In the Middle with SOPHA

In the Middle with SOPHA

Sarah Ashford-Brown talks to up-and-coming French band SOPHA about their work, their creative process and what it’s like to be in a band.

Present yourselves in a few words.
Seven: I’m 19, I was born in Paris but spent much of my time travelling in South America and
Africa with my parents when I was younger. I now live in Lyon.
Sher Khan: I’m 18 and just passed the baccalaureate. I’m from Lyon and I’m part of the
group Narcollectif as well as Sopha.
Kaducé: I’m Kaducé, I’m 18, I have been passionate about music ever since I can remember
and I play drums.
Rex Concerto: Hi I’m Leonem (rapper name), Rex Concerto (beatmaker name). I produced
and arranged the album.

Where does the name SOPHA come from?
Sher Khan: Yeah Sopha doesn’t have any particular signification apart from the fact that we
named the group when we were on a sofa. It’s clear and sounds good.

How did you meet and when did you decide to form the band? And why?
Seven: We all met approximately two years ago, there was a good vibe going on and we
knew that Sher Khan already rapped in his free time. So one afternoon we all tried to write
some lyrics and film ourselves freestyling. I think that’s when it all started.

Have you always wanted to join the music industry?
Seven: No not at all! I played classical music since a very young age but I gave it up five
years ago, I never really thought I’d do anything with it in life. You know, when I rap I don’t
consider myself as a musician, at least, not yet. I am more focused on the writing side, it’s
Rex Concerto, our beatmaker, who does all the instrumental arrangements.
Sher Khan: No not at all, even though my dad is a musician and has always been an
incitation for me to follow him. I was originally leaning towards sport as I have been playing
handball for 9 years. Music came to me, rather than the other way round. Nowadays it is
music that interests me more than sport even though I haven’t given it up the latter
altogether.
Kaducé: No, I always had other plans for the future, however, rap has become my passion.
Rex Concerto: I always wanted to make music my job. My dad is a musician himself and
shared his passion with me. I’ve always identified myself to famous stage performers who I
wanted to resemble. However I tried to find my own style for a while, from rock n’ roll to
classical and then jazz, funk and nowadays rap. I truly believe to have found my thing as rap
music is really malleable being easily modified and played around with. From an artistic point of view it is a genre that can be mixed with every kind of music. And that’s what we all like
about it.

Image: Samy Gandrillon

How is the work separated between you all (filming, writing, instrumental etc.)? What does
each individual do?
Seven: Kaducé, Sher Khan and I write our own parts, Rex Concerto does all the
instrumental work, I consider him a real musician, he is really talented. Like for example,
when we have an idea for a melody, we describe it in three adjectives and he reproduces it
immediately which makes it so simple for us. We others can’t even play ‘Happy Birthday’ on
the piano!
Rex Concerto: We work in tight and maximal collaboration. But we make sure to keep our
own place like when it comes from to videos and films, I fully trust Seven. It’s his domain and
he has experience.

How was the songwriting divided? Does the band have a main songwriter?
Sher Khan: Each of us write our own lyrics but it doesn’t mean the writing isn’t done in a
group. We all have our own pen but we write at the same table, if you know what I mean.

How long has it taken you to create the entire album?
Seven: It took us around 8-9 months, with two of the band members passing their
baccalaureate and one with money issues, we didn’t get to have a recording studio for 2-3
months which didn’t help. I remember planning the album for February, and it only came out
in July.

What message are you attempting to deliver throughout your songs?
Seven: Throughout the album we talk about night time as if it were a siren calling us. We
often go out at night so it’s actually something we can relate to. We imagined the night like a
desirable woman intoxicating us with her call (like the singing of a siren) and which makes us
feel ashamed, when the morning comes.

What is your favourite song?
Seven: Personally I’d say Siren, it’s the song that gives the album its meaning.
Sher Khan: I love every single one otherwise it wouldn’t appear on the album. But if I should
pick one it would have to be ‘Blacklist’ I think as there is a lot of truth in the lyrics. We all
three personify the nightmares of our wild nights in one way or another, and the fact that we
are no longer invited anywhere confirms this.
Kaducé: My favourite sound on the album is ‘On changera pas pour eux’ (‘We won’t change
for them’). I truly believe that it conveys a real message through what is suggested by the words, the instrumental is mesmerising and it’s one of the first texts I wrote for the album so
it’s important to me.
Rex Concerto: My favourite song would be Lapsus as there is a ‘jam’ side which I like a lot,
reminding me of my nights out with friends. It could also be because it features Harribeuh,
another group from Narcollectif which also brings me good memories as they are good Mc’s
and good friends with whom I love working.

Did you have any musical influences growing up?
Kaducé: I admire rappers who essentially base their sounds on meaning rather than form.
They aren’t looking for fame in contrary to run-of-the-mill rappers whose lyrics don’t mean
anything.
Rex Concerto: I think we all have been influences one way or another. Music is everywhere
nowadays, we all have a story to tell with it. My dad has taught me a lot on my musical rock
culture. I used to listen to The Doors, The Who, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd etc. And while
growing up I started listening to some jazz thanks to my uncle and friends. I have therefore
listened to Otis Redding, Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, Maceo Parker, a lot and so many
more!

Have some songs been harder to write than others?
Seven: To be honest, no. We wrote about what we had to say and I personally never forced
myself to write about any topic I wasn’t truly feeling.

Were you inspired by any artist? Or life event?
Rex Concerto: I’ve been inspired by so many rappers. Today rap has taken a large place in
my life so I have become extremely involved in this kind of music, the Mc and beatmaker. I
appreciate work of Parisian rappers such as Lomepal, Nekfeu and Alpha Wann who have a
very precise sound that flows well. It doesn’t mean that I do not listen to rappers like Booba,
Pnl, Damso and many others, I love their music and respect their work but it isn’t the type of
rap I want to do right now.

What is the best part of making an album?
Rex Concerto: For me it was the mixing part haha. The album was finally completed and
ready to present it to the public. It was very exciting and we were no longer under pressure. I
was locked in the studio with the sound engineer, who is also the second beatmaker for
Narcollectif. I am truly grateful because thanks to him the album has an amazing sound. So
Big Up to him!

Will you be releasing other albums in the future?
Seven: Yes and it will be here sooner than you expect.

Image: Samy Gandrillon

 

Edited for length and clarity

Sarah Ashford-Brown