Lo-fi and colloquial, Sofia Wolfson delivers an easy-going account of transitional experiences in her latest EP ‘Adulting.’
Singer-songwriter Sofia Wolfson, although still young, is well-versed in writing and performing live, gigging with her guitar when she thirteen. Her latest EP, Adulting (released March 20), is a continuation of 2017’s Side Effects but, while the latter has Fiona Apple-style richness (“Snake Eyes”) and cosy guitar hooks (“Write It down”), Adulting feels more immediate, meandering along with classic suaveness. The raw staccato rhythm, notably present in “Probably Paradise” and “Self-Fulfilled Prophecy,” is reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s and, while Wolfson’s conversational vocals keep it in the present, there’s a timelessness to the words.
“A lot of the EP is about growing pains, being an individual and learning how to do things on your own and be your own person,” Sofia Wolfson tells Atwood Magazine. “I wrote a lot of the songs during the first month of being away and experiencing different weather.”
Really haven’t been doing all I can lately
And now I am eighteen
And now I’ve
Got no plan, nowhere to turn
Every corner’s got a secret or a slow burn
Always looking for some sort of cure
Something to explain how immature
I get when living gets real
Going through the motions
and spinning like a wheel
Going through the motions
and spinning like a wheel
– “Nothing’s Real,” Sofia Wolfson
Wolfson originally comes from Los Angeles, where she grew up with a musical pulse, starting to play shows when she was thirteen and releasing her debut album Hunker Down at the age of sixteen. The writing started when she was nine, a couple of years after beginning to learn guitar, by taking anecdotes about friends and family and turning them into funny little songs. “I felt I had written enough songs by freshman year of high school that I started playing gigs and I played pretty much monthly at high school,” she explains. “That’s really around the time that the songs got more serious and it became less of a recreational joke and more ‘oh I’m actually writing about my emotions.’” Now she’s in Boston studying Literature, the short stories of Raymond Carver and poetry of Anne Sexton seeping into her writing style and structures.
“I’ve always written lyrics first but I feel like they’re definitely more inspired by my major now,” Wolfson says. “Although I still find myself writing the same which is, and it’s always been this way, that I will be out and I’ll be doing something and then I just think of a line and then later when I’m with my guitar I can put a melody to it.” It’s a candid approach that matches the everydayness of the lyrics. For example, “Nothing’s Real” (released as a single at the start of the year) is the relatable stress that comes with the pressures of being productive. ‘Really haven’t done anything of worth lately/ And it’s driving me crazy,’ Wolfson sings over a lo-fi pensiveness, turning a period of disheartenment into method of creativity. In opening track “Hotel Room,” there’s a focus on distance in regards to both a relationship and literally being a new place. ‘I’m in a hotel room half way across these United States/ I want to hold you but I’m a ghost of LA,’ goes the end of the first verse, the pitch of the vocals flowing in waves. There’s a sense of feeling uncertain but musically it’s sunny and easy-going, a bobbing through life that’s encouraged.
I comprehend it’s my time
To make a plan and figure out
How to understand
Who I will be
But ain’t it so nice
To get a hand held
From time to time
They say time is the solution
So I’m seeking absolution
Cause I’m not too keen on waiting
To feel like myself again
– “Self-Fulfilled Prophecy,” Sofia Wolfson
There’s a casual tinge of sadness to “Remind Me,” Wolfson’s voice comparable to that of Phoebe Bridgers, and a sweet folkiness to closing track “Johnny Cash” but overall the EP carries a similar unpolished atmosphere that creates the impression of laid-back naturalness. Like Side Effects, Adulting was produced by Marshall Vore (recognisable as Bridgers’ drummer) and recorded back in his home in LA.
“I definitely find myself gravitating towards wanting dirtier, imperfect tones in general. Albums I grew up on like Blake Mills’s Break Mirrors taught me that a greater emotional effect can be achieved by more character in the sound overall, opposed to aiming for perfectly clean tones,” Wolfson tells Atwood Magazine in regards to the sounds experimented with when recording. “I feel like this EP expands on some of the lyrics and sounds of the last one, while offering some new insights as well as different tones,” she explains. “I really enjoy the experimenting process because I don’t want to feel locked into one sound. I want to be able to release an alternative folk record, and then maybe a punk record next, and then maybe something more ambient after that. That’s what’s exciting to me.”
