Try To Reach Me: Exploring Sofie's 'Cult Survivor'

Try To Reach Me: Exploring Sofie's 'Cult Survivor'

Inside the multi-hyphenate's debut album...

Sofie (Sofie Fatouretchi) is a master of all trades.

Born to Iranian and Austrian parents in California, she spent many of her formative years as a musician travelling between the US and Vienna.

Between these various environments, she’s covered a lot of creative ground. Not only is she a classically-trained musician, playing the violin and viola since the delicate age of four, she is also self-taught on the piano. As a DJ and fervent record collector, she’s best known for her monthly show SOS Radio on NTS and her eclectic DJ sets. 

And just when you thought that might be enough for anyone, she’s also managed to somehow squeeze in some time to study for a teaching degree in psychology, philosophy and English in Vienna, where she currently lives.

Inspired by the experimental musical concoctions of Gary Wilson, and the soft dreaminess of ‘60s pop, Sofie’s latest creative venture via Stones Throw is her debut album, 'Cult Survivor'. It’s a deliciously chaotic listen, entirely left of field and unpredictable.

Ahead of its release, we spoke about artistic influences, what motivates us to create art, and how classical music shapes us.

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So this is your debut album. You mentioned in a previous interview that you create music that you need for yourself. What was the motivation, or need, that stemmed from this album?

I didn’t write these songs with the intention of it becoming an album. I would just write down the songs I’d hear in my head, and eventually record them; it was only over an email exchange with Peanut Butter Wolf when he’d mentioned I have more than enough songs for an album that we narrowed down the tracks that would eventually become 'Cult Survivor'.

You are a big fan of the experimental musician Gary Wilson and even drew a painting of him - ‘Gary Kissed A Mannequin’ - which hangs in your studio. He also features in the video for ‘Truth of the Matter’. What is it about his work that you wanted to capture in your own sound and how has he influenced your creative projects over the years?

I think Gary’s one of those rare, once-in-a-generation talents who’s so unique and uncompromising, there’s just something inherently true to himself, and I think that honesty which comes across in his lyricism and arrangement, as well as being unafraid to conform to a traditional standard has been most influential to me.

You’re classically trained as a musician and cite Serge Gainsbourg as an influence. He similarly had a close relationship to classical music from a young age and you can very clearly see the influence of composers such as Chopin and Brahms in his work. Has this been something you have also encountered in your practice and has it shaped how you approach your music?

I haven’t yet done the classic Gainsbourg re-sampling of chord structures that he does, like if you look at 'Jane B' it’s an exact transcription of Chopin’s Op. 28 No. 4 in E Minor, or 'Baby Alone in Babylon' is Sympony No. 3 in F Major by Brahms - but I’d like to for sure.

I think perhaps I have the hindrance of having that more traditional approach to music embedded in me, and it used to really annoy me but over the past couple of years I’ve stopped fighting it and have resigned myself to the utter devotion of classical music again.

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You moved back to Vienna after living in Los Angeles. I’ve read that you found this to initially be quite an isolating experience (though one that ultimately led to the songwriting for this album and forged the way for new creativity). How did you rebuild your music community and how did these spaces and experiences differ from those of LA?

I wouldn’t even necessarily say I have a music community in Vienna, I have some friends that are very dear to me.

Some are talented musicians in their own right, like Christian Hummer, who plays in the Austrian band Wanda, has his own band that’s worth checking out (Loewe Loewe), and plays bass in the loose formation that is my band the Cult Survivors, and who is the only other person to have contributed to my album musically, laying down drums, bass, and some guitar on a few tracks.

I’m reticent of having to compare the two cities. I’ve been able to do things here that I wouldn’t have been able to do in the US in general, just out of financial reasons I wouldn’t have been able to attend university, whereas here my education is free.

You are a master of many trades - a DJ, model, artist, musician, philosophy student - and often talk about how your various creative and intellectual projects feed into one another. Were there any particular themes or questions that evolved in the making of this album that you encountered in other projects first?

I think all art I make ends up inevitably being a combat, a sort of praxis, for me to deal with living life, and responding to experiences I have.

You mentioned in an interview once that you don’t tend to pursue a singular creative project, instead, working on multiple at the same time. Yet you also noted that this might be because of a “fear of failure”, or even a fear of yourself. Do you think that this album - which brings together lots of different parts of your creative identity into one finished product - challenges this fear in any way?

I guess you’re right! It’s been a while since that interview and that has definitely changed. Yes, I suppose it definitely does.

You are very open about your struggles with anxiety. How do your creative practices help with expressing or relieving this?

If I wouldn’t do them, I’d go crazy, I have. It’s very hard for me to not do anything. That being said, it’s important to have periods of stagnation, just for introspection’s sake.

What’s next?

Existing, bettering myself, continuing to learn, trying to not feel too disheartened about the world. I’ve been feeling the need to retreat more and more. I’ve been enjoying practicing etudes on the piano - I was classically trained on the violin, but not the piano, where I’m self-taught - I have a whole book of Kreutzer etudes I want to be able to play by the end of the summer.

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'Cult Survivor' is out now.

Words: Tess Davidson
Photo Credit: Manuel Haring

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