Soccer Mommy Interview

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WHEN I FIRST heard the name Soccer Mommy, before ever hearing Sophie Allison, I expected something completely different. I expected something old and I was totally wrong. What I heard blew me away. Her voice fits perfectly with the times and her songrwiting is amazing. I recently got to direct a music video for the song “Circle the Drain” and the entire day I was amazed at how cool she was, skating with Sean Malto, Curren Caples, Jake Anderson and Nicole Hause. We might just have to call her Skater Mommy now. —Atiba Jefferson

SM1Photo: Atiba

Where are you from?
I’m from Nashville. I was born in Switzerland but I left when I was two. 

When did you start playing music?
I started playing music when I was five or six. I got a toy guitar from a benefit show at my brother’s preschool from this band called Riders in the Sky. It was signed by them and I just started playing it a lot. My parents got irritated with this toy-guitar sound in the house, so I started taking guitar lessons and got a shitty little acoustic. I just never really stopped. I kind of kept going forever.

What were some of your early influences?
Kind of a range of stuff because I was so young when I got into music that it was stuff that my dad liked—Springsteen and The Who or just classic-rock stuff. I really loved that kind of stuff. I don’t like it as much now. It didn’t all stick with me, but some of it did, like The Who. I still like Springsteen. But I basically wanted to hear anything. It didn’t really matter what music was actually being played. Then pop stuff from when I was a kid, like the era of pop girls doing this alternative-rock thing. Hilary Duff is a big one. That was my first concert. I even got to touch her hand. Also, stuff like Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson.

What about country music? Did that ever play a part?
No, I was never a big country fan. As I got older, I remember when that first Taylor Swift album came out—I had it on my iPod Nano. I loved that album. Then when she got big and I was 12 or 13, I was like, She’s so not cool. I’m cooler than that. I eventually came back to loving it, obviously. That was definitely an influence on me, too. Also other random songs. It was kind of the era of downloading songs on iTunes, and I had an account so I’d try to find tracks for my new little playlist and put them on my iPod or make a CD for one of my friends. I remember one that I actually had a dream about the other night. It was this song “Leave The Pieces” by The Wreckers. I loved that song and it’s kind of like a country/folk thing from the early 2000s. I don’t know anything else about that group—it’s just that one song. I literally had a dream the other night that I got called up on stage with these random people and they were singing that song but they were singing all the words wrong. I was so confused and it was one of those stage nightmares that I guess performers have where they’re like, This is a disaster and I’m stuck.

Do have those dreams often?
Oh, definitely. There’s a dream I have where I get up on stage and all of a sudden I can’t play guitar. I’m like, Oh my God.

Do you ever get stage fright?
No, I don’t. That’s the weird thing—I don’t really have problems with that. The only time I get really nervous on stage is if for some reason I feel unprepared. Like if we haven’t played in a really long time, sometimes I’ll get a little bit nervous just because of the uncertainty of how it’s going to sound.

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Do you use the same band all the time?
I do but you never know when someone’s going to leave. We’ve had to switch it up quite a few times but currently it feels very steady. The last member to join was last May. That’s the newest addition and everyone else has been—two of them have been with me since 2017 and the keyboard player, Rodrigo, has been with us since December 2018.

What is the writing process like? Do you write everything?
I write the songs and often I’ll write stuff like the bass line if I’m writing a guitar lick because I think those two things are very intertwined. It’s really cool when you have those things work together. I often write some lead guitar parts, too, but once the song’s done and we get in the studio I let the guys make it theirs and do what they want a little bit. Sometimes I have an idea for how the drumbeat needs to go during the verse but do what you want to do. Because I think it’s the best way to get a good band vibe and to not have it be just a bunch of people playing recorded parts.

When did you start Soccer Mommy?
I’m pretty sure it was 2015, because I think it was right around the time when I graduated from high school. I’ve been writing forever but I had never tried to record. I just decided to get a four-track recorder, the lord’s creation. I really just wanted to learn to record and I had all these songs that I was writing and wanted to learn to write other parts outside of just guitar and vocals, produce a little bit. It was summer 2015 when I started and then I think it was probably the end of 2016 when I got my record deal.

When did you start playing live?
I performed a lot—not for Soccer Mommy, because I performed a lot as a kid. I would go on stage and sing my songs when I was eight at school functions or at a coffee shop or something like that. I mean, there’s so many different kinds of chances for kids to play music in Nashville and to put themselves out there a little bit—through your school or through your friends. Sometimes through my guitar teacher who I was taking lessons from. Then in high school I went to an art school. I was in the guitar quartet and the swing band, so we were performing out all the time doing field trips and playing gigs with our teacher.

Do you feel like growing up in Nashville—it being such a music town—helped you in that way?
Yeah, definitely. I think I would be playing music regardless of where I lived because it’s just something that I’ve been driven to do my whole life. But I don’t know if I would have gotten started that early if I hadn’t been around it. I wouldn’t have even known how to get started as a little kid wanting to play music. I would have just listened to it and liked it, but I think I would’ve gotten into it regardless at some point. I definitely would not have had the amount of experience on stage as I did. When I started Soccer Mommy I was already very comfortable on stage.

