Sophia Kennedy’s self-titled debut album is a pop record, and with a solid foundation in the leftfield Pampa aesthetic, the result is versatile and cinematic. Having clocked a healthy level of collaboration time with the likes of Mense Reents (well known for his work with Die Vögel and Die Goldenen Zitronen) and Erobique, an LP was only a matter of time for the Hamburg-based artist.
While Sophia featured on the Pampa compilation last year, this release marks the label’s first songwriting record. We caught up with Sophia to talk about the album, working with Pampa and her plans for playing the record live.
Hi Sophia, Congratulations on the release of the album, how do you feel now that it is finally out?
Thank you! I am overwhelmed by the positive feedback and am very happy that my music is out there for everyone to listen. I am in the middle of rehearsals for the live performances and there is a lot going on which is great but at times can be a little stressful.
Having your album debut as Pampa’s first songwriting record is quite an accolade. When did the idea for the release first come about?
We made the album without a record company, sticking to the idea of completing it the way we wanted it, with the hope to find a special place for it. Pampa was our first address, but we never dreamed they would agree to publish it. Fortunately, DJ Koze and Marcus Fink liked the music, and here we are! And very thrilled to be releasing on Pampa records.
You worked with Mense Reents when producing the record, who you also worked with on a track called Everything for the first volume of the Pampa Records compilation series. When/why did you first make contact with each other?
I met Mense in Hamburg, since I have been living here for about eight years now and we both are in the sphere of the music scene. We got along very well and decided to work together.
Has working more closely with Reents (and Pampa Records more widely) changed the way you approach songwriting and musical arrangement?
I really did not think of Pampa that much throughout the production of the record. I just wanted to make modern pop music with a different kind of approach and with a special sound, that has warmth and depth and a special atmosphere without it being cheesy or flat. For me, a lot of music that is released on Pampa has that same approach.
In a previous interview, you mentioned that while your songs offer a certain mood or feeling, you prefer that they offer listeners messages that are multidimensional and not completely crystallised. That said, do certain tracks on the album have a particular meaning for you?
Reflecting on the album from a distance I now see or hear things that were not that clear to me while producing or writing the songs. I think the complete album has somehow a cinematic touch and in a way, it all belongs together. Although I wouldn’t consider myself as a story-teller, I always seek for an authentic unauthentic way of presenting the songs, if you know what I mean. I can’t really explain it.
The use of your voice as both lead and backing is varied across the LP. You even rap on A Bug in the Rug in a Building and descend into distortion at the close of Foam. Is the development of different personas an important part of the album for you?
I try to perform each song in a way that suits the atmosphere of the music. On a Bug on a Rug in a Building, I thought the album could need a track where I don’t sing. I did not think about rap in particular. After a while, I just couldn’t listen to my own voice anymore and I needed a different way to approach the song, so I just started to “talk”, more or less.
The LP offers a range of genres and tempos, was this decision conscious, does it reflect your own musical tastes?
Growing up, I listened to a lot of folk music such as Karen Dalton or Vashti Bunyan and Cat Power. But also to Frank Sinatra or Lou Reed. I think all of those artists somehow influenced me and the way I compose or sing a song, and I do refer to a lot of them throughout the album. Listening to other records I enjoy finding references of other artists within their music – it gives everything a whole new setting.
What are you listening to at the moment? Are there particular records, labels or artists you find yourself returning to, especially when writing?
I am very busy rehearsing and doing other stuff at the moment, so I can’t really concentrate on listening to music at the moment.
Does Hamburg offer you a good source of musical inspiration? Is the city’s musical community in a healthy state?
Hamburg has a very special vibe and its character is quite unique. The music and art scene is very present and it’s easy to get to know interesting people. After a while, it begins to feel more like a village though. And that has positive and negative aspects, of course.
Are there any Hamburg artists we should watch out for this year?
I am very fond of the voice of Stelle Sommer who is the lead singer of the band called “Die Heiterkeit“. It is very deep and harsh, a bit like Nico… very cool singer.
You are playing a sold out Pampa Records showcase in Barcelona next month. Have thought much about how you want the album to be performed? Do you have any other live shows planned in the near future?
At the moment, I’m stuck in the studio along with Mense, finding out a way to perform the album that represents the sound. We are unravelling the music to find a unique way to perform each song. There will be electronics, keyboards and piano involved. I don’t see myself as a singer of an acoustic band whatsoever. I will be touring through the bigger cities in Germany and have one concert in London coming up.
Finally, what do the next 12 months look like for Sophia Kennedy? You have previously dabbled in working with both audio and visual content, is this something you look to do more of in the future?
I think I will stick to music now for the first. Mainly I think I will be playing concerts and trying out new ways of making and presenting music. So I will be busy with that for the rest of the year, I guess.
Sophia Kennedy’s self-titled album is out now on Pampa Records. Order it here.