Feb 25, 2014 5:03PM
Shot by Dana Boulos and talking love, loss and Bellingen.
A few years ago I was at a gig in Melbourne. The song I'll Kill Her by sexy French singer Soko had just come out, and I was quite a fan. I like French people, and I could also relate to the angsty lyrics. I imagined I'd probably get along with Soko if I met her in real life. I was several beers into my night when my friend dragged me off to a face-painting booth at the back of the club. I was watching her get a lion painted on her face when the coquettish melody of a French accent tickled my drunken ears. "Ess-cooz me, can you tell me where iz ze bass-room?" I turned around. Nothing. Then I looked down, and there was Soko staring up at me with her big, wild brown eyes.
I tried to play it cool as I gave her helpful directions. She pulled a confused face, so I repeated by directions with extra hand gestures. She still wasn't getting it, so I offered to walk her there, but she declined. So I simply pointed left. "Sank you" she said, and walked away in the opposite direction. "Hey!" I called out. "Where are you going? The toilet is that way." I pointed the way again. The wind in the club changed. She walked back up to me, with purpose. "If you HAFF to know, I need to change my tampon. So I'm going to get one from my bag before I use ze toilet, if zats okay wiss you." Dumbfounded, I sat down in the face painter's chair. When he asked me what I wanted on my face, the power of speech returned: "a bloody tampon, please."
A few years have now passed and Soko's adorable, creative pursuits are gaining her newfound fans. Being a past antagonist and current fan, I jumped at the chance to interview my favourite French singer.
Claire Hanrahan: What are your top three career highlights?
Soko: Getting the part of Augustine in Alice Winocour's movie, and getting an award for best actress for it. Playing a sold out show at Union Chapel in London when my first record I Thought I Was An Alien came out. Making my new record with Ross Robinson, that's pretty heavenly. He pushes me to be the best of myself always. I'm so happy to be making this record right now, it's never felt so right to be recording before.
Do you have a muses? If so, who and why?
I think every person I've ever been in love with remains my muse for infinity. I'm always inspired by new people too, but some are here to stay, and keep on inspiring me years after. The number one muse must be Keaton Henson — he will forever fill my heart with poetry. My new record is a lot about my ex-girlfriend Clara Deshayes. All my songs are asking for her to take me back. Also, I wrote a lot of songs for Ariel Pink. He's always so inspiring, we make music together too, write together, and that's always so easy and very inspired. But my biggest inspiration is always what happens in my dreams. This new record is called My Dreams Dictate My Reality.
Do you think being miserable makes for better art, or do you create better when you're happy?
Am I ever happy? I like the idea of happiness...but i think I'm pretty self complacent in my own little victim role that needs to feel like shit to write. I feel like I hit rock bottom and then write songs about that experience. That's pretty much what's going on in my life right now, so. I write a lot. And I never know if my life falls appart BECAUSE I make it, BECAUSE I need to challenge myself to write, or if it's because I'm actually kind of doomed!
Where is your favourite place in the whole world to sing?
Church. Any churches. Actually any holy places, places with high energy, quiet places, humbling places.
Do you find acting and singing equally fulfilling?
Absolutely! I'm very commited in anything I decide to put my heart into. When I decide to take on a movie, I'm 100% there. I need to give everything to it and come back home exhausted from it and my heart empty — serve a story, a director, recharge my battery sleeping, wake up and make art again. With music, I make music that is soo deeply personal and vital to me there's no other feeling like finishing a song, it is the utmost creative achievement for me.
If you had to give three pieces of advice to someone entering the music industry, what would they be?
- Only do it if it's VITAL for you, otherwise don't 'enter the music industry.'
- Make music that YOU love, that makes YOU feel good.
- ONLY if it's real and pure from you, will it touch other's heart as deep as you intend it.
What is your favourite part of a woman's body?
Uh...the whole package? What's not my favorite part, should be the question! I mean, I'm quite obsessed with butts, but also lips, 'cause I love women's kisses so much.
What is your approach to writing - do you have a process?
I lock myself in a safe place, let insomnia take place for days and be so exhausted that it's almost like you're on drugs. You get so vulnerable when you're sleep deprived. Then I sit by my big Farfisa organ, or play my little 71' Mustang bass with lots of chorus, really loud and it all comes out, so violently, so fast, that every thought that was boiling in my head and needed to come out for quite some time, would just be right there on paper — all done in five minutes, with all melodies, and all the parts of the song, and all the arrangements of other instruments in my head.
Do you prefer French or English? Why?
I don't have favourites. I was born in France and grew up there, so French is very much attached to who I am and somehow to my past. Now, I've been living in English speaking countries for over six years, so I feel like this is more natural for me to speak/write/sing/express feelings in English.
Where is your favourite place in Australia?
After my last Oz tour about five or six years ago, I stayed at a commune in Bellingen for about ten days. It was the most magical experience of my life. I went swimming naked everyday, eating organic vegetables that we picked from the garden, it was pretty magical. Also, I'm absolutely in love with Byron Bay. I took my very first surf lesson there. And I'm obviously completely in love with Melbourne. I would live there in a heart beat if Melbourne was in the US! Haha. Also, I'm pretty obsessed with the Australian accent too, I have a lot of Aussie friends in LA. I really think Australia is my favorite country in the whole entire world.
Photos: Dana Boulous
Fashion: Amelian Kashiro Hamilton
Hair: Daniel Moon
Makeup: Kali Kennedy
Shot in the 'Jim Morrison' room at the Alta Cienega Motel.