‘I hate singers who really enjoy performing – I don’t trust them,’ explains South London-born artist, SOHN.
While he pairs the confession with one of many frequent giggles, you can’t help but acknowledge that there’s an element of seriousness to what he’s trying to say. As far as his music is concerned, SOHN (real name Christopher Taylor) is quite the unswerving miserablist. The singer-songwriter has a penchant for the sorrowful, exploring tales of heartbreak and desperation through textured, desolate electronic sounds. His lyrics are of a deep and introverted melancholia, to the extent where in some instances, you feel as if you shouldn’t really be listening. I guess you can’t blame him for treating the other side of the spectrum with an element of suspicion. In his music, SOHN is leaving nothing untouched.
‘I just find it really difficult to trust the ones that look like they’re having fun,’ he adds, before sniggering again. If there were any worries of the mournful crooner’s demeanour echoing that of his music, they’re quickly extinguished. Although he’s still yet to start sound-check for the evening’s show, SOHN is warm, relaxed and chatty throughout our conversation, not once indicating that there’s somewhere else he needs to be. Oh, he’s funny, too – in case you were wondering. So why all the sadness?
‘I’m not really a negative person or anything like that – but the sad stuff is where I find the most beauty,’ he replies.
‘Even with the happiest of things, you know? The more you’re invested in these things that make you happy, the harder it becomes to unknow them. It’s wired into you. So, if there’s ever a time where you can’t have it, well… you won’t be the same again, will you?’
For the Londoner, it seems, there’s possibility in pessimism, because it’s never really far away. Even laughter is a little sad, because of the fear that it could disappear forever. His music is at its most devastatingly affective when it explores this anxiety. The aching repetition of ‘My love don’t love me’ in 2013’s Bloodflows is (and will remain) one of the saddest declarations in modern pop. He’s quick to point out that it’s an approach exclusive to his songwriting, though. ‘I’m actually quite an optimistic person,’ he stresses – and, to be fair to him, it does show. None more so than when he discusses his second album, due for release at the beginning of next year.
‘Yeah, the album’s pretty much done – it’s just the mixing process that’s taking a little longer this time. Every single artist wants their album to come out straight away and in my head it’s been finished for a while – but I’m actually pretty relaxed about it.’
His debut, Tremors, was written predominantly in Vienna, SOHN’s sophomore record was recorded in what he describes as a ‘kind of in-between space’. While a proportion of the process took place in the Austrian capital, the singer-songwriter was based in LA for much of the creation of the second album, setting up camp at a friend’s ranch.
‘Being based in Vienna, there was an icy feel to the last record. But with this one, I was based in America. It was a lot more souly,’ he says. Listening to Signal, the first release from the record in question, you can’t really argue. There’s a confidence to the new single that seems more obvious than in his previous work. While all of his music exhibits the most intricate of focus, Signal is a different beast entirely. It’s everything that SOHN does well; voice and instrumental unravelling in harmonious conjunction, to the point where the entanglement makes it almost impossible to separate the two. It’s gorgeous – and much grander than anything he’s released to date. Oh, and Mila Jovovich starred and directed in the track’s video.
‘Yeah, it was all a bit bonkers,’ he laughs, explaining how she reached out to him on Twitter as a fan.
‘We got talking, so I sent her Signal and basically she just started talking about visual ideas that were coming to mind as she was listening to it. There’s no point in having a music video just have to have a music video. Doing it with Mila was totally different.’
It’s these kind of moments that justify the artist’s repeated declarations of optimism. When he discusses the collaboration with Jovovich, he does so with the starry-eyed bewilderment of an excitable fan. ‘It was just like… wow,’ he admits, a few times. It’s an enthusiasm that’s equalled by the aforementioned discussions of his impending album, and one that still resonates when I ask him about his work as a co-writer and producer.
‘I think some of the best things I’ve written is as a third party to the whole thing,’ he explains, citing his time in the studio with artists such as Kwabs, Banks and Lana Del Rey. ‘I get to sit and talk with these amazing people who really, really interest me, and say: “this is how I’d interpret this” then, let them run with the music. I just lead them down a path. I love doing it.’
SOHN loves what he does. He loves telling me how much he loves it. It gets to the point where I’m worried I’ll make him miss his own show; but then again, he enjoys performing so much that I doubt he’d ever let that happen.
‘Once you get there, it’s so satisfying,’ he tells me. It’s in relation to an anecdote about rehearsals, although it’s a pretty effective statement in encompassing all of what SOHN does. As an artist, he deserves to sit alongside names such as James Blake, Nick Murphy and Gotye – and with the way things are going, it looks like he soon will. To repeat a phrase used in the opening paragraph: SOHN is quite the unswerving miserablist. But don’t you dare call him sad. Right now, making music, he couldn’t be happier.
Words by Niall Flynn