzling inclusions of Nate Ruess and Randy Newman’s collaborations drag the album down as a whole, serving as more of a distraction from We Fall’s overall flow than as meaningful contributions to the album’s central narrative. —STEVEN EDELSTONE

 

We Fall is available now on Interscope Records! You can purchase it through iTunes here.

 

  

 

Image via Interscope Records

Ms. Lauryn Hill At Rough Trade In Brooklyn Was Well Worth The Wait

 

Last night marked the first of Ms. Lauryn Hill's four (currently) scheduled New York shows of her intimate Small Axe: Acoustic Performance Series. The New Jersey native kept her fans at the sold-out show waiting well past the 8pm open doors, which audience members spent huddled in the main room of the Williamsburg record store/venue/cafe, Rough Trade. Hill didn't grace the stage until about 11:30pm.

Prior to her set, Hill fans were shown a gravely serious short film, narrated by Hill herself focusing on violence and Mozambique, followed by an oddly timed "warm up DJ" who attempted to get the crowd smiling again by spinning 80s and 90s disco/funk hits.

Finally, Hill picked up her guitar and began the show. A survey of the crowd revealed an even mix of career-long fans reverently bobbing their heads, neighborhood lookie-loos Googling who they had just spent over $100 to see, hard-to-watch dates attempting to bump and grind to extremely heavy-subject songs, and a security guard who passed his time by making paper roses and handing them out to any girl unlucky enough to make eye contact.

Lauryn, whose last original full-length, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, came out in 1998, played for two hours, resulting in an actually stunning run through of her solo staples, as well as old favorites from her time spent in Fugees. An obvious perfectionist, she often got derailed by fixating on the sound quality, or giving various directions to her band, but it didn't take away from the show nearly as much as you could tell she thought it did.

Before closing the night she told the crowd she was going to try and figure out a way to invite everyone back so they could experience the show as it should be experienced. I got the sense that no one there felt that any improvements needed to be made, but would gladly take her up on her offer none the less...perhaps with less of wait time, Ms. Hill?

At one point towards the end of the evening a man affectionately shouted, "I can cross this off my bucket list." To which Lauryn responded with "You're too young to have a bucket list."

If you missed Lauryn last night, you can catch one of her other upcoming shows:

SMALL AXE: ACOUSTIC PERFORMANCE SERIES DATES

2/20  New York, NY           Highline

2/23  New York, NY           Highline

2/25  New York, NY           Blue Note (early and late show)

 

@WolfieVibes 

 

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