The French-born, L.A.-based actor-musician Soko is about to star in what many have dubbed her star-making vehicle--that is, as the titular character in the French film about 19th century research around hysteria, Augustine--but if you ask her, she could care less. "To be honest, I'm just not looking to be doing any movies, period. I love seeing them--I'm such a movie nerd and I'm so attracted to it in so many ways," she explains over the phone from California. Indeed, Soko has enough else going on that she doesn't need to be the next Melanie Laurent; also a talented musician, her debut album is finally being released stateside and she's already got songs lined up for the follow-up. What gets her excited? "Whether I'm directing videos or making songs or acting, I don't care, as long as I'm telling stories." NYLON.com caught up with the raven-haired creative to find out, if not films, what we can expect from her in the next year--and where to go for the best concert tees ever.
The buzz around Augustine is that this is going to be your breakout film. Did you think about that at all when you first read the script?
No, I don't really think at all in terms of career, I'm really not like that. I just thought that when I read it, This is definitely the role I've been waiting for my whole life. It feels like the most challenging of all the projects I've read before, but I was just thinking of it as something really challenging and really incredible and a great chance to play a character and get involved in something.
Why do you not think that way? So many actors seem so focused on carving out a career trajectory for themselves.
I just don't really care that much about doing movies, to be honest. I feel very lucky to be saying that, my life is so full with incredible stuff--music and directing videos and playing shows and making records and collaborating with people--so I feel already like this one life is complete. Any movie that comes along is a bonus to my already very fulfilled life. For me to take on anything at all, it really has to be the best story and best director, because it's sacrificing a few months of my life to do something else. It's also a great opportunity, but I'm going to have to put off all of these other things I have planned and do something else.
So what about this movie made it seem worthwhile?
As soon as I read it I was telling my agent that I seriously don't want anyone else to do this part and that I know I will add so much to it and I'd be the best for it. [But the casting directors] didn't want to see any actresses at all, any known faces at all, so they looked for eight months, they saw 800 girls, and after seeing 800 girls they said to my agent, "Fiiine, stop bugging us, we'll see her."
Wow, that's nuts. How much prep went into playing the character of Augustine?
There was a lot of prep--I had to do a lot of hypnosis! I was really hypnotized in the movie. So they taught me how to do it! You've seen it in so many movies and people fake being hypnotized, so we wanted everything to look real. Every time you see me fall, I fall for real--except for the [scene by the] stairs. Also there was this special effect where they were pulling me around with cables and I had to train with working that a lot; I was literally covered in bruises nonstop. Every single day I'd go home at night--I lived with my brother--and he was like, "What the fuck, are you part of Survivor?"
With your focus less on movies these days, what other projects have been keeping you busy?
[My debut album] I Thought I Was An Alien is actually going to be released in the US on June 11, and then I'm finishing a new record in LA right now. It's called My Dreams Dictate My Reality, and I hope it's going to come out really soon.
Since you're already working on your second album, is it weird to be promoting your first album?
Oh yeah, I've totally moved on [laughs]. It's really weird, actually, because I feel like this first record was so personal and emotional and very dark and very sad, and it was very hard for me to perform it. I love playing shows more than anything in the world, but it had to be a very quiet audience and in very intimate venues; I couldn't play an intimate set singing about my father's death in front of drunk people. I'd have panic attacks, like, "I can't do this!" [The new album] is way less acoustic, it's super dream popish and some are almost post-punk.
You're also quite the cult style icon--earlier this year we were obsessing over your outfit at the Chanel fall '13 show. Where do you do your shopping in L.A.?
To be honest, I'm very lucky in the fact that I get a lot of clothes gifted. So I don't really get so much time to go shopping and if I do, I always just go to thrift stores. I never buy anything new, I don't think. I always just go to the Rose Bowl--that's not a thrift store, but it's my favorite place to buy everything. In December I bought 10 band T-shirts--an old Pink Floyd, an Elton John tour T-shirt, a tie-dyed Elton John and Billy Joel Piano Man tour tee, and a 1992 T-shirt of The Monkees--they look so retarded! It looks so dated, with their old faces. It's pretty funny!
Augustine opens in select theaters starting today.