The breakout indie rock star shares a new video for ‘Cool’
Just over two years ago, Sophie Allison was writing melodic bedroom rock ahead of a move from her native Nashville to New York to study music business at NYU. During that time, she started to find a burgeoning fanbase on Bandcamp for her wistful demos under the name Soccer Mommy, which chronicled the harsh realities of the teenage experience. During her tenure at NYU, she began playing live shows around Brooklyn, building a presence in the DIY scene, and it wasn’t long until she caught the ears of Fat Possum (the influential independent label who’ve released records by Wavves, Youth Lagoon, and Lissie) and her life changed.
Still aged just 20, Allison is reeling from her rise to indie-rock stardom. On her recently released debut album Clean, she self-reflects, translating the loneliness and crushing disappointment that comes with being a teenager into intimate musings – a confessional sound that similarly launched the careers of Mitski and Julien Baker. However, age aside, Allison believes her music is universally relatable. “I think it resonates with people because it’s about struggling to be open, honest and take risks: struggling with your own identity,” she explains. “Everybody feels that at some point in their lives.”
Take for example her latest single “Cool”, a raucous track where Allison lilts about what it means to be the “cool girl.” Despite its initial appeal, her pursuit of the “cool girl” trope ends up creating her own unhappiness. Instead, she finds more solace in being herself. In Allison’s video for the track, premiering below, she explores “the depth beyond the image of coolness.” Playing with the idea of cool, Allison blossoms into different versions of herself, all the while interspersed with animated ice cream sandwiches, pot leaves, and crayons. She becomes one of the guys, clad in aviators and a leather jacket; a rocker who flaunts fuschia wing-tip eyeliner and a Hot Topic necklace; and a heartbreaker who chops off the hair of a Ken doll, ultimately revealing that “cool” doesn’t mean just one thing.
Your life has been a whirlwind since last summer. You’re one of the hottest acts in indie rock right now. How did you get there?
Soccer Mommy: Hopefully by releasing a record people liked! I guess there’s been some really great press and tours too. We haven’t really stopped touring really since July. It’s been pretty non-stop. Playing all the time keeps you on everybody’s mind. The press has been really great – I think people are really interested in what I’m going to be doing in the future and what I’m doing now.
Your songs are about the teenage experience, but are universally relatable. Why do you think your record resonated with people so much?
Soccer Mommy: I think it resonates with people because it’s about struggling to be open, honest, and take risks – struggling with your own identity. Everybody feels that at some point in their lives.
“I think the album is this struggle of wanting to be this person, and realising you are being this person but you’re not happy” – Soccer Mommy
You sing about what being the ‘cool girl’ really means. How did you want to represent the song visually?
Soccer Mommy: I wanted it to be a really fun video. I just wanted it to be this idea of a cool girl – being cool and this idealisation of what it means to be cool and what cool looks like. I also wanted it to be me. I think the album is this struggle of wanting to be this person, and realising you are being this person but you’re not happy. It’s about the struggle of wanting to be cold, mysterious, and cool and not being that. It shows both sides of the story – the depth beyond the image of coolness.
I’m assuming you’ve struggled with this yourself.
Soccer Mommy: Of course. I think all girls do struggle with image, despite not knowing what’s going on with other people. I think there’s a huge focus in the world on how they look – on your clothes, hair, and make-up – and I think it causes a lot of insecurity and romanticisation of other people who have what you desire to be.
What is your songwriting process like? How did Clean come together?
Soccer Mommy: It took me about a year to finish all of them. It was pretty gradual throughout the year. I was always writing and there are tonnes of songs I wrote in that period, but these songs were the most important to me. Usually it starts with me writing a chord progression or a lick. Then I start with melody and lyrics at the same, just trying stuff out and then writing the lyrics after I have a solid melody.
In the music industry, newer artists are susceptible to exploitation. For example, Grimes recently talked about signing bad contracts when she was younger. How have you protected yourself as a new artist?
Soccer Mommy: Just be cautious of anything that could screw you over in the end. I read over all the contracts I sign – I have a lawyer now, which is a big help. When I signed my first record deal, I brought it over to my lawyer to look over. Most other stuff is thinking about whether you want to do something or not. Anything else that’s not contractually obligated, you have to decide whether or not you want to do something. I think I’ve just tried to be cautious when signing something specifically – just have a good team behind me to not get me screwed over.
“I’ve always been the type in a relationship to give too much and not speak out about problems I had... The record was coming to terms with (that)” – Soccer Mommy
How have you been handling the hype around your success as an independent artist?
Soccer Mommy: It’s really weird because I’m just a person, and people kind of forget that sometimes – less people in the industry, more fans. It becomes like you’re a public figure. People don’t think about the way they say things to you and how it’s creepy or not okay. I figure a lot of women artists deal with this more than men, but people being in love with you or thinking you’re so gorgeous. It’s really weird and can be uncomfortable. At the same time, it’s really great to have people be in love with your music and be supportive of it.
Something you sing a lot about on the record is being in a relationship and having someone control you. What was it like writing about that and sharing it with the world?
Soccer Mommy: It wasn’t that hard for me. I haven’t had a terrible relationship, but I’ve always been the type in a relationship to give too much and not speak out about problems I had or problems that were bothering me. I just wouldn’t stand up for myself in any way if I was upset about something. That was something that frustrated me for a while. It was something I didn’t want to ever do again. The record was coming to terms with it and maturing in that way where I had to get better with communicating my feelings instead of being hurt by things and never saying anything about it. It wasn’t hard to share with the world because I was already doing it in my life. I was already trying to be this new person.
Soccer Mommy is currently touring North America