French singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actress Soko has released her third LP, Feel Feelings; a dreamy, effervescent and searing exploration of “the full rainbow experience.” The 12-track album surveys a wide range of themes and feelings from authenticity to fear of irrelevance, domestic violence, self-love and ghosting.
“This is why I make music: to help sort through the rough emotions,” the musician says. Soko started working on the production of the record after an intensive week-long retreat at the Hoffman Institute, an organization specialising in psychological de-conditioning to eliminate negative behavioural patterns. “I’ve always been really into therapy. I’ve never had issues with talking about any emotions, but this learning process at Hoffman made it so that there were suddenly even more answers showing themselves to me.”

Feel Feelings smells like all the sex I didn’t have while making it.” Soko wrote all the songs during her self-imposed break from physical intimacy. “I love diving fully into creative projects. I love having big ideas and seeing them through,” she says. Breaking dating patterns (Replaceable Heads), studying the melancholic void after a break-up (Blasphémie), bewitching straight girls into conversion (Oh To Be A Rainbow) and giving a voice to the deepest fears (Now Wha); the album is a sonic exploration of all the complexities of life, all of its emotions and colours. Tiptoeing between consciousness and dream, “Feel Feelings is asking you to dim the lights a little and relax.”
Your album Feel Feelings is “the full rainbow experience,” exploring the wide range of themes from authenticity to fear of irrelevance and domestic violence. Were there any moments of doubt about putting out the album that was so personal to your experiences?
I never have any doubts about writing things that are personal, raw, and authentic. Even if it hurts. This is why I make music: to help sort through the rough emotions. So it always needs to be as deep and real and detailed in the writing for it to feel like I’ve fully expressed myself in the song and I can move on from that situation/emotion. I mostly listen to music that is very heartfelt and sad. That’s always what I lean towards in my taste of music anyway.
You have mentioned in an interview that you can’t “compartmentalise,” that if you are putting yourself to the service of a project you need to fully commit. Yet apart from being a singer, songwriter, and actor, you have directed your own music videos. Is it difficult to be changing your creative hats all the time?
I love diving fully into creative projects. I love having big ideas and seeing them through no matter what the medium is. I feel like my overall hat is of a storyteller. That really puts it all in one category, and then people feel better about it.
I love writing songs and doing that deep inner work to tell my stories and remember what I felt at all different stages of my life. I love acting because I love having the opportunity to become someone else and be of service to tell someone else’'s story, work with a team, and remove myself from my own life for a second. And I love directing music videos because it always feels impossible, but then seeing it come to life, and exist in the world forever is the best feeling!
The album was conceived and created after your intensive, week-long retreat at the Hoffman Institute. How has the experience affected your creative process? Was it easier to delve into your emotions and assess your experiences that laid the foundation for the album?
I've always been really into therapy. I think taking care of your mental health is just as (if not more) important as taking care of your body, working out, putting nice cream on your face, and so on! So, bettering the self – and understanding myself and others more – has always been some sort of a life purpose for me. There is always so much to unravel.
My week of therapy at Hoffman was completely life-changing and gave me a chance to crack open a lot of preconceived ideas about myself, and helped me find more self-love and feel more independent. I’ve never had issues with talking about any emotions, but this learning process at Hoffman made it so that there was suddenly even more answers showing themselves to me. And it did make me realise that I didn't need to value myself based on other people's validation. I didn't need to be romantically involved with someone to feel strong and creative. Therefore, I remained celibate the whole time I was making the album to keep all of my energy focused on making music, diving hard in it, and strengthening my relationship with myself and all the people I was working with.
In previous cases, you had written your entire records before starting the recording process, but with Feel Feelings you started recording without a concrete plan, just the snippets of ideas. Do you think the dreamy, effervescent quality that runs throughout the album is due to this approach?
That's true. I wanted it to be more in the present, captured raw, fresh, as soon as it is written, on the first try! I had a very clear idea that I wanted the record to be slower, sexier, softer, sunnier, but still very vulnerable. I had the song Let Me Adore You that I wrote on guitar right before I started recording. That’s what made me start to think about what I wanted the album to sound like. 
In this album, you collaborated with Patrick Wimberly, who has also worked with you on Sweet Sound of Ignorance. In what ways has he contributed to your sound?
Actually, Sweet Sound of Ignorance was supposed to be a part of the record, but then it took so much longer to finish and I had a baby, and then it took forever to release, so we let Sweet Sound be a single! Patrick is really the easiest person to work with. He followed my lead in terms of all I knew I wanted for sounds: chorus-y/dreamy guitar hooks, sexy, warm, groovy bass lines, dry drums, and lots of synths… and he made it coherent from song to song. He understood what I was going for and made my record sound a lot better than anything I’d ever done before.
The final recording of Quiet Storm references the take from a rehearsal room, which gives the track a more authentic, raw texture. Was it a predetermined decision to keep, in your words “all the laziness and the mistakes” in the recording?
Yeah. I couldn’t capture the track; I had tried to record too many times but I kept comparing it to the feeling of this terrible recording of a rehearsal I liked so much more. So Patrick thought, fine, let’s record everything over the rehearsal as if we're playing all live to it and with it – and it really worked. It was shocking how well it worked! I was so stoked to finally hear this song as I’d always wanted to hear it, with all the vulnerability of playing it without really knowing it yet.
The album includes your first-ever song written in French. What urged you to write Blasphémie, a song about negative space and melancholy feelings in French?
Ha, yeah, negative space – good way to put it. This whole story happened when I was shooting a movie in Paris and I had a horrible breakup with my girlfriend in the middle of it. I had tried to write songs about it so many times but it always felt cheesy and not accurate to exactly how I felt. But then, on one of those sleepless nights, I started writing it and it all came out so easily in French. And it was the right amount of longing and eroticism and poetic filth! (Laughs).
What was it like working with Gia Coppola on creating the fantastical, dreamy world for the music video for Are You A Magician??
Gia was a dream collaborator. We came up with the idea while playing in my baby’s room. And it all came together so naturally. She made me laugh so much on set. She captured exactly the two worlds I wanted to be in: the little girl dreaming of this fantasy partner, and the magician character, which sort of knows this is all a joke…
If the world was not facing the global health crisis, what might your album release have looked like?
(Laughs) It’s hard to say, but probably, a big release party somewhere fun and colourful and all the queers (and non-queers) celebrating! And tons of tour dates with lots of friends!
Because we are, more or less, all confined to our homes during quarantine, do you feel pressure to work on more songs, or are you letting yourself relax after the album’s rollout?
I’m doing anything but relaxing! I'm drowning in album promo and running after my toddler all day long! (Laughs) So, sadly, I haven't had a second to work on new music just yet. But… soon, soon!
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