SOKO IN NEW YORK, OCTOBER 2014. TRENCH COAT: THE ROW. SHIRT: VALENTINO. JEANS: DIESEL. BRACELETS AND RINGS: PAMELA LOVE. SHOES: SOKO’S OWN. STYLING: STELLA GREENSPAN. COSMETICS: SUNDAY RILEY, INCLUDING LIQUID LIGHT COLOR CORRECTING LUMINOUS HD FOUNDATION IN 110W, PRISMASILK EYE COLOR IN CLOUD COVER AND LEPRECHAUN, AND MODERN LIP COLOR IN DUCHESS. HAIR PRODUCTS: REDKEN, INCLUDING REWIND 06 PLIABLE TEXTURIZING HAIR PASTE. HAIR: SANDY HULLETT. MAKEUP: FARA HOMIDI/FRANK REPS. MANICURE: KAYO FOR DIOR LE VERNIS/DEFACTO. SPECIAL THANKS: THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART.
Midway through the filming of his futuristic romance Her, Spike Jonze found himself in a quandary: the actress he’d cast in a pivotal role, the “sex surrogate” who would drive a wedge between his doomed lovers, wasn’t emoting enough on camera. So the director found a fast solution. “He was like, ‘Who do I know who can cry easily and be emotional and sound miserable and insane?’ ” recalls the actress-singer Soko with a self-effacing giggle. “And that was me.”
There are worse reputations to have in Hollywood. The 29-year-old from Bordeaux, France (whose real name is Stéphanie Sokolinski), has crafted her dual career around her unapologetically intense tastes; her decade-plus filmography reads almost exclusively in French art-house dramas, including her breakout role in the 2009 Cannes hit À l’origine. She also gravitates to experimental, viral projects; that’s her locking lips with a woman in the “First Kiss” video for Wren.
As a musician, she is also a volatile talent. On her forthcoming second album, My Dreams Dictate My Reality (Because Music), she growls moody, punk-inflected vocals over noisy distortion and snappy new wave synth beats (recalling EMA and Blondie). Her lyrics are mercurial, too: She seethes against stereotypes ascribed to lesbian relationships (“Who Wears the Pants?”), confronts her debilitating fear of failure (“Monster Love,” a gauzy duet with Ariel Pink), and most poignantly, laments her tough childhood, singing in “Ocean of Tears,” “I thought I was a witch / Was I responsible / for the death of all the people that I love the most?”
“When I was a kid, I had terrible nightmares. I’d wake up thinking something bad would happen. Then my dad died and my grandparents died and my godfather died,” Soko says bluntly. “I faced a dark reality that should be saved for adults. Making this record, though, I started to feel like I’m at peace with all these things as they are.”
With Dreams set for release this month, Soko is turning her attention to new, undisclosed film projects. She also says she will take some time off to bask in her current home of Los Angeles. “I love that there’s so much beautiful nature around, and you can always decide on a last-minute road trip!” she enthuses. “I go have adventures every day. That’s the way to be.”