When you’re up, you’re up—and it’s certainly been an up year for Sophie Allison of Soccer Mommy. Triumphant third record Sometimes, Forever took her band to new critical peaks and their biggest headlining stages yet. But after years on the album cycle rodeo circuit, Allison knows firsthand that highs and lows are temporary structures—moments worth inhabiting, but sure to fade, no matter how intensely felt. With production from cinematically-oriented composer Daniel Lopatin of Oneohtrix Point Never, Sometimes, Forever loops through those cyclic poles of exhilaration and melancholy, pairing sonic daring with observant retellings of crystallized feelings. It’s Soccer Mommy’s boldest, most cutting collection, melding shadowy electronic gestures with Allison’s increasingly clever guitars and darkly droll pop delivery.
Inspiration for the record came to Allison in many forms: biting anti-careerism sparks flames across the driving “Unholy Affliction,” while shoegaze-y “Shotgun” shimmers with sweet anecdotes of quotidian love. Allison’s lyrical bent skews personal, but she’s also keen to source others’ stories for shards of narrative—as on the eerily arpeggiated “Following Eyes,” which channels the gothic brilliance of Mary Shelley, and on the propulsive “Darkness Forever,” which alludes to the tragic death of Sylvia Plath. Though the scrutinous songwriter works painstakingly on her material and performances, she equally values restorative time at home with bandmate and longtime partner Julian Powell. In recapping the highlights of her 2022, Allison is as excited about the band’s accomplishments as she is the creature comforts she enjoyed as a fan: creepy TV (Wednesday & First Kill), absorbing novels (Neal Stephenson’s & Vladimir Nabokov’s), and her favorite games (mainstay Stardew Valley, different Pokémon for different platforms, plus Mario Tennis on the band’s first tour bus).
On a day off outside Boise, ID at an off-highway shopping center, Allison’s got her afternoon cut out for her: she needs new work gloves and boots to replace her old winter touring staples, respectively fraying at the fingers and soles. The now-seasoned itinerant is still a few weeks away from finishing her 2022 engagements—cheekily dubbed Touring, Forever—before resuming in February on an Australian leg. The rest of Soccer Mommy’s 2023? Some to-be-announced support dates and festivals, a potential run in the U.K., and a hopeful eye toward tracking a new album—the pieces of which Allison is already puzzling over in her few moments of downtime.
SPIN: 2022 was Soccer Mommy’s biggest year so far. Did it live up to your hopes?
Sophie Allison: This year definitely met expectations. It’s been really fun and all the tours went well. I bought a house at the beginning of the year, and that has been as amazing as I thought it would be, and has made my life feel much less chaotic. I had the summer at home, which was really nice—I wanted time to write and work on new stuff.
Everybody else is wrapping up their year, but you just released a new music video for “Feel It All the Time.”
I really like doing videos that are chill. I don’t want a bunch of lights in my face and a ton of cameras. Of course, that stuff looks great in the end but it’s always fun to get to do a video that’s low maintenance. This was just a handheld camera [director] Zev [Magasis] had, driving around with me in my car. We rode horses and I played around with a sword. So it was really fun and goofy, rather than stressful. Fortunately, it was right around Halloween, so I hit the Spirit Halloween and got some goods. Being in Tennessee, it’s easy to go to a horseback riding place and be like, “We’re making a music video.” And they say, “Okay, that’s fine,” because all the country music people do that.
You’re also hosting a film screening of Fantastic Planet this week—tell me about that.
Brain Dead, a streetwear company, reached out wanting to do a collab on a shirt. But they have a theater in LA and we have an off day. They said, “Do you want to come? You can pick a movie and do a meet and greet.” I love [Fantastic Planet] and have a poster in my living room. Since I’ve only seen it on my TV. I thought it’d be cool to see in an actual theater.
What other movies did you love in 2022?
The best modern movie I’ve seen is Smile. It was really scary! I like to see a lot of horror movies, and that one was solid. I saw Bound and But I’m A Cheerleader for the first time this year, both at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, which was doing a queer classics series. I also saw Let the Right One In for the first time.
The “Darkness Forever” demo you released around Halloween is so intricate, and made me curious about your journey as a producer. What did you learn this year that might go toward future recordings?
