This Queer French Singer Will Make You Cry

Or they’re the worst version of themselves [with you]. Were you ever afraid about being openly queer and in your music or in public life? The script was they’ve just broken up with someone, and they’re like, Oh my God, I’ve never felt like this, you’re my everything and it becomes a very completely codependent relationship. And I was also completely in tune with my emotions and I wanted to pour all of that into my record without any shame or guilt around it. But then on this one, I was like, fuck it. I am experiencing more self love than I ever have. The day my record came out, she wrote me a letter as she made me fresh orange juice and cake for breakfast. I wish I’d grown up with the option of knowing that this is a possibility. That’s not what I need. [I never saw] two women raising a kid anywhere in magazines. I was just going to make music every day. And I was like, the next person I’m going to date has to be an angel and I’m not going to date anyone who’s not an angel. The record was finished before I got pregnant, but I was still doing the mix. I’m going to write a song about being a fucking rainbow, “Oh, To Be a Rainbow.” That was also inspired by the lyrics “oh to be the cream” from the Bauhaus song “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.” I’ve always loved those lyrics. Can you talk about the timeline of the album?I had just done two movies in France. I think you tell yourself that you should be a different way your whole life until you find someone who loves you for exactly who you are. I always felt like I needed to reel back my affection. It’s just really sweet. Her 2015 “pop-goth” breakout album My Dreams Dictate My Reality was described as a kind of “teenage rebellion” by Stereogum. I toured it a little bit, but then I went straight into making movies and then promoting them and that took quite a big chunk of time. Since then she’s launched a career as a musician who makes a moody blend of bedroom pop and The Cure-esque punk, collaborating with artists like Ariel Pink and Spike Jonze. It’s very empowering to know that my worth is not determined on whether or not someone romantically likes me. A lot of young boys and girls write me, being like, Oh my God, my parents have no idea I’m gay, thank you so much, your family’s the dream, we want to see more pictures of your gay-ass family. And after that I was like, I need to find a way to get back to myself and I got really into therapy and doing self improvement. I had just released My Dreams Dictate My Reality. I wasn’t going to hang out with anyone. Because my dad died when I was a kid. That happened when I just finished making the record, and I finally got a house, too. [Then I felt like] I am strong, I am worthy. But also it hasn’t changed my relationship to this record. What was it like making music in this mindset?I had planted all these seeds of manifesting like-minded open people in my life and because I had no more distractions, it all just sort of happens. So the song is literally about cutting the pattern, knowing where it’s from and knowing that I don’t want a love like this anymore. I never thought that was possible. I wanted it to be purposely more relaxed, slower, warmer and more sensual, but almost just as a gift to myself. Unlike her previous album, which felt like a hazy dream suffused with anger, Feel Feelings is a warmer, more down to earth exploration of herself, her sexuality, and emotional needs. How do you feel like becoming a mother has changed your relationship to the album? And within a month it would be like, I need to be alone and work on myself. And so I wanted to stay in that very peaceful mindset [after going to the Hoffman Institute] and to start my record like that. By Kerensa Cadenas@kerensacadenas

Photo: Cameron McCool/Courtesy of Soko

If you don’t yet know Soko, née Stephanie Sokolinski, don’t box her in as your typical French actress turned singer-songwriter. I definitely want to have a home because I’m living out of my suitcase and traveling all the time. My life is definitely more of what I had been longing for. But youthful angst has now made way for something else. The Cut spoke with the 34-year-old singer about how much her life has changed in the last four years, the process of making her new album, and being vocally queer. The song felt very empowering to me because I always feel like, Oh my God, I need love so much. And I had very highly intelligent, emotional people around me,people just enabling my emotions. They both went to Cannes and I was high off of that. I realized that I modeled my love attachment on my mom who wasn’t emotionally available because she was in survival mode with four kids and being a single mom. That’s not what I deserve. No, I’ve always been pretty open about my sexuality and I never really thought twice about it. All I try to teach Indigo [my son] is to feel his feelings and to make sure that he’s being heard when he says no and when he says yes and make sure to install healthy communication skills and tools. She said things that I never thought anyone would ever say to me, noticed things about me. And also feeling like, you get so close to people and then that line in the song, “you’re the one who knows me best and hates me most.” It’s like, how can you love someone so much? That’s not what I liked ever. You’re openly queer, raising your child with a woman, and you write about that in your lyrics. It took four years to make, following a rambling path that included intensive therapy, refocusing her career away from acting, and becoming a mother. I started working when I was 15 and that’s all I had done for over half of my life. I heard about [The Hoffman Institute] maybe 10 years [ago] and I thought, “that sounds amazing—a week of intensive therapy.” It was no phone, no romance, just very focused, like a very pure state of being. Feel Feelings was mostly completed before you got pregnant. There’s a song on the record called “Replaceable Heads”—

That was one of my questions, I need to know everything about that song because it cut me to my core!I wrote it after having such a slew of unhealthy relationships that literally were all exactly the same. I feel like visibility is so important. I write back to a lot of these kids. Growing up, I didn’t have any models of people who I admired or that I was like, wow, I can’t believe such a life is possible. It goes back to how you use your voice and how you use your platform. And I literally manifested an angel in my life. Since the beginning, there were always songs about women on my records. I mean, [being a mom] is my favorite thing in the world. And that’s what I did. It was definitely a whole journey from being celibate for the whole record, pausing it and then getting pregnant and meeting someone all of a sudden and being in a very healthy relationship. Very sexual. That’s the interesting thing is that it feels like both a very romantic album and an album about having personal boundaries. Why is it important for you to be vocal about that?When I started talking about promo with my label, I was like, I only want to be interviewed by queer women or people of color. How did you know that’s what the album should be called? I love that you had Feel Feelings as the title from the get go. [Making the album] definitely felt like a time for me when I had to be more assertive with my boundaries and needed to hold my space. Back then, I thought I definitely want to have a family. And then be the worst version of yourself [with them]? I need so much love. It was a very big thing for me to settle. I’m like, I don’t think you’re ready. You worked on Feel Feelings for over four years and had all of these crazy life experiences that happened while making it. Going to Hoffman was interesting because I thought, Oh, I have abandonment issues. As an actress, she’s best known for a few high-brow indie dramas in her native France, where she’s been twice nominated for a Cesar Award (France’s version of the Oscars). And also I think that’s why the record sounds so different because I didn’t let anything invade it. I really wanted to finally, not just like work, work, work, but think about my personal life and what’s gonna make me happy in 10 years.

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