Soko On Acting, Songwriting, And Losing Herself To Dance

Soko On Acting, Songwriting, And Losing Herself To Dance

The mononymous triple threat plays, among other parts, a muse to modern dance in her latest film

The mononymous triple threat plays, among other parts, a muse to modern dance in her latest film

Photography: Jeff Bark

Styling: Lana Jay Lackey

Text: Whitney Mallett

“I’d put all of my instruments in storage,” says Soko, the Bordeaux-born, L.A.-based singer-songwriter. “The two movies I did, I fucking devoted my entire life to.” When Soko talks, words tumble out of her with a violent excitement, the sentences punctuated by expletives made more charming by the French accent familiar from her breathy songs. You may have heard her music, even if the name doesn’t register. The daringly sentimental “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” zoomed onto the Billboard Hot 100 two years ago (though it was originally released in 2012) when it soundtracked the viral video, “First Kiss.” Arguably a covert piece of branded content, it featured Soko sharing a kiss with a woman she’d never met, one of 10 stranger couples. Last year, Soko put out her second full-length album, My Dreams Dictate My Reality, featuring quirky collaborations with Ariel Pink.

Already a César Award nominee in her home country for her role in In the Beginning and a featured voice in Spike Jonze’s Her, Soko is starring in two new films that premiered at Cannes this year: The Dancer, a drama about the turn-of-the-century modern dance pioneer Loie Fuller, in which Lily-Rose Depp plays rival Isadora Duncan, and The Stopover, about soldiers in Afghanistan.

JACKET GIVENCHY BY RICCARDO TISCI  T-SHIRT VINTAGE FROM BYRONESQUE  EARRING CHROME HEARTS  SKIRT, TIGHTS, NECKLACES, RINGS SOKO’S OWN

“I get so involved in films that my personal life starts resembling what I’m shooting,” admits Soko, as her girlfriend at the time of this shoot, Kristen Stewart, lounges on a nearby couch. “When I did that movie where I was a soldier, my ex-girlfriend came with me to Greece—where we shot—and we were in a hotel room together for two months. I became OCD, the way you are when you’re in the army and you have all these rules and shit. I was telling her, ‘We need to clean right now!’ When I do a movie, I don’t know who I am anymore.”

For The Dancer, Soko went to grueling lengths to inhabit the icon known for inventing the Serpentine Dance. “I danced, like, seven hours a day.” She learned to dance in the dark on a three-meter-high platform, twirling a dress made from 34 panels of silk. “Some mornings I would wake up and straight up not be able to walk. I’d be like, ‘I’m so sorry. I can’t do it. I’m sick. I hate this movie. I can’t stand myself.’”

Director Stéphanie Di Giusto decided to write a movie for Soko upon meeting her, says the actress. “For five years, she wouldn’t tell me what it was about. When I finally read it, I was like, Fuck. It’s a role any actress would love to play, because of the nuances. It shines a light on the struggle of the female artist in 1900.”

Soko has since returned to the States. “It’s good to be in L.A. right now,” she says. “All the millennial kids want to do everything and be gender fluid and love everyone.” She’s already partway through making another album, which she describes as “goofy and light, but still punk and New Wave-influenced.” She adds, “It’s really important for me to make sure, while I’m writing these songs, that I’m reflecting exactly where my head is at. If I die, this is what I want to be remembered by: my thoughts and feelings.”

Credits: MAKEUP LISA HOUGHTON (TIM HOWARD MANAGEMENT)  HAIR SHINGO SHIBATA (THE WALL GROUP)  PHOTO ASSISTANT CHRIS WHITE AND MICHAEL CASKER  STYLIST ASSISTANT KINDALL ALMOND MAKEUP ASSISTANT ARISA KAWAMURA  LOCATION HUDSON STUDIOS  CATERING GUY & GALLARD

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