Soccer Mommy’s recent full-length Clean is a collection of lullabies inspired by late-era 1990s pop music, paired with searing lyrics, in which singer/songwriter Sophie Allison uses her jagged guitar melodies to better understand herself, the world around her, and the people who inhabit it. (“’Cause I’m just a puzzle piece trying to fit just right / So I could be someone who’s stuck inside your mind,” she tells a lazy lover on “Skin.”) Her music is the frantic exploration of an intelligent nineteen-year-old, an age full of wonder that too often gets glossed over by teen films and adults eager to romanticize the final days of adolescence.
But that’s on record—or tape, rather, which, I soon learn is her favorite format for listening to music. It’s the final night of Iceland Airwaves when we meet and catch up, and sandwiched between a blissed-out day at a Reykjavík area swimming pool and her live performance that evening, Allison is quietly enjoying her first visit to the country, another in an already impressive string of recent career highlights that includes signing to Fat Possum Records, opening for Liz Phair, and achieving her childhood dreams before the age of twenty—all of which, even though she’s still a bit jet-lagged, she reflects on thoughtfully. Then again, as anyone who’s heard her music can attest, thoughtful reflection is what Allison does best.
What’s your first impression of Iceland been like?
It looks like a European seaside town. That’s the vibe it gives me. It seems cool. It’s cold and rainy and everyone is down with that. I don’t get that, exactly.
You write so much about being comfortable in your own skin—are there situations where you get easily embarrassed?
Yes! All the time. Taking any photo is bad, in general. I went on a whole trip with my family to Europe, and I wouldn’t let them take a single photo of me. I’m absent from all those family photos for a whole vacation.
I know my angles. I need to have control over the image. That would definitely be the area I’m least comfortable in. I’ll be obsessed with one outfit because I saw myself and thought I looked good. If I see a bad photo I’ll be like, “Wow, I’m never wearing that one again. That’s out.”
If we were to open one of your high school yearbooks, what would you be wearing?
I was wearing mom jeans and a sweater. Very DIY. It was easy and comfy. I think for fashion if you want to do looks every day, you have to have a lot of unique items.
Now I like a lot of early 2000s and ’90s style for sure. Just because I grew up watching shows like Buffy and Charmed. More than that, it’s partly liking certain things from generations that I thought were really cool.
“I like cassettes a lot… it’s a good way to support bands where you can listen to them on the go. With vinyl you can’t really do that.”
Does that love of vintage extend to your music collection?
I do not have a tape player in my car—I have a cassette player in my car that I plug into the aux to play the tape. I had my Garbage tape get destroyed by my car. But I like cassettes a lot—not for the oldness, but I like how they sound a lot. I think they sound really warm. That’s purely why I do it. It’s also a good way to support bands where you can listen to them on the go. With vinyl you can’t really do that.
What was it like the first time you got onstage?
I’ve been doing it most of my life. I think the first big show I did was at an auditorium when I was eight. I definitely had a good time, but I don’t know if it was good or not. It was with my two-piece band back in the day. I was playing guitar and my neighbor was drumming. He was probably six years old at that point. It was for a fundraiser.
Was there a tipping point when you wanted to do it full-time?
I wanted to do it as soon as I started playing guitar. When I was in high school it became a less realistic dream. [I thought,] “I would love to do that but I’m going to need a job. I have to do something else, like English or something.” I feel like my freshmen year of college was finding out I could do this realistically.
I kept doing it through my sophomore year. I would go to Boston for a weekend and play a show somewhere, or go to Philly or New Jersey or wherever. If someone would pay enough money for me to get there and pay for gas, I would just go. I kept releasing stuff. Right after my first semester I signed with the label. They kept working on getting ready to release Collection while I was finishing my sophomore year. Then I decided to drop out.
Would you consider going back to school one day?
I couldn’t go back to [NYU] because of money. My scholarship expires when I turn twenty-two. I can’t do that. I don’t want to learn any of that shit. I just feel like life teaches you more than school. School can almost make you immature.
What have you learned lately?
I’m forming opinions more than learning new things. Further deepening my thoughts on the world and myself and people around me. Thinking deeper about my friendships with people and what those mean to me. A lot of people don’t take time to reflect on their feelings. We don’t build that into our schedules very well. It’s not something that people take time for—and I think it’s really important for personal growth.
Do you believe in fate?
I don’t really know. I think if something needs to happen in your life and it’s going to be horrible without it, you’ll probably end up finding your way to it. I don’t necessarily not believe in it. I just don’t rely on it. Some things could be fate and other things could just be weird accidents. Sometimes things just happen. But certain people you find because you’re so similar you’re drawn together. You could have met at any other point in your life and you would have been drawn together the same way.
“A lot of people don’t take time to reflect on their feelings. We don’t build that into our schedules very well.”
Have you had any encounters with ghosts?
You never know if it’s real unless you’ve experienced it. You’re never going to prove it or not prove it. Some people, like atheists, can be so, “I know this isn’t real because there’s no proof.” But you can’t really disprove it. No one knows. That’s just how it’s going to be. People can feel the way they want to feel about it.
I’ve definitely had weird dreams that have been really poignant in my life. Stuff about family and relating to travel that have had a profound effect on me. But I’ve also had sleep paralysis, which is a deeper issue.
Given that your thoughts can have a profound effect—are you starting to envision what’s next for you and Soccer Mommy?
Yeah! It’s still kind of blurry. But I’ve started writing songs. I’ve written quite a few songs. I have an image for them, but it’s hard to articulate it without getting to hear it playing with the band or even jammed on at all. It can be hard to imagine. But I definitely have influences that I’ve been interested in in the last few years. I’ve been listening to a lot of Wilco and alt-country stuff. And stuff like Lucinda Williams. Sometimes I listen to noise stuff, too, and I think that will find a way in. FL