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Artist Feature Interview New Music

Being the Cowgrrrl: A Chat with Sofiiak About Their Eclectic Debut

Seattle-based punk virtuoso Sofiiak’s debut EP Cowgrrrl (the revolution demos) is slated to come out on November 26 via Riot Grrrl Records. The project is a genre-bending fever dream that spans country, jazz, dreampop, and riot grrrl. The best way I can describe sound of this EP is if Le Tigre and Dolly Parton were catapulted into the 1930s to play at a jazz lounge in Kansas City with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Sofia Krutikova is the brains behind Sofiiak. They grew up in the mosh pit, which opened the door for them to work at local Seattle venues as a sound engineer. There, they quickly fell in love with the intricacies of producing, which led them to enroll in KEXP’s 90.TEEN public radio program in high school. Krutikova has also made a name for themself as a journalist in The Stranger and as a co-founder of the Riot Grrrl Records label, which publishes monthly zines modernizing the riot grrrl movement.

On this EP, Sofiiak combines the searing bite of Bratmobile records with the serene tranquility of Mazzy Star and the cracked-out production glitches of hyperpop records.

I sat down with Sofiiak to chat about the EP as well as their favorite bands, their love of Rico Nasty, and the punk essence of Charlie Parker. We also talked about their obsession with the omnichord, a portable synthesizer with preset string-rhythms and bass lines that has the ability to produce otherworldly sounds.

What is the most important statement you are trying to make with this project?

That self-care is really important. It’s super easy to get burnt out in the music world and in general. I touch on this in the song “online school during covid,” but daily life can get super repetitive. Continuing to live from project to project and shift to shift is really unhealthy. It’s a really big anti-capitalist statement in favor of self-care. With the production I was really exploring pushing the boundaries of how many weird sounds I could make in Logic while sharing the invasive thoughts in my head about injustice and physical and mental burnout.

Who are three people who make up the Holy Trinity of Riot Grrrl for you?

Well Rico Nasty is up top. I love her. I think that her ethos is the most hardcore Riot Grrrl mentality I’ve ever witnessed. I would also say Bam Bam because they are grunge pioneers, and I believe that Riot Grrrl and grunge go hand-in-hand. And of course, I’m gonna have to go with the classic, Bikini Kill.

How did you cobble all of your versatile influences together for this EP?

I would say that jazz is a big influence, especially Charlie Parker and bebop jazz. I took a jazz history class during the making of this EP and the history of jazz is just insane because none of them were doing it for profit. They were playing music just for the sake of playing music. When you really think about it, the first punk bands were 100% jazz. They weren’t trying to appeal to mass audiences. They were tinkering and improvising. And I took a very similar approach in making this EP. This is music for me. If audiences like it then that’s just a bonus.

I was very inspired by Hannah Jadagu, a bedroom pop artist who signed to Sub Pop this year. I was also influenced by a lot of Russian darkwave and goth, being Russian and Ukrainian myself. There’s this one song called “Disconnexion” by La Femme. It’s a club track with a banjo, and that’s the type of chaos I’m going for. I was also highly influenced by a lot of country music, especially Dolly Parton. I’ve been loving everything that Lil Nas X and Orville Peck have been doing as well.

I’ve always been attracted to the STEM field of music. I’m an engineer at several venues in Seattle and I love being in control of live sound, so being able to utilize that background in my own music gives me the freedom to create the exact sound that I want.

– Sofiiak
Photo by Anya Kochis

How important has your background as a sound engineer and mixer been to your own music?

I think it’s super important. I’ve always been attracted to the STEM field of music. I’m an engineer at several venues in Seattle and I love being in control of live sound, so being able to utilize that background in my own music gives me the freedom to create the exact sound that I want, rather than other people dictating what I get to sound like. Producing has also been beneficial to the way I operate as an engineer because it gives me more knowledge of how to apply effects correctly, depending on the setting.

How’s that search for an omnichord going?

I’m so glad you asked, because I couldn’t stop talking about the omnichord in the latest article I wrote for The Stranger. I’m still looking for one. One of my friends has one, so I might go over to their house and jam. I believe the omnichord will arrive in my life when the universe deems it fit.

What does Dolly Parton mean to you?

I love Dolly. I was Goth Dolly Parton for Halloween. I love her aesthetic, her sound, and what she does with her platform. She’s the picture of humility. She basically funded the Maderna vaccine and it feels nice to know that my vaccine is Dolly-approved. The amount she was able to accomplish in such a male-dominated field like country music is incredibly inspiring. I would love to do a goth-inspired synth cover of “Jolene” at some point.

What influenced the vocal techniques on this EP?

A lot of it has been riot grrrl approaches to vocals. I did choir for two years when I went to Russian school, but my choir teacher was hell. A lot of my vocal style comes from trying to match pitch with the records I listen to while incorporating theory into it to make sure my voice stays in key. And I’m addicted to reverb. I love how it envelopes the vocals in a blanket of echoes. I think there’s so much you can do with vocal effects that a lot of people in mainstream music don’t utilize cause they’re afraid of sounding weird.

Daily life can get super repetitive. Continuing to live from project to project and shift to shift is really unhealthy. It’s a really big anti-capitalist statement in favor of self-care.

– Sofiiak
Photo by Anya Kochis

Your lyric on the final track about dickheads who question your music taste was really cathartic to hear. Dudes who musicsplain are the absolute worst. What drove you to write about it?

I’ve worked at record stores since I was sixteen and I’ve literally had men come up to me and ask me, “Do you even buy records?” at my literal job! Like, YES I buy records sir, I’ve been collecting since I was twelve. Whatever. If these men need to believe they’re introducing me to Nirvana in order to feel special, then that’s not my problem. It’s actually pretty sad.

Did you really break your guitar while singing Angel Olsen?

Yes! I was playing “Shut Up Kiss Me,” and I broke the whammy bar on my guitar. They couldn’t get it fixed at Guitar Center so I ended up having to buy a new one. That’s okay, I still love you, Angel Olsen!

What are some of your favorite music discoveries you’ve made this year?

I love this one song called “Autopilot” by russian.girls. I’ve become a big fan of Vegyn’s production, especially the work he does with Frank Ocean. I fell into a Billie Holiday rabbit hole after watching the Billie Holiday biopic. I just love the way she wrote about her personal life in her lyrics and her vocal style. The new Snail Mail record is incredible as well. I really wanted to book an interview with her for the zine, but she’s literally been on the cover of Rolling Stone, so I never expected her people to get back to me. I’ve been listening to so much Regina Spektor. She makes me feel seen as a Russian-American musician and that Soviet Kitsch album is just incredible. That one later Miles Davis album – I think it was called Doo-Bop – is also great. That was basically a hip hop album.

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