Sophia Kennedy tells us about the influences behind her new LP ‘Monsters’ (stream it)
Baltimore-raised, Hamburg-based art-pop musician Sophia Kennedy is back with her second album, Monsters, which is out today via City Slang/Pampa. On it she deftly sashays between killer dancefloor material and more atmospheric compositions, all of which showcase her impressive vocal abilities. You can listen to the whole album below.
Also out today is a video for the lush, dreamy "Seventeen," which Sophia directed herself that features home video footage she shot as a teenager. “I was given a camcorder for my 15th birthday and carried it around me wherever I went, documenting everything around me," she tells us. "Growing up as a teenager and facing crises I assume most teens go through, I was often terrified and overwhelmed by life itself. I often questioned whether the lyrics to ‘Seventeen’ had any relevance or were just another clichéd take on youth. But it's an autobiographical song that also reflects upon the melancholy of adolescence, the insecurities, searching for one's own identity and confidence - rather than glorifying the joy of being young. The video to 'Seventeen' shows excerpts taken from the material I filmed with my camcorder while growing up: Baltimore, New York, Bielefeld -- when I visited my family in the States I would film the streets of Baltimore, the city I was born in, out of the car window. Being born in the U.S., but raised in Germany, I always felt I had this secret 'other' life that I wanted to get a hold of and knew so little about. I wanted to capture as much as possible to somehow keep and feel close to this part of my life.”
Watch that video below.
We also asked Sophia if she'd tell us about the influences behind Monsters, and she gave us a list of 10, including musicians (The Roches, Micachu, A$AP Rocky, Jessica Pratt), filmmakers, musical gear and more. Check out her list, complete with commentary, below.
SOPHIA KENNEDY - 10 INSPIRATIONS BEHIND MONSTERS
The Singers Unlimited
I love harmonies. They touch my soul. I can’t help myself. I’m always on the lookout for haunting and mysterious vocal harmonies in my music and enjoy layering my vocals on top of each other to create these kinds of dense and atmospheric moods.
The Roches - "Hammond Song"
I remember as a kid my father once wrote me a card for my birthday, mentioning The Roches and that he went to school with one of the sisters -- I forgot about them until later on in my adult life. I was in Berlin working at the theatre, when I received an email by Mense Reents, my partner in music and life, with an attached link to this song. He said that their way of layering their vocals reminded him of mine. I listened to it, remembered the birthday card from my Dad and it just blew my mind.
The Swan Silvertones
Throughout the production of the album, Mense pointed out to me that my music is often influenced by Gospel. I wasn’t aware of that, since it appears to be rather subtle. He then played me this song and I fell in love with it.
Fairchild Reverbertron II Model 659
It’s a spring reverb from the 1960s - we used it on a lot of vocals on Monsters. It immediately adds this unique sparkling atmosphere to the music.
Vladislav Delay - "Rakka"
The direct and raw physical emotionality of this album blows my mind. Sometimes I try to integrate industrial and electronic noise sound textures into my music. I haven’t found the right method yet, but I’m currently still exploring.
Guy Maddin is a Canadian film director -- his work was introduced to me by my former film professor as I still was a film student at the HfBK in Hamburg. I guess Maddin’s bizarre-to-surreal stories, whimsical humor and play on clichés have parallels to my artistic world.
Mount Kimbie feat. Micachu - "Marilyn"
I’ve been listening to their latest album Love What Survives a lot since it came out in 2017. I love the vocals of Mica Levi on "Marilyn" -- Mica’s an absolute legend. The sound of Mount Kimbie, in general, is hauntingly beautiful and unique. We were lucky enough to attend a concert in Hamburg, when there was still such a thing as live music.
Jessica Pratt - "Opening Night"
"Opening Night" by Jessica Pratt is such an inspiring song. Sometimes a simple and deep piano loop can be more exciting than writing a conventional song.
Mina - "Se Telefonando"
This song from the mid-'60s performed by the Italian singer Mina, originally composed by Ennio Morricone is incredibly moving to me. The structure and build-up of the melody that never seems to end, the composition, the grandeur, and the tragedy!!
A$AP Rocky - "The Kids Turned Out Fine"
What a crazy piece of psychedelic music! Asap Rocky is at his best when he doesn’t give a shit about the rules of Hip Hop.