Soko – The Cat Came Back

Photography:
Olga Ush
Styling:
Stefania Chekalina
Words:
Gemma Lacey

Some artists are simply unforgettable. Soko, for example, is one that stands out for many reasons. The last time we shot her, she requested a bunch of Persian kittens which we found by way of a cat breeder who was also a gynaecologist, resulting in a shoot that went down in our books as an all-time favourite. Hearing she was back with a new record, we jumped at the chance to interview her and see what magic she’s conjured up with her new record “Feeling Feelings”.

Simone Rocha dress

The Marc Jacobs sweater

GL: Hi Soko, this is your second time talking to PUSS PUSS, do you remember our first shoot?
S: I do and that’s my favourite shoot I’ve ever done. I mean it was my FAVOURITE! I love those pictures. I look at them and I’m like ‘I miss my hair, I miss the way I was dressed’. I have FOMO of my look that was not styled. It was so fun, we just had kittens and shot with my friend.
GL: I heard the new record was inspired by all the sex you didn’t have whilst making it – can you tell us more about that?
S: I wanted to be celibate whilst recording, and in my life, period, for a little bit, and then I decided it would last until I was done with the record. Suddenly, I could reevaluate my worth for myself, the work I’m doing and how I’m living my life, and not measure this based on what someone thinks of me romantically and if they’re available enough. It felt liberating and empowering, and I realised I don’t need someone to show me my worth, I can feel it. I was focused on my work and going to make music with my friends every day and it deepened my work relationships and my interactions in the studio. I was more focused and less distracted by noise.
GL: How long was the process of making this?
S: A year and a half.
GL: A lot has changed since we last spoke, including the fact that you’ve become a mother, would you say that you’re also in a space of self-discovery?
S: I think I’ve always been interested in bettering myself as a person because I think we all should. I think there’s a lot of focus on a healthy diet and body and nice skin and beauty, but there’s still very little talk about mental health and, to me, it’s work. It is like brushing your teeth and washing your hands, there are no such things for checking in to make sure your mental health is OK. There’s no routine for that, other than the obvious: talking to your therapist regularly.
In my own family, when I say I have therapy, they’re like “Why? You’re not feeling good?”, and for me, it’s not about that. I want to consistently feel good, and at least have the tools and be prepared so that if anything shitty happens, I know how to react in the best way possible. With understanding and compassion and not drama and by being erratic. But, there’s still a stigma about talking about feelings.

Molly Goddard dress, Soko’s own top

GL: Do you think that’s a generational thing? Or more a case of people’s attitude?
S: Maybe a little bit generational, I feel like a lot of people don’t care about the possibility of having better communication or improving their relationships, with their family, coworker, their lover, or friends. To me, I want to make effort into being a great teammate, friend and put work into being a great romantic partner and to be a great mother, daughter, and sister. It is work; some people are born with the ability and understand it all and manage it well, but I feel like we could all use little tools. Supplementing your life and stopping the guilt and shame cycle around emotions and learning how to have better reactions in hard situations.
GL: How have you managed with the emotional challenges of quarantine? Have you found any fun ways to cope or be creative?
S: Well, I’m with a baby 24/7 so I don’t get to have much time for myself. It can be exhausting being around a toddler 6 am till 8 pm. I’m running after him all day telling him, “I don’t want you to touch this, because it’s dangerous”, and “you have to mind the steps”, and “don’t put this in your mouth. Please don’t drink out of the glass that can break!”. It’s non-stop making sure that this little creature can stay alive. So I don’t have much time to be creative, I’m lucky my girlfriend and I share childcare during the day so we can both find little moments doing our own thing. Sometimes that’s yoga or dance class, or writing a little bit or taking a nap but it’s so short, 1 to 2 hours and by the time you do the dishes, tidy the toys and pee, there’s not much time left.
GL: You did find time to do a shoot at home for Gucci in a blanket fort – how did you find time to do that?
S: They asked me to do something that was inspiring for the Gucci community and I’ve not done anything creative, they said you can do a song or a live performance, but I haven’t even been able to touch an instrument in so long, so the most creative things I do are making forts and reading books, making a world with toy animals.
GL: When you were talking about your video for ‘The Magician’ with Gia Coppola, you said sitting in your kid’s room was where you started to get ideas. Was it fun to spark ideas from Indigo’s world?
S: Yes, that video was all very thought out, but when we started the only thing I knew before I met up with Gia, was that I wanted to use that Gucci cape for my magician costume and I wanted it to be paired with Sailor Moon hair, for anime-style doll queen styling. Gia was like “I’m totally down”. We wanted to have part of the video as me being alone in a big house – which is very topical now with isolation and not knowing what to do with myself – and we had plush toys from Indigo, so we made big life-size versions of those, which were super crazy and fun. It was a week before quarantine, so that was my last shoot too.
GL: How did you decide which track to release first from the record?
S: I never know what to put out first, so I just go with what the label says, but I thought these were good ideas and the concepts for the videos came very naturally and so it all made sense to me.

