Fans of L.A. indie-pop band Foster the People (“Pumped Up Kicks”) who will be flocking to the Fillmore Miami Beach on Thursday night would be wise to not arrive fashionably late. Super-chic opening act SoKo, a French actress (“Augustine”) and singer hand-picked by the band to kick off the show, will perform tracks from her upcoming second album “My Dreams Dictate My Reality,” as well as songs from her debut, “I Thought I Was an Alien.”
SoKo, full name Stephanie Sokolinski, is one of those artists whose subtle delivery ends up more powerful than many bands that crank up the amps to 11. When she whispers, it hits you like a heart attack, with her haunting voice and confessional lyrics drawing the listener in emotionally.
It’s this understated grace that attracted producer Ross Robinson (The Cure, At the Drive-In) and celebrity video director Spike Jonze to work with her. SoKo has also collaborated with a diverse group of “it” performers, including Daniel Johnston, Cornershop, Ariel Pink and Pete Doherty.
Catch SoKo on YouTube in the “First Kiss” video by Tatia Pilieva, which features 20 strangers kissing for the first time and is set to SoKo’s song, “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” (she’s the shy blonde in the beanie kissing the taller woman). And then catch her Thursday night at the Fillmore (she also performs a free show at 7 p.m. Wednesday at The Bubble, 810 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-562-3804).
How are you enjoying opening for Foster the People?
It’s been pretty amazing so far, playing these crazy arenas. It’s my first time playing for so many people – pretty stressful. I’ve been playing a lot of new songs, and it’s been incredible to hear them in such a big environment. Still petrifying, but really fun.
How did they end up choosing you for their tour?
I’m friends with Mark Foster. We did a writing session together a bit ago for their new record and were joking about the fact that I should open for them. And then they made it happen, which I never thought was actually serious, but here I am on tour with my friends, and it’s amazing. I feel really lucky.
I imagine your set alone at The Bubble will be entirely different in terms of what you’ll be able to offer your fans?
I think my music is much more adapted to intimate venues than big arenas, indeed. I love playing intimate shows. I have a whole band with me, and we’re five onstage, so it gets pretty epic. I always enjoy a real connection with the audience when they’re close and you can actually talk to them and see their tears rolling on their cheeks.
Is it true you never follow a set list?
I usually don’t, just because I like to keep every night different and spontaneous, and give everyone and myself a unique experience in rediscovering my own music every night, depending on which mood people are in.
How is the new album different from “I Thought I Was an Alien,” and why do we have to wait till next winter for it?
The new album is called “My Dreams Dictate My Reality.” It was produced by Ross Robinson, and I guess it’s a lot more gothy-punky-dreamy than “I Thought I Was an Alien” – that was a lot more intimate. It talks a lot about all my fears and anxiety and death and childhood and having Peter Pan syndrome, and it’s got a really heavy tone to it, but sounds a lot more upbeat, with tones of synth and chorus-y guitars. And we have to wait because … hmm. It takes a while for labels to release stuff, I guess. And I have to learn how to be patient, and you, too! Meanwhile, I’ll direct a bunch of new videos and stuff for when it comes out.
You started off as an actress before becoming a singer. What inspired you to take the plunge into a musical career?
I was just craving for something that would make me feel creatively fulfilled on my own, where I can be totally independent, and I have that with music. I write all the time, every day, and I love having a good balance of both acting and making music. It keeps me sane.
What was your experience like in the “First Kiss” video, and how did you become involved?
My friend Melissa Cocker asked me if I’d be in her little film that Tatia was going to direct. I said yes, of course! I had no idea what was really going to happen, and I offered them to use my music for it, and then it became this huge thing. It still amazes me.
Was it strange kissing a stranger, or were you able to feel a measure of intimacy?
Well, it was Marianna Palka’s first time ever kissing a girl, so I guess I wanted to make it feel real and nice to her, so she would have a fond memory of it. And we’re still friends and all, so I guess we did OK!
The list of artists you’ve worked with is really eclectic, from Daniel Johnston to Pete Doherty to Ross Robinson to Spike Jonze, and all are dripping with indie-cred. Is that something you’ve been careful about – making sure to surround yourself with the right artists (and avoid the wrong ones)?
Ha! I just have really specific taste, and I guess that attracts only specific people. I co-wrote a song (called “Fame”) on Santigold’s last record, and I co-wrote and sang on a few tracks of Theophilus London’s new album too, and I sang on Ariel Pink’s new record, and he sang on mine. That’s been an ongoing collaboration for a while – I love working with him. So all that feels pretty eclectic – I just like working with people that I find inspiring and genuine.
What’s your songwriting process like?
Well, I don’t know, I mean, I write thoughts and poems and stuff all the time, but when it comes to songs, they usually come haunt me at night at the very moment where I’m about to fall asleep. They will be there all formed, and I just have to be brave enough to wake up and record them right away. And I usually hear all the instruments, drums, bass lines, guitar hooks and harmonies at once. It’s pretty crazy!