soko talks france, film, and freeing the nipple on stage

She thought she was an alien, voiced a sexy robot in Spike Jonze’s Her, continues to make brilliant music, and, well, we’ve got a big fat crush on her. Get to know our new best friend, Soko.

by Francesca Dunn
21 August 2015, 1:45pm

Stéphanie Sokolinski had to grow up fast. "My dad died when I was five and I feel like at that point I had to be an adult and understand reality, mortality and that everything is éphémère," she says. "Having that realization at five years old definitely puts you in an adult world way too young, with way too much consciousness about the world that you'd rather not have as a child."

The singer and actress better known as Soko decided, at ten years old, that she didn't need parents; she wanted to live by herself and be a responsible adult. At 16, she ran away from Bordeaux to Paris and got an apartment, an agent, and a string of acting jobs before freaking out at 20. "I felt like an idiot for being stuck with possessions and apartment concerns, so for the past nine years I've been living like a teenager, just crashing on my friends' couches and living out of my suitcase. And now I'm stuck wanting to be a kid forever and it's really paralyzing because I can't commit or have too many responsibilities. All I wanna do is make art and do things that make me happy and don't bore me!" Trying to find a balance is proving tricky, especially when she has to cross continents on an almost weekly basis for work. "It doesn't really allow me to settle anywhere and I'm stuck living in a teenage world. Being somewhere for more than two weeks sounds like heaven!" Having said that, she's quick to admit that she deals badly with time off. "I get sick and bored. There's nothing worse in life than boredom. I think that boredom is death, so I keep myself hyperactive and overworked, rather than the opposite," she says, sharing her secrets in the most adorable French-girl-living-in-LA accent we've ever heard.

Destined to never grow up, she still regularly turns to her favorite childhood movie, Hook, which clearly had a big influence on her. "With all of my issues nowadays, I feel like I've been doomed into wanting to live in Neverland and refusing to grow old. On my last album I had a song called Peter Pan Syndrome." Despite her nomadic lifestyle, Soko has found her Neverland in LA and now considers it her home. "It's a city that lets you be a dreamer because rent is cheap. I find it really inspiring the way people allow themselves to be in tune with their inner child, while in other cities you have to conform to a more normal, grown-up life." 

Her new album, My Dreams Dictate My Reality, feels more mature than the last, going down a route that's closer to The Cure than The Moldy Peaches. "I felt like I needed to almost reconcile with all that was painful for me. I needed to write songs about it and be like, 'It's okay, it made me who I am.'" Some tracks - Keaton's Song in particular - are incredibly honest and emotional and surely exhausting to perform every night on tour? "They are!" she says, laughing. "It's extremely lonely but also amazing and terrifying and incredible." 

Others are punky and energetic, resulting in a sweaty moving mess of a crowd jumping around in ecstasy. "I wanted to make a record that was fun to perform," she explains. Her recent show at London's iconic 100 Club ended in a naked stage invasion and plenty of love. "I sing about such personal things that it feels like I'm already naked anyway. But to see how liberating and freeing it was for the people that came onstage was amazing. I got emails saying it was the most empowering thing they'd ever done in their lives!" This is why Soko is our teenage dream.

Speaking of dreams, she analyzes hers and never fails to write them down. "I'm realizing that most of my big decisions in life are based on dreams. The reason I moved to LA is because the day before, I woke up from a dream and it was just crystal clear that that's what I needed to do. It was completely irrational but I just knew. When I was a kid, I suffered a lot from not having friends, but I've finally found the people that matter most in my life."

Having released and toured the album, Soko is giving her acting career some love once more. Her hair, which was bleach blonde and then bright blue, is now black and cropped. "I hate it," she says. The haircut is for her role in Voir du Pays, in which she plays a woman soldier who comes back from Afghanistan and deals with PTSD. "I was feeling really good before starting filming, so I was like, 'Do I really wanna go to a dark place?!' I've become really square and I clean my apartment obsessively. My girlfriend is rolling with it though, she's helping me keep everything in order."

This will be the first in an impressive series of powerful female characters Soko is set to play. Things You Missed While You Were Gone will see her star alongside friend and collaborator Jena Malone, and then she will begin filming The Dancer, a movie with Elle Fanning and Louis Garrel, which is guaranteed to send her star shooting into the stratosphere. With Louis as her on-screen lover, Soko will play art nouveau muse and the most important dancer in the world circa 1892, Loïe Fuller, famed for her serpentine dance. 

The most exciting thing about the whole situation? Director Stéphanie Di Giusto wrote the script with her in mind. Back in 2009, when Soko played a supporting role in a film that Di Giusto's husband directed, she approached her. "You can't be the support! You need to be the star! I'm writing you the movie of your life!" And so she did. We get the feeling this role might change Soko's world. "Oh, it will. It is," she says, beaming with positive energy. "Everything takes time and everything will be alright. Sometimes you think something is a failure but it's just hiding something else better suited for you. Trust me." Okay, Soko.



Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Axel Filip Lindahl
Styling Elodie David-Touboul
Hair Karin Bigler at Jed Root using Bumble and bumble
Make-up Aude Gill at Studio 57
Photography assistance Noah Beyene, Olivier Baillon
Styling assistance Nathalie Moussier
Soko wears jacket and hat April 77. Shirt The Kooples. Necklace Harpo. Earring (left) Pamela Love. Earring (right) model's own.

music interviews
the coming of age issue
​stéphanie sokolinski