Molly Goddard dress, Soko’s own top

GL: Do you have favourite tracks from the record?
S: Yes, my two favourites are “Now What?” and “Hurt Me With Your Ego”.
GL: What is it about those that resonate with you?
S: “Hurt Me With Your Ego” goes back to therapy and the fact that when you’re in a fight with someone, it’s their ego vs yours, and everything hurtful that gets said is ego-based. So if you’ve made a smart choice and selected someone who’s a lovable person and they say things they shouldn’t, it’s probably just ego. It’s great when you have kids: you’re reminded you can’t have an ego and now being in a relationship, my girlfriend is not very ego-driven. She’s seriously an angel and so good at communicating, she’s constantly teaching me how to be more open. 
During quarantine, another journalist asked me, “It’s been tough on couples in quarantine, how have you coped?”, but we’re really lucky because the past six months, we’ve been through a rough time, with house problems and health problems – I broke my foot and Indigo got bitten by a dog and had to have plastic surgery on his face – it was a time where we were clashing with people and being conned by contractors and then within a few months we came out of it. After this, we got back to our house and we all got Coronavirus. We had such a hard time, but there are people in much worse situations and we love each other and are good with each other. The fact that we’re still together after all this is such a massive victory.
Also, back to the song, I think I’d dated a slew of super narcissists that were so extremely charming and knew how to reel you in and put you in their world, so the song was about how to not enter a situation with your ego when someone’s attacking you with theirs.
GL: You’re originally from France, which is a place that embodies passion and culture – how does LA compare for you? Do you find it inspiring?
S: Yes, I find it really easy to bring up an idea here, then suddenly it sparks something for everyone and you’re just doing it before you even have time to think. Which is very particular to this city, even though some people are flaky here. Once you find the right people, it’s very easy to make things happen.
GL: Have you seen anyone doing anything inspiring during quarantine?
S: Yes, I’m friends with Lou Doillon and she’s been reading poetry and books on her Instagram. Sometimes her mum, Jane Birkin, guests, she does that at 5 pm French time. It’s very sweet. Mostly what I’ve found inspiring is Ryan Heffington’s Sweatfest. It is THE best. I’m so scared he’ll stop that – I record every class. We put Indigo to nap then Stella and I do a dance class together. It’s added a lot of humour in our relationship because we don’t get a chance to get loose. We used to be silent and shy and stiff and then after class, I asked “Why are you not having fun with me?” and she told me she felt self-conscious and now we do it and we make fun of each other. When he does the freestyle, we give each other prompts – “Now you’re Spiderman or a hippopotamus”. Because Stella is shyer, it’s great for her to see it as a game, I can see a difference in her and her having more fun with it.

Runway Marc Jacobs top

Simone Rocha dress

GL: Speaking of happiness what message do you want people to feel from listening to this record?
S: I’d like them to feel a sense of unity and that they’re not alone. Hopefully, some stuff that’s happened in my life resonates with them, so they can find similarities. A sense of hope, that what I wrote about – about what happened in the past – can make a better future. Once we learn how to put words on our feelings, then we can move past it.
GL: What are you most excited to do once quarantine ends?
S: I really miss swimming in the ocean. I love water, I’m a water sign and so is my son and my girlfriend, so we have a very emotional house and we all love the water. I really would love to have a beach day with friends. I don’t love the beach, I don’t love the sun, I just bring an umbrella and hide in the shade, but I love swimming so much.
GL: Speaking of play, there’s always a lot of theatre to your looks for your videos, what way do you enjoy expressing yourself most through fashion and style?
S: That side of me is very different. I don’t wear makeup in my everyday life at all. I just do sunscreen and moisturiser. I didn’t even have a hairbrush but because Indigo has curly hair, I can use his. I’m very low maintenance and a hermit, and I’m a homebody and an introvert. I work and travel so much it’s unusual for me to be home. So when I do work, I put a different hat on; sometimes I wear crazy clothes, red on my eyes, I want to look more goth, I don’t like girly makeup so it has to be somewhat androgynous. I love playing with colours because they make me happy!
GL: What do you think has helped you deal with quarantine? Is it having indigo to focus on?
S: Being a mother has changed a lot of my relationships, which is great because now I only have so much time for other people, so the time I have is more valuable and important, and I have to cut to the chase and go straight into what’s really important. It changed my friendships a lot, now I have more mum friends and a bigger community of super badass women who have been either very helpful, supportive, or a great resource to me. It’s given me more stability and routine. Routine is a baby’s best friend, so I wake up at a set time, eat at set times, and then plan things for myself during his naps. I’ve never had a sense of home or routine before. It might seem a boring word for people who’ve had it their whole life but I’ve never had it. I’ve been working since I was sixteen, travelling, and being displaced so finding a sense of routine is what I’ve been craving my entire life.
GL: What message would you like our readers to take away about this strange time we’re all in?
S: We’re all in this together. I find it humbling that we’re all being affected by the same thing. I hope this crisis will help people be more compassionate. Even having to always wash your hands and wear a face mask, it makes us all aware of being more sanitary, and I’m glad this is being established. I can’t wait until we don’t have to cross the street to avoid people and for the time when the fear of others goes away. Hopefully, we’ll come out of this knowing who are true friends are, who we want to see, hug and spend time with. I feel like it’s going to reframe what’s vital and important.

Click to check out Soko’s playlist

MadeWorn Grateful Dead t-shirt, Gucci jacket

@Sokothecat
Photography: Olga Ush
Styling: Stefania Chekalina
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