Soccer Mommy’s first gig under Zheng was the first slot of three openers at New York’s Mercury Lounge — Allison made $100. “It’s rough opening,” says Allison. “I was 20 when I started touring, but I’m gracious because I think it would be wrong if I didn’t have that time period to think, ‘Should I do this for a living? Is it worth it?’ ” Soon enough, she was opening for established indie acts like The Drums, Jay Som and fellow High Road client Slowdive through the end of 2017. Allison’s decision to leave NYU was an easy one: Soccer Mommy had broken through as a headliner, nearly selling out the 250-capacity Brooklyn club Baby’s All Right, a popular stage for buzzy artists on an upward trajectory. “New York is the most important media market in America,” says Zheng. “If you can’t do well in New York, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble everywhere else.”
Soccer Mommy was drawing audiences in New York without having released a full-length album. In March 2018, the act released its debut, Clean, which highlighted Allison’s songwriting chops and placed her among modern indie-rock laureates like Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan and recent tourmate Phoebe Bridgers. “When Sophie was opening for me, I felt like I needed to see the show every night, even though we were on tour together for a fucking month,” says Bridgers. Next came an avalanche of glowing press, including a Best New Music distinction from Pitchfork. Even more valuable, though, was Hayley Williams’ fandom of Clean, which led to Allison joining Paramore on tour that summer. “When you’re at huge venues, everyone hangs out afterward,” says Allison, looking back on numerous postshow bonfires with Williams. Following the Paramore dates, Soccer Mommy — which now consists of guitarist Julian Powell, guitarist-keyboardist Rodrigo Avendano, bassist Graeme Goetz and drummer Rollum Haas — launched its own headlining run.
Still, Soccer Mommy wasn’t ready to shake its opener status just yet. By February 2019, Allison was back opening for Musgraves just after the country-pop artist won album of the year at the Grammy Awards. “That was the most fun tour — we were really locked in, spending a lot of time with Kacey’s group,” recalls Allison. “Persistent, but not aggressively annoying,” is how Zheng describes Allison’s approach to following up with Musgraves’ camp and securing the gig. “Doing stuff that’s all over the place is better than playing with only indie bands,” says Allison of her non-genre-discriminatory strategy. “It gives you a fan base that really likes what you like.”
With that fan base still growing, Soccer Mommy is preparing to release its highly anticipated second album, Color Theory, out Feb. 28 on Loma Vista Recordings (a part of Concord). The LP chronicles Allison’s mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer a decade ago, and her own lifelong struggles with mental health. Before the album had even arrived, select dates on Soccer Mommy’s North American tour of 1,000-plus capacity venues sold out.
As suggested, Color Theory’s 10-song track list spans three color-coded themes: “Blue is for sadness and depression; yellow popped out as a color of sickness and mental illness, paranoia and high tension; and gray is this lack of emotion and life, just emptiness,” says Allison. In the seven-minute centerpiece “Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes,” she laments being on the road while fearing time with her ailing mother is slipping away. “Sometimes I wish I had more breaks,” she says. But if Allison learned anything from opening for so many high-profile artists in a row, it’s that she now knows “how long I can be [away from] home without going crazy.”