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The Kaleidoscopic Allure of Soccer Mommy

Sophie Allison discusses working with Daniel Lopatin and refining her sound on Sometimes, Forever

soccer mommy sometimes forever interview
Soccer Mommy, photo by Sophie Hur/Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    It was the final day of February in 2020 when Soccer Mommy released Color Theory, her brilliantly crafted, exquisite sophomore album. Little did she know it would become an indie staple of the following months’ ensuing lockdowns, especially with darker lines like, “Cause I cling to the dark of my room/ And the days thin me out/ Or just burn me straight through” on “Circle The Drain,” or, “I guess the lesson’s learned, I’ve barely left my room in the past week/ And I’ve got my guard up trying all the time to stay clean/ But I don’t feel anything, I don’t feel anything” on “Bloodstream.”

    Of course, Soccer Mommy — the project of Nashville-based singer and songwriter Sophie Allison — had no way of predicting that the vulnerable confines of her writing would reach us as we, too, were confined, and that the sweet surrender of Color Theory would indeed take on a much larger meaning throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, Color Theory proved that Allison was in more command of her songwriting than ever before, and her unique combination of shoegaze, dream pop, and psychedelic indie rock was a magical antidote to the darkest times.

    Now, with her third full length Sometimes, Forever, arriving this Friday (June 24th), Soccer Mommy is back with yet another attempt to translate the darkness into something spellbindingly beautiful. There are a few different ingredients to Sometimes, Forever that distinguish it from Soccer Mommy’s earlier efforts; for one, Allison teamed up with super-producer and electronic extraordinaire Daniel Lopatin — AKA Oneohtrixpointnever — and the resulting album is her most expansive and experimental work yet.

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    Lopatin’s eerie, textural palette lends itself perfectly to Soccer Mommy’s evocative songwriting. Lead single “Shotgun” takes an already undeniable Soccer Mommy song and adds a hazy level of unease, bringing the idyllic to a place of vague danger and confusion.

    Then there’s the chopping, fascinatingly fractured “Unholy Affliction,” which is one of Soccer Mommy’s most synth-forward experiments yet, and demonstrates that her pairing with Lopatin can lead to a wildly new and hypnotic path. According to Allison, she jumped at the idea of working with him: “I’m a big fan of his, and when my label sent over a list of possible producers and I saw his name on it, I was like, ‘Woah, that’s crazy, that would be amazing.'”

    She goes on to praise not just his unique style of production, but the strengths he offered behind the boards. “In my mind, I think he’s just an amazing arranger and composer, and he knows how to make special moments in songs,” Allison says. “I love the types of sounds and the sonics in general that he uses. Not only in his music, but when he works on somebody else’s stuff.”

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    Luckily, the two found that they had many similar influences, so it was a perfect match in Allison’s eyes: “I wanted him to go crazy a little bit. I didn’t want him to come in and hold back and not want to do things that were weird. I wanted him to do things that were weird.”

    Allison references “Unholy Affliction” in particular as one of the bolder products on Sometimes, Forever. “I did want it to be dark and mechanical, but I couldn’t have imagined what we could’ve come up with — but also, it turned out exactly how I wanted,” she says. “I feel like [Lopatin] took it to the next level; he brought so much dark, evil energy and this kind of fantasy, magical ambiance… I think he just pushed everything to really cool extremes.”

    Those “extremes” that Allison mentions are at the heart of Sometimes, Forever. Throughout, there is an air of both darkness and lightness, of hope and futility. Soccer Mommy has embraced these opposites before on her albums, but Sometimes, Forever — as its oxymoronic title suggests — leans in harder than ever before.

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    Allison agrees, noting that “we really wanted to play with those opposing ideas battling back and forth, but also coexisting.” She brings up the song “Darkness Forever,” another eerie and unsettling highlight, as a guidepost for reflecting these concepts. “[That song] is very dark, but then we have this bridge — which was also Dan’s idea — that goes into this lift, that feels suddenly like a reprieve with a wash of brightness.”

    It’s fitting that Soccer Mommy and Sometimes, Forever revolves a lot around the hazy dynamics of shoegaze — after all, there’s no better way of integrating bitterness into sweetness by cranking the reverb high and bathing guitar-addled melodies in atmospherics. With the exception of “Unholy Affliction,” guitar is still Allison’s weapon of choice on the album, and her commitment to making guitar lines and chord combinations feel like the first warm rays of the morning sun is, frankly, irresistible.

    She does, however, cite “Darkness Forever” as her favorite of the bunch to play live: “It’s really fun, and there’s nothing like that heaviness, and you get to actually play it and it’s loud as hell and you’re all fuzzed out… it just feels great.”

    Another highlight, “Don’t Ask Me,” feels like Soccer Mommy’s shoegaze thesis, bursting with energy and life (and volume), but still resigned to a patient, dreamy glow. “Don’t Ask Me” in particular features one of the best drum performances on the album, and Allison is quick to credit drummer Rollum Haas for bringing such dynamic drum parts to Sometimes, Forever: “The drums don’t have that sound that a lot of indie rock and pop is doing right now, where it’s kind of dead and punchy — there’s more air to them. The room sounded great, the drums were tuned nicely by Rollum, and we got a sound that really reflected the feel of the kit.”

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    Indeed, Allison’s influences as a songwriter and arranger live in many eras, but a great deal of them feel inspired directly by alt rock of the nineties. According to Allison, she and Lopatin had an ongoing chain of text messages sharing different songs that would go on to inspire Sometimes, Forever. “The sonics are a collaboration of a million little influences that you can think of from song to song,” she says, calling to mind the work of Smashing Pumpkins, The Smiths, The Cure, Portishead, Black Sabbath, and of course, shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine as major influences.

    The latter act is a huge figure for Sophie Allison in particular; towards the end of our conversation, I ask that if she could hypothetically be a support act for any band or artist’s headlining show, who would it be? Without much thought, she answers: My Bloody Valentine. “I feel like that’s just like God in a sense, and not only that, but it’s not someone who is touring commonly, so it would be really special playing those shows and have your ears bleed every night!” she says.

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