Sophie Allison is accustomed to “just passing through”: the 25-year-old artist better known as Soccer Mommy has spent much of her past year on the road, traveling from tour stop to tour stop, often in the middle of nowhere in between and decamping each evening in a different off-the-map town. But Allison doesn’t mind. “I try to make a day out of finding cool little spots along the way when I can,” she says.
It’s in this liminal space between one place and another that Allison’s latest project, Sometimes, Forever, also lives – as its oxymoronic name implies, Sometimes, Forever is a tribute to the uncertainty of the in-between. Coming of age as a woman and popular indie artist in post-Trump, mid-pandemic America, Allison has managed to capture her volatile last few years deftly.
Produced by Oneohtrix Point Never – whose credits this year include songs on Rosalía’s Motomami, The Weeknd’s Dawn FM and Charli XCX’s Crash – Sometimes, Forever’s marriage of Allison’s lyrical prowess and OPN’s stark, synth-driven sonics makes it by far the darkest and most compelling offering from Soccer Mommy yet. The record does not shy from discussing macro-issues like politics, success and capitalism, or from sharing Allison’s most intrusive thoughts. Somehow OPN, acting as her sonic interpreter, translates each moment into the elusive feeling that only a production pro can bring.
“He’s very detail-oriented,” says Allison of the collaboration. “It really astounds me how [Oneohtrix Point Never] can take one little section, and build it out into something so much weirder and crazier.”
Allison, finally off the road (for now, at least) and settled into her new Nashville home, spoke with Billboard to break down her album’s most essential themes, sonically and lyrically.
On “Darkness Forever,” one of the album’s most sonically ambitious and lyrically bleakest offerings, Allison fixates on Sylvia Plath’s infamous suicide: “Head in the oven didn’t sound so crazy,” she muses in its opening line. Allison says she began to rethink fire “as a cleansing, purifying force instead.
“I wrote it during a time [when] I was really going through it,” she says. “Obviously, Plath’s death sounds horrific, but also for a second, I was like, ‘I totally get it.’”
She liked the idea that flames did not have to symbolize destruction and carnage, but rather, a type of rebirth. Her reading calls to mind monks who have publicly set themselves ablaze to draw awareness to social causes, wildfires that raze entire forests to make way for new ecosystems, or, as Allison suggests, the Salem witch trials, which sent countless women to death in an effort to cleanse puritanical society of supposed black magic. “It’s fascinating – the idea that you could rid yourself of something evil with fire,” she says, “so I started to weave together the story in my brain.”
The theme also carries over into songs like “Don’t Ask Me” and “Fire in the Driveway” on Sometimes, Forever. For Allison, manifesting her internal dialog with tactile forces helped her bring her thoughts into reality: “I like using words that explain the ideas in my head physically,” Allison says, but adds, “it wasn’t purposeful.”
On Sometimes, Forever, words like “fire,” “bones,” “blood” and “dark” are woven throughout nearly every song and provide a throughline. These images, Allison explains, are a consequence of quarantine – a time when she was watching horror flicks and enjoying the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelly and H.P. Lovecraft. Though Sometimes Forever has a haunting feel overall, best propelled by songs like “Darkness Forever” and “Unholy Affliction,” it never veers into the gaudy and Halloween-ish.
“I was in and out of a dark place while writing this record, but I’ve just always been fascinated by gothic imagery,” Allison says. Her sophomore effort, 2020’s Grammy-nominated Color Theory, hinted a bit at these undertones, especially in “Lucy,” a song about Lucifer and succumbing to desire. In hindsight, the track is a clear precursor to the impassioned darkness that Allison, with the help of OPN, embraces on Sometimes, Forever. “I’m very attracted to the idea of good and evil, light and dark,” she says.
As with 2018 debut Clean and Color Theory before it, Sometimes Forever is first and foremost a dissection of Allison herself at the time of creating the album. The record reflects a woman, now 25, who is becoming more sure of her own wants and needs, but that doesn’t mean that realization has been easy.
Never is this more apparent than on “Unholy Affliction,” which discusses the push and pull of money, power and success. Well-aware of how these concepts could ruin her, she muses about what would happen if she gave in, letting them “bleed [her] dry,” as she says. She explored similar turmoil on “Lucy” years before, but now, the temptation is given new stakes. Around the time of the album’s writing, Allison received news that Color Theory was nominated for a Grammy.
Though she says the award wasn’t a direct influence on “Unholy Affliction,” Allison’s ongoing exploration of the perils of achieving success have deepened over time as the success has been actualized. For “Unholy Affliction,” she uses money as a physical manifestation: “Money is moreso a symbol of all that goes along with it,” she says, and hits on the topical conversation of artists on social media. “The frustrating part about the industry is that it’s not just that you have to do things you don’t want to do. Everyone has to do things they don’t want to do for their job, but for artists those things are like selling yourself.”
In “Fire in the Driveway” – a song Allison says nearly didn’t make the cut for Sometimes, Forever – she voices discontentment with her partner, something that she has never said out loud before. “I’m better off without you… I know it’s not wrong to leave you to dogs / But I can’t watch them tear into your skin,” she sings in its chorus. “Fire in the Driveway” acts as Allison’s personal admission: she knows what she wants, but that doesn’t mean she is without remorse for what it might take to get there.
The storytelling of “Fire in the Driveway,” a considerably more subdued cut than the opulent darkness of “Unholy Affliction” and “Darkness Forever,” is brought to life by OPN’s scattered yet restrained production choices, which astutely mirror Allison’s inner conflict. “There’s a lot of elements that come in for like two seconds and drop out in this song,” says Allison. “It’s in and out, it’s choppy, and that’s why I like it.”