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

by BUST Magazine

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

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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