When I did the Sometimes, Forever demos, I was playing around on the computer with drum machines to make cool demos. But now I’ve been doing all my demoing on tape. I have a Tascam 8-track Portastudio and really love how it sounds. I want to use tape on the next batch [of songs]—not only recording to tape, but using tape to make live effects with warps and speeds. That’s most of what I’ve been messing with. It’s simple and clean compared to the stuff I was demoing for Sometimes, Forever.
Have you been listening to anything that inspires you?
I’ve been listening to more classical music this year. I’ve been really loving using flute sounds and doing things that sound more arranged. I’ve been listening to the Sundays, and Velocity Girl a lot—that ‘90s jangly, riffy pop stuff is always exciting to me.
You kicked the year off in Mexico with Wilco. What were some other show highlights?
Nashville shows always feel monumental, as do New York shows—[Webster Hall] is literally across the street from my freshman dorm, so any time I went out of the venue to do something, I was right by where I’d lived. It was surreal. But playing a two-night stand at 9:30 Club [in Washington D.C.] was really cool. On the first tour I ever played that went to the East Coast, there were two nights at 9:30—it felt crazy that we got to play there, even as openers. Those things can feel surreal, because it’s something you witnessed early on that you thought you’d never get to.
Apart from festivals, this year was almost all headlining dates for Soccer Mommy. Tell me about some of the bands you brought out with you, and why they’re special.
I always pick the bands, and it makes it so much more fun. You’re gonna listen to that music every night so it’s important to have something good. The first band on this tour was Lightning Bug, who opened for us last fall—they’re amazing, and did a cover of “Dreams” by the Cranberries on Halloween. Then it was Helena Deland, who’s from Montréal; [former Soccer Mommy producer] Gabe Wax did their record, and it’s really good. Now we’re out with TOPS, who I’ve liked for years now, as has Julian. Everyone’s been great. If you pick artists who you genuinely like and want to listen to every night, it’s a blast.
As a gamer, how did you like recording “Shotgun” in Simlish?
That was very hard! It’s not just babbling, they send you specific lyrics, and it’s hard to sing them without laughing. I screwed myself on that too, because I did it with my bandmate Rodrigo [Avendano] recording—it was hard not to laugh, singing that to a friend. But it was a lot of fun, and I played so much Sims growing up. So doing a song in Simlish is a big accomplishment in my mind.
Then you did a listening party in Roblox.
That was crazy. I had never used Roblox, and had mostly heard about it from my friends who babysit and nanny. I would log into a world for 15 minutes and then bounce into another one, doing a Q&A in the chat while we’re playing Floor is Lava, and the album is just streaming. The last world I did was my favorite—you went in and picked a profession, and one of them was “criminal,” and all you’d do is set fire to things. It was wild: buildings on fire, people crashing their cars, while the album was playing.
You did a series of Magic the Gathering-themed digital trading cards for Sometimes, Forever. Do you play?
I have never played. What a shame! I think they look really cool, but I don’t have anyone to play them with. I’ve never played that or Dungeons and Dragons—I’ve played DND in Stardew Valley once, so I’ve kind of done it. But I wanted the trading cards idea to play into the fantasy idea we were going with, a personalized thing we could put different magical ideas onto.
Was this your first year with a tour bus?
This is the first tour with it, this fall. It’s great and so much better. Not having to sit in a van all day is really good for everybody’s backs. We’ve got a lot of people at this point, nine. [The bus] gives us more time in each city. We can actually have time to go do things between soundcheck and load-in. We can bring production. We have a backdrop, and we have a giant floating cloud, painted like the cells on the album cover. It looks like a giant spleen floating in the air and has lights inside of it. The stage is a much bigger production in terms of design, but soundwise we have boards for monitors and front of house, so it’s all smoother up there.
Any creative dreams for 2023?
I’d love to record an album by the end of next year. I’ll have one ready by mid-next year, I’d guess, and it’d be great to either get in the studio or be making the plans to do that. From record to record you have to find a producer who fits the vibe you’re going for, but I’m stuck right now—I’ve had a lot of ideas sent to me and don’t know what I need yet.
Maybe you need a break first. How are you gonna relax when this tour ends?
Honestly, just be at home! I’m having a great time on tour but it’ll be nice to be home for the holidays and spend a lot of time with my friends and family. Growing up, we were not religious, so the holidays were just fun—a giant day of presents and candy—and it’s still very fantastical to me. I love being able to have holiday-themed cocktails with friends or make Christmas cookies, so I’m very excited to get back to that.