Soccer Mommy: The Best of What’s Next
On Collection, Sophie Allison trades the Tascam recorder for the intricate setup of a friend’s mini-studio in NashvilleMusic Features
A lot can be learned about a person by looking at their room. For a bedroom pop artist, a room becomes doubly telling. When Sophie Allison picks up the phone, she sounds bubbly, and for a moment I forget Allison is the 20-year-old musician behind Soccer Mommy. The New York-via-Nashville songwriter makes you feel like you’re lounging on her bed beside her, chatting about miniature details with grandiosity and life-changing decisions with passive shrugs. Her room begins to take shape even if you’re not there.
In what has become the bedroom pop norm, Allison took to Bandcamp to release music for free under an alternate name—2015’s songs for the recently sad and 2016’s for young hearts are particularly notable, though maudlin—and was surprised to find a wave of listeners fall head over heels. What separates her from the rest, however, is her phrasing, the way she shapes musical sequences to show emotion. Sonically, her songs sound intimate, but it’s the way she as Soccer Mommy captures teenage insecurities through tastefully nonplussed delivery that sticks with listeners.
Technically, she’s still enrolled at NYU as a Music Business major, but Allison considers her on-campus dormroom there secondary to the bedroom at her parents’ house in Nashville, just around the corner from Belmont University. “Here, I can just go to a local place and will probably see a ton of people I know just chatting at a park or coffee shop,” she says of Nashville. “In New York, that doesn’t happen. You make plans. You go to lunch. You get drinks. You don’t just show up to an area and run into people you know off the cuff.”
To her, the bedroom there is perfect. It’s a spacious room dotted with windows. A bed sits in the center of the room looking out onto the street, framed posters from nearby art fairs rest on the walls, a record player sits by her dresser, and her miniature studio—three electric guitars, one acoustic, a drum kit, a keyboard and a bass—is haphazardly strewn about.
“If you’re dating someone, of course, [the feeling] is stronger—and it hurts a lot more if it ends—but it can be pretty intense when you don’t know someone as well as you want to. Idealizing a person in that way prevents you from knowing them, and that can be damaging because it’s a toxic feeling that causes anxiety, nervousness and self-doubt. It’s almost more toxic than a breakup because there’s no real end. These songs are very clearly coming from a girl not caring about herself as much as another person—and getting walked all over for that.”
Soccer Mommy released a mini-album called Collection. It’s reimagined songs from the past, now backed by a full band. The days of using a Tascam recorder are replaced with the intricate setup of a friend’s mini-studio in Nashville. Everything on the record was recorded there, save for “Allison,” the album opener. She recorded that one in her dorm room shortly after her class covered ProTools. “I got to learn a lot from that class,” she says, “and being able to use it to record and produce ‘Allison’ felt really exciting.”
Lean in close to the record and Allison’s work as Soccer Mommy turns into life lessons. Each track is a tangible act of learning, growing and seeing the world. She isn’t trying to be deep. Just look at the titles of her aforementioned releases; they’re straightforward without being dull. Allison tries her best to experience life, and her songs capture it frame by fame. Marked by episodes of sadness of anxiety, Collection winds up being a narrative rearranged to better represent where she’s at now, which means the late-night questions on “Waiting for Cars” and loaded lyrics of “Death by Chocolate” take on new meaning.
Perhaps the biggest influence on Soccer Mommy’s reworked sound is love. Over a year ago, she began dating her guitarist, and the two are still together. “He’s stuck with me at this point,” she jokes, explaining their shift from long distance to moving into an apartment together. “It’s strange; I’ve never felt weird performing songs about past relationships [in front of him] because I don’t think I write songs about one person. It’s usually about how I felt throughout a relationship or crushes, even platonic ones.” In her eyes, her songs capture the various feelings of love without dedicating them to a single individual. She condenses various characteristics and moments into a warped theme that listeners can relate to.
Those smitten qualities of Collection walk a fine line. Allison isn’t trying to write the next love song. She isn’t stroking her romantic woes either. Instead, she tackles infatuation by treating it with the seriousness it deserves. “It’s different dating someone versus having a crush on someone, but I think the feelings are the same,” she says. “If you’re dating someone, of course, [the feeling] is stronger—and it hurts a lot more if it ends—but it can be pretty intense when you don’t know someone as well as you want to. Idealizing a person in that way prevents you from knowing them, and that can be damaging because it’s a toxic feeling that causes anxiety, nervousness and self-doubt. It’s almost more toxic than a breakup because there’s no real end. These songs are very clearly coming from a girl not caring about herself as much as another person—and getting walked all over for that.”
Of all genres, bedroom pop may be the most unfairly undervalued because its twee-like lyrics and approachability to non-musicians invite dismissal. It’s easy to create that style without a musical background. It’s hard to create your own voice within it. Allison not only honed her skills as Soccer Mommy, but she took her time doing so, and she’s counting on others to do the same.
“If there’s a genre anyone can do, it’s probably making beats or bedroom pop—things accessible if you have a computer—but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It means you don’t need to have a lot of money or access to instruments to be able to make music,” she says. “If the song’s good, it’s good. It doesn’t matter how or why they’re making it. Because as long as a song is original, it doesn’t matter where you created it, even if you recorded it in your childhood bedroom.”