Sophie Allison, of Soccer Mommy, released her debut record “Clean” in 2018, where it was well-received by indie and pop critics. Allison’s confessional lyrics, teenage specificity and '90s alternative guitar stylings combined to make up a unique new voice in indie rock.
She quickly gained a following, opening for Kacey Musgraves, Paramore and featuring at festivals across the world. Soccer Mommy kicked off a new tour on Sept. 17, where they will alternate headlining dates with opening for Vampire Weekend.
Allison took a few minutes before a recent soundcheck to speak with the Missoulian in advance of her visit to the Top Hat on Sep. 23. This interview has been condensed and edited for space and clarity.
How’s the tour going?
This is Day 1, so we haven’t even gotten to a venue yet. I’m excited. It’s going to be fun. I’m really ready to get out of Nashville, which has really hot weather, and getting to go some places where it’s gonna be a little bit cooler. That’ll be nice.
In the last year, year and a half or so you’ve done a lot of touring, both opening for bigger bands and headlining your own shows in smaller venues. Are you excited to be doing more headlining dates on this tour?
This tour’s actually going to be really fun because it’s a mix of — we’re going to play all these small headlining shows, which will be really fun, but we’re also doing some dates with Vampire Weekend. So it’ll be back and forth between playing small and big shows. I’m definitely excited to get to play some nice headlining shows.
It always feels good to do a support tour after you’ve been headlining for a while 'cause you’re kind of tired. But we’ve had a month off, so it’s going to be fun to get to play for fans.
What are the biggest differences in those shows, aside from the size of the venues?
We just cut some stuff to make the set shorter; the set’s not that different. I would say it’s more that you have to win over an audience rather than going in and everybody’s there to see you. You’re going out to an audience that won’t even know who you are and isn’t going to be interested in watching an opener. And you try to play for them and get them to warm up to you a little bit. It’s fun in its own way. You get to make new fans and win people over who never would have heard your music otherwise, so that’s good.
Did you feel any pressure to make your music bigger, or change how you played when you started opening in larger venues?
I don’t think I ever felt a pressure to change songs, but I definitely, once we started opening for bigger bands, it made me want to add more people into the band. That’s another huge difference about these kinds of shows. Playing a small venue versus playing a large venue, it’s way harder to fill up and make it sound full and sound really big and awesome in a big venue if you have four people on stage. That’s why big bands usually have a ton of people and tracks sometimes and stuff like that.
You’ve played a Bruce Springsteen cover “I’m On Fire” a lot on your tour and you released a recorded version in 2018. Is that a song you’ve played for a while? Or was it chosen to fill out the set during tour?
That was something I’d already been playing live, since I was in college. It’s one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs and it’s one that I’ve known since I was a kid and one that I’ve really connected with. It’s a much sadder one and has a different vibe than some of his other stuff. I’ve been covering that at most shows since 2016 (or) 2017.
Have you done any other covers on tour?
We did at one point record a cover of a Dixie Chicks song, “Wide Open Spaces,” for a streaming thing and we did play it one time. We never ended up playing it again, because we switched the drummer (in the band) and never really relearned it, because we had new stuff to learn. That’s the only other cover we’ve ever done.
You’ve also been playing a couple of new songs recently. Are you finding time to write while on tour?
I do write while I’m on tour. I haven’t been writing as much recently, because I just finished writing and recording a whole record so I’ve been taking a breather a little bit. But I did write a lot of the songs from this record that’s going to come out next year, I did write a lot of those in the van or at the venues in the past year.
Was that purposeful, or natural to keep writing on tour?
It was pretty natural. I like to write a lot and I’m the type that writes all the time until something good comes.
Do you feel like you still relate to the songs from “Clean” after playing them so much on tour, and having the two years of distance?
I do. They’re not as prominent in my life as they were, you know, three years ago when I was writing it, or two years ago or however long ago it was I was writing the songs. I still feel that way sometimes and connect with those songs.
My next record is less about a period of time. “Clean” was very much about stuff that was happening specifically at a point in my life. I’m kind of trying to write about broader issues, I guess.
Are there any places you’ve played that have stood out to you? You’ve done a lot of touring in Europe and all over America.
We really liked, I think it was Norway. It was Øya festival, it was really fun. We just did that last month. Tokyo we did earlier this year, at the very beginning of the year. And that was the coolest place I’ve ever been.
I always really like going to New York and Boston. I pretty much like any venue we play at in Boston, I end up having a good time. New York is the same, I end up seeing a lot of friends.
And now you’re coming up through Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana for the fall. Interesting in a different way, probably.
Yeah, it’ll be nice.