words: Jarith Hughes // photos: Monique Pizzica
“There’s a juxtaposition between the youthfulness of Sophie Allison’s pure voice, angsty sound and the maturity in her songwriting, musicianship, lyrics and demeanor on stage.”
So it’s the beginning of a brand new year and to be honest I feel like I’m still recovering from the last one. There are however a few things that I am excited for on this next lap around the sun, Soccer Mommy performing at Brunswick's’ Howler in Brunswick is a big one. It’s a stunning summer evening and we pull into Howler’s beautiful indoor/outdoor courtyard for a few wines before the show. To my surprise the place is packed for a Monday night. It’s hard to gauge how well received some of these emerging american indie bands are in Australia, but I get the sense this show is drawing a larger crowd than I anticipated.
Doors open and we follow the crowd pouring into the band room. I head up the merch desk to grab a vinyl (like the fanboy I am), and I turn around to see and already packed room.
As the lights dim, out walk three young Aussie kids, clad in overalls, vintage Tees and snapbacks. Kelly-Dawn “KELSO” Hellmrich shared an important moment by addressing the audience to acknowledge the traditional landowners the Wurundjeri people. The more I think about it, I am surprised that this isn't a more common or even a mandatory thing.
KELSO is the brainchild Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich (Camp Cope) and her two mates Xavier Rubetzki Noonan (Self Talk/Max Quinn), and Gab Strum (Japanese Wallpaper). The Trio sport a sound that blurs between acoustic singer/songwriter and soft indie/rock. Strummed acoustic guitar, with electric guitar carrying floaty atmospheric riffs and synth bass hauling depth and rhythm creates a unique setting for moody, softly sung storytelling vocals and three-way harmonies to fill the room like a symphony.
Kelso’s crowd engagement humorous and disarming, stopping songs for awkward banter about gas, hating pubs and accusing Sophie Allison (Soccer Mommy) of giving her the flu. As Kelso’s set approached its end the crowd was warmed up and in a lighthearted state.
I turn to survey the room and it is full to the brim. Ironic gangster rap is blaring over the speakers while the bands change over their gear. The stage clears, music cuts and slams into a sci-fi soundtrack as the lights dim again. Purple spotlights beam down on the band as they lock eyes with each other to start their first song.
A four-tap leads Soccer Mommy into a jam that builds with each instrument layering over another. The jam swells to moment of suspense and the opening riff to “Try”. The band continued to jam a hand full of favourites from earlier albums “Collection” and “For Young Hearts”.
Soccer Mommy is the innovation of 21yr old Nashville artist Sophie Allison, together with her band they’re responsible for their deemed “dreamy bedroom pop” sound. Yet I hear more than that. There’s a juxtaposition between the youthfulness of Sophie Allison’s pure voice, angsty sound and the maturity in her songwriting, musicianship, lyrics and demeanor on stage. It’s punk, it’s folk, it’s country, it’s emo. There’s purity in the music, it’s not contrived or manipulated to give the band any particular image or brand. But I think that’s what give soccer mommy their unique appeal.
Testament to that is also the bands aesthetic and stage presence. The band’s sporting an array of thrifted or vintage attire, nothing more fancy or outrageous than the audience members. Sophie Allison rocks a Tee that looks like she painted herself, shorts and a pair of pigtails. The banter was honest and connected the audience instantly. Sophie warned people she was fighting the flu also how humbled they were that the audience knew their songs despite it being their first ever Australian tour. Crowd members yelled requests for songs and for them to return and tour more of Australia (specifically poor Adelaide). This casual appearance is not to be mistaken with any lack of seriousness when it comes to their performance. The band moved with the flow of the music and guitarist Julian Powell made sure to strike a few Jimmy Page moves while tearing up his solo’s.
The band punched through banger after banger covering their three albums worth of material, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear the whole crowd singing along to every word. Further into the set the band stepped offstage to let Sophie perform a few solo songs, which never lost a single moment of the crowd's attention. A beautiful and delicate cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on fire” left the audience (chaperone Dads included) with their jaws on the floor. The band returned to finish the night with hits from their current album Clean, like “Cool”, ‘Your Dog” and “Scorpio Rising”.
I myself was lost in the energy of Soccer Mommy’s performance. It was pretty special witnessing the crowd of women almost yelling along to their hit single Your Dog, “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog”, “I don’t wanna be your little pet”.