INTERVIEW: Soccer Mommy on the Making of ‘Color Theory’

Soccer Mommy Uses Color Theory as a Kaleidoscopic Musical Lens

Sophie Allison, known by her stage name Soccer Mommy, is self-described in her Twitter bio as “chill but kinda sad.” From “Your Dog,” a punchy antagonist to a love letter to “Cool,” a manifestation of everything she’d want to be even if some things seem more idyllic than they are, Soccer Mommy asserts a persona of feigning effortless nonchalance, a relaxed ease, while at the same time, caring intensely through the emotional depths she reaches in each of her songs.

And her newest release color theory presents a Soccer Mommy sound that is grounded, multifaceted, and complex. Songs are crafted and viewed through the lens of yellow, blue, and gray—and what shines through on the other side is something that’s wholly stunning.

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Your new album is coming out, and the subject matter is a bit darker and even more vulnerable than your past album Clean. How did you tap into this part of yourself for your songwriting this time around?

You know, it really didn’t feel any different than writing Clean or anything before it. I feel like I write whatever’s on my mind, so I guess this was just what was plaguing me a little more. Maybe because I didn’t have relationship issues and other stuff that was also bothering me to coast on, it became the time to delve into these issues that have been going on for a while.

I know they’re bigger issues and they’re centered around three main color themes, but it’s also “about youth and aging, and how these problems develop and affect you as you grow up.” Can you go into more of the color theory approach you’ve taken on this album?

When I was a couple songs in, it started to really stand out to me that I was circling these three themes, these three moods, and I just immediately connected the yellow one especially with death, sickness, anxiety, and paranoia, and just feeling on edge. And that mood of anxiety, of paranoia, of falling ill, has always attached itself in my brain to a sickly yellow color.

And then I very quickly realized that this whole section of depression and sadness, it wasn’t just sadness is blue, obviously, it was like there’s a lot of imagery of water, a slower, cooler, energy compared to the yellow section. And the gray section came last. I think all of those songs came a little bit further on, actually. The gray section felt obvious once I had made these two other color connections. It’s interesting, this kind of emptiness and loss, this mood and darkness, which made a song that was riddled with mortality and feeling taunted by it and feeling a fear of death and losing parts of yourself to time, and just kind of decaying.

I read your mother has a terminal illness; were these colors and themes explored from personal traumas in your own life, or more from issues in society today?

They mostly all developed from my own life. There are only a few songs that address anything with my mother on the album, which is partially because it wasn’t ever something that I dealt with. And being away from home made me feel scared of that. I had been home every day so it was a little less pressing. But when I’d be gone for a long time, it started to weigh on me a little bit more than it ever had. But, most of the record is really about how stuff that has taken a toll on me throughout my life or the past couple of years, even, whether it’s mental illness or classic existentialism.

In making the album, do you feel that it was cathartic for you, and did you feel that you were able to explore or even dissipate some of those feelings that you have?

Maybe a song like “yellow is the color of her eyes,” but for most of the other ones, I have a hard time really expressing myself, and I find it feels good to be able to get a thought or the complexity of a thought down, in a way in lyrics that I feel like captures it all so I don’t have to struggle to think of how to express myself. I don’t usually find that it lifts a weight off me at all. It’s more of a fixation, in trying to describe a feeling perfectly.

Would you speak to the new production elements on this album? Your core sound is still there, but songs are a bit more multi-layered this time around.

There’s a few reasons for the growth; mainly, we had more time in the studio. We took all of March and then another week later, because we hadn’t gotten totally what we needed, whereas with Clean we took two weeks split up by a couple months…I literally sat at a sampling keyboard that uses floppy disks and listened to every floppy disk sample in the studio while we were doing stuff. As did everyone else; we would listen to these samples over and over again. We’d spend 45 minutes just to pick a synth sound to record for one part. That’s what makes it amazing, is you get all this time to literally fuck around, and that’s how you find amazing things, whereas if you just look for something that works in the moment, it doesn’t get the same level or depth, and I think we really got that.

Also, I had my whole band I’ve been playing with live in the studio for the first time, including our fifth member we added in December of last year, and our drummer, bass player, guitarist we’ve had for a year or more each. We’d really gotten into a groove live of finding our sound that made it more Soccer Mommy rather than my song. Having them in the studio really helped, because it brought in this element of the way we work off each other.

It lets you have those moments where you’d be like, “That’s my favorite part on this song,” that little two-second thing, which I think is the most important, those little moments that make it your favorite part of the song that just strike you every time. The way you get that is by having a lot of people with a lot of ideas and letting a lot of different things shine at different moments.

What habits, routines, hobbies, or rituals make you feel most creative and ready to make music?

It doesn’t take much; I can be anywhere to write, and it really just has to do with something coming to me. I wrote a lot of this record in the back seat of the van. Just on random days…sitting back there and playing when I’d get ideas, or in hotel rooms. It’s never really mattered much what my surroundings were; I just need a slight feeling of this false isolation or privacy. I can be in the back of a van or back seat where people can’t hear me really, and that’s enough.

At practice or whatever, you just need to get inspired by the people you’re playing with, and hear them play an idea a couple times. It always starts with one person playing something a couple times over and over and everyone’s kind of like, “What is that?” But you don’t say that, and you just start playing along to it. And eventually you end up jamming for like 20 minutes for no reason. And I think that’s where you get a lot of great ideas for songs because you can sit and play this guitar part you’ve been thinking about, and you can let other people join in and hear what it’s going to sound like. So, I think having people around is a great way to come up with ideas for songs, because instead of hearing a guitar part and not knowing what it can sound like as a band, you hear what it can turn into, and it’s inspiring to see the different directions it can go.

Follow on Instagram @soccermommyband

Photos by Brian Ziff

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