By Grant Sharples
From the first few moments of “With U,” cascading synth arpeggios crest an enormous wall of sound. It’s not a texture that you’d typically associate with Soccer Mommy, the performing/recording sobriquet that Nashville native Sophie Allison uses to make ‘90s-inspired indie rock. On astonishing, guitar-forward records like 2018’s Clean and 2020’s Color Theory, Allison’s songs of heartbreak and anguish launched her to indie stardom, earning her tours with Kacey Musgraves and Paramore, a Grammy nomination, and even an iconic Bernie Sanders meme. Her work eventually caught the ears of Daniel Lopatin, who makes experimental electronic music as Oneohtrix Point Never and boasts The Weeknd’s Dawn FM and the Uncut Gems score on his resume.
“Once he was interested, I was personally pretty much like, I wanna do that,” Allison tells MTV News. “I don’t even need to hear his ideas. I trust his style, and I think it would really make something interesting and cool.”
Allison understands that the idea of her confessional guitar rock as honed by a shapeshifting electronic auteur sounds odd on paper, but it’s a collaboration that expands her idiosyncratic sound in all the right ways. Soccer Mommy’s third album, Sometimes, Forever (out June 24), uses her template of modulated guitars, emotive lyrics, and pop-leaning melodies and broadens it in new directions: the piercing, shrill scream on “Darkness Forever”; the thunderous drums on “Unholy Affliction”; the shoegaze inclinations on “Don’t Ask Me.”
“I want people to be able to listen to it just for the sonic enjoyment, not to necessarily get emotional over a certain song,” Allison says. “I want it to be something that people can listen to as a whole record and have fun with it. Also, I want it to showcase new things that I can do and showcase different ideas that I haven’t really reached before.”
Sometimes, Forever reaches places that Allison hasn’t been previously, but it’s still true to the essence of Soccer Mommy. She spoke with MTV News about how she unlocked those new sounds on her record — plus working with Lopatin, how video games inspire her music, and more.
MTV News: Did you make a conscious choice to embrace new styles on this record?
Sophie Allison: It was natural. I think part of it is just working with Dan [Lopatin] because songs like “Unholy Affliction,” “Darkness Forever,” and “Following Eyes” are a little darker and more eerie. But it’s something that I’ve done before. It’s always been leaning a little bit more on the grunge end, but the songwriting I think is fairly similar at the core. I always have so many ideas and things I wanna try. I like so many different kinds of music, and I like exploring. I don’t wanna feel stuck doing one thing. He brought in this new element and was able to unlock some hidden potential in a lot of these songs and take them in the direction they were already heading but take them to a new level.
MTV News: What did you enjoy about working with Lopatin?
Allison: He’s so good with arrangements. There would be songs where we’d basically record these band versions or stripped-back, acoustic versions. And then we’d add all this stuff around it. I remember leaving the studio when we had just laid all this stuff down but not put it together at all. We were like, “Well, we have all the stuff we need. We can continue to work on it from home.” He was pushing to have backing vocals on a lot of songs. I went in and did all these three-part harmonies. That was one of those things where we were like, “OK, we got them. We don’t need to EQ them and put them where they need to be right now.” Getting to hear them back afterward is so cool and different, and he’s just really good at piecing that stuff together.
MTV News: I know you’re a big Stardew Valley and Nintendo fan. Do video games influence any of your musical directions at all?
Allison: They influence me visually a lot, which probably comes around to the music. Even a song like “Newdemo,” and especially the lift in the chorus, has this fantasy, beautiful, and dreamlike feeling that kind of makes me imagine stuff that I’ve seen in a Zelda game or something — this beautiful oasis that is not existent in the real world. Video games to me are an escape from reality, and that escapism comes across in the new music as well.
MTV News: How do you think this album pushes you as an artist?
Allison: As soon as a record is done and it’s coming out, all I can think about is the next one and wanting to do something else. I feel like this record allowed me to explore a lot of stuff that I hadn’t fully gone into and unlock these ideas that I never would have imagined before because I hadn’t experimented with them. So I hope I take a lot of that into next time, not necessarily specific things from the album, but to take that new sense of imagination into the next record.
MTV News: What kinds of things did you unlock? Was it the more synthy side of things?
Allison: Not just more synthy, but even stuff like how to break up songs differently. I remember when we came in to do “Newdemo,” I was thinking about cutting it because I couldn’t imagine how it was going to sound and how we were going to record it. I’d just done a demo that was guitar and vocals. Obviously, we did it, and it ended up being one of my favorites. It’s kind of just new ways of arranging things and tackling stuff like dynamics, not seeing things in such a way of like, “If we want this chorus to be bigger, then we have to add more. We have to add more guitars.” Or, “If we want this verse to be more laid-back, then we have to cut these guitars.” It opens up your brain to finding more creative ways to sculpt a song.
MTV News: From a lyrical standpoint, what are some of the things you’re exploring on this album?
Allison: There’s a lot. It’s kind of all over the place. It’s not a super-focused lyrical album. There are a lot of love songs, and there are songs about feeling lost in the world or hopeless and struggling with that. There are songs about giving in to that hopelessness and feeling a sense of chaos around you, but you’re in your own calm. It goes around a lot with feeling hopeless and not knowing what to do with all of that.
MTV News: How do you think this record expands the sonic palette of Soccer Mommy?
Allison: I’d always wanted to get to do some stuff that’s a little more electronic, but it’s not something I’m familiar with trying to make. The songs lent to reaching out to those kinds of things, and there’s a certain magic that Dan brought to a lot of the songs. There’s kind of this synthy airiness that makes it dreamlike. He sets up different parts so that you go into a part, you go into a chorus, and it wakes you up. We tried to mess around with that kind of stuff that we had done a little bit of before, trying to make moments in songs, trying to get some of that slightly warped or out-there type of stuff, but we just took it further. Dan was the perfect person to push that.