Did you really think you were going to make a career out of music?
Yeah, I think when I was really young it was all I wanted to do. I was always like, “I’m going to be a musician when I grow up. I’m going to be an artist.” That followed me for awhile. I was always playing and it was always a huge part of my life. When I got into high school I think had a reality check. It was like, Everyone in the world wants to be a fucking musician and I probably won’t be one for a living and that’s okay. In my head I was kind of like, That’s fine. I’m sure I can find something else I like to do that involves writing that won’t bore me. So I kind of focused on stuff like that, thinking about English or something I could get a degree in. Because I was never going to stop playing music. I knew that I was always going to play music and it didn’t matter that much if everyone was hearing it at the time. I just knew that I could always do it. Then I started releasing stuff just for fun in 2015.
Photo: Atiba 
Was it on SoundCloud?
I think I put a couple songs on SoundCloud. There are definitely still a few things that are uploaded there but it was mostly Bandcamp. That’s where I started posting EPs, getting fans from it. That was really just for fun. Then I went to college and I studied English for a year and was gaining this traction online, which was super strange. I was just kind of like, Oh wow, this is giving me a little extra cash. It was great. I really started to wonder like, Oh, is this something I could actually do or be involved in, even if I don’t necessarily make it big as a musician? Is it something that I’d want to do? That’s when I transferred to music business and was going to try that out as a plan B. Very quickly into that year of school, I was like, Wow, okay. I would just really rather not be at school. I just really wanted to keep playing music. I got my record deal with Fat Possum by the end of the first semester.

What did you do differently recording your new album Color Theory?
I think there are a lot of things that are different. It’s still definitely very me, but it’s a lot of change. I kind of delved a lot more into it. For one, I’ve never made a record where I had such a plan around the themes of the album and the visuals that are going to match it—with this three-color thing that is also tied into the idea of decayed videotape or something that’s been disintegrating a little bit over time. Then also I think that the production just kind of matches that idea and is different from a Clean sound or anything else that I recorded myself before because it’s very produced. Not in like and overproduced manner, but it’s got a lot of Easter eggs in it. It’s got a lot of almost conflicting ideas. When it comes through it sounds like it’s got a lot of moments that are really beautiful and then it’s kind of interrupted with noise and disintegrated sounds and things that are a little bit more torn up, I guess.

Did you work with a producer who you normally work with?
Yeah, I worked with Gabe Wax who produced Clean. He’s great. He loves doing these really cool production moments in songs where you have a big moment that just kind of elevates it to another level. Like in the song “Circle the Drain,” it’s a dropout and then it kind of warps back in in this cool way, which is kind of my favorite thing to do—just throw in lots of cool little parts that make the song feel more dynamic, more interesting and surprise you a little bit. It kind of puts you in a certain head space. I love working with him. He definitely helped take it to the next level.

Let’s talk about the music video for “Circle the Drain.” I mean, it’s kind of funny with me being the director. How did that whole thing come about with the concept of the time period and skateboarding being involved?
For this video, I really wanted it to be this early-2000s thing, very Avril Lavigne. I think I actually sent you an Avril Lavigne video as part of the idea, but I really wanted to capture what it was like when I was a little kid watching these types of music videos and being like, Oh that’s so cool. These teens, they’re so cool. Skating was a big part of that because it was obviously huge in the early 2000s. Originally I had wanted it to be a mall video and then we were like, “Waterpark video.” I was like, “That’d be cool.” Then I was like, “What if we got skateboarders in a pool? That would be cool.” Then it turned into a skateboarding waterpark video. It was perfect. It was just this perfect scenario of this fun idea with a great director.
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Aww, thank you.
And obviously we got a bunch of awesome skaters, too.

Yes, we had the best—Sean Malto, Curren Caples, Jake Anderson and Nicole Hause. And the DP was Ty Evans. How was that day and how was the experience working with those skaters?
It was so fun. It was the most fun I’ve ever had making a music video, honestly. Because usually a music video is like eight fucking hours of me standing there singing, being filmed and having to do these awkward little bits for the camera. Everyone else just kind of sits around. I got to do some of that stuff, obviously, because that’s my role for the music video. Then I just got to sit and watch people skateboard for three hours.

Had you seen pro skaters skate like that before?
I had seen people skate. I’ve watched skate videos before and I’ve always thought it was really cool ever since I was a little kid and wanted to learn to skateboard.

Did you ever skate as a kid?
I mildly skated when I was 12, maybe even a little younger. I think the most I could do was an ollie and I would ride around a lot. I love to ride around on a skateboard and go really fast, but I couldn’t do anything beyond an ollie. I couldn’t really skate. I wasn’t a skater, but I always thought it was really cool. I was kind of into it for a little while when I was kid, so it was super awesome to get to watch that.

Nora couldn’t make it but you asked for her. How did you know about her?
I’ve been following her for a little bit on Instagram. She was a fan and I was like, Oh, this cool skater chick is a fan of my music, I guess. I started watching her skating and she’s really great. It was a bummer she couldn’t make it. Hopefully we can do another skate-related video soon.
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