I’m so high above you, I can barely see
How to circumvent the in between
Living seems easier when I’m the boss
but I have loved, lied and lost
– “Johnny Cash,” Sofia Wolfson
For Sofia Wolfson, Adulting is a reflection of now – the influences and personal experiences that have made her who she is as she grows as an individual and as a musician. But the songs could easily be snippets from short stories too. “Johnny Cash,” for example, could be a tale about bittersweet serendipity. ’Do you believe in fate? Saw you playing Johnny Cash when you were 10 and I was 8,’ it begins before charting the ways their lives have crossed paths over time. “Probably Paradise” is a comic first-person account of jealous love, the speech direct but exasperated. ‘They get a hand held, I get a high five, The clothes come off and I break inside. She gets the look; I just get the glance.’
Then “Nothing’s Real” is the quintessential release of early adult disorientation. Therefore, Wolfson is both in the centre and on the outskirts – living it, but also recounting it as a kind of onlooker, doing so in a way that the protagonist could be real or fictionalised. As for us, the listeners, we’re steadily taken along on the journey.
Experience the full record below, and peek inside Sofia Wolfson’s Adulting EP with Atwood Magazine as she goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of her brand new release!
Stream: ‘Adulting’ – Sofia Wolfson
:: Inside Adulting ::
I wrote this one, like the title suggests, in a hotel room. This song is about when distance causes you to feel confused about your feelings. About how loneliness can lead you to crazy thoughts. “Hotel Room” really came together when we had Harrison [Whitford] play through the song twice, so the guitar parts skid the line between doubling and dueling each other. Olivia Kaplan and Johanna Samuels also contributed some stellar harmonies – two songwriters who inspire me.
This is the oldest song on the EP and something I had kind of tucked away for a while. I wrote this one when I was 16 and just getting into open tunings for the first time – one of my Joni Mitchell phases. Right before the sessions for Adulting, I was going back through old tunes and decided to finish up this one, revising some of the chorus and adding a bridge. This one was probably the most fun to record. I’ve always wanted horns on a tune so that was really special for me. I think of “Probably Paradise” as having the Smiths dichotomy, as I call it: really depressing lyrics with an upbeat groove. Almost like the sadness is masked by the music.
I played Marshall just the opening verse and bridge idea for “Remind Me” the day that we were deciding which songs to record for this EP – I didn’t have much else. He encouraged me to finish it even though we were starting basic tracks the next day. I went home and finished it up and we locked in the structure right before the first session. The song talks about individualization and figuring out how to deal with things on my own, especially being a female musician. It’s my subtle “the patriarchy sucks” song. I had a playlist going at the time of female-identifying musicians and bands that were speaking out: Songs like The Wild Reeds’ “Capable” and Margaret Glaspy’s “Situation” motivated me to finish this one and put it on the EP.
This was the first song I wrote when I moved to college across the country. In hindsight, I can recognize it sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but it was what I was feeling at the time. I try to be honest when I’m writing and attempt to encapsulate the emotion I’m feeling, even if it’s brief. “Self-Fulfilled Prophecy,” much like the next track “Nothing’s Real,” talks about disorientation. I gave myself a challenge to try to separate myself from obsessing over obscure chords and attempt to write something simple with more emphasis on the words. That’s how the kind of retro sound came out.
I wrote this one when I was sick during my first East Coast winter. “Nothing’s Real” is about growing pains and feeling unproductive. The feeling that everything is moving really fast around you and it’s impossible to catch up. It started as an instrumental I had been playing in my dorm that I later put words to. We tried a few different drum set ups in the studio and ultimately that laid back drum machine-sounding vibe came out.
“Johnny Cash” is a song about when you think you’re over someone and then you briefly fall back into the feeling when you see something about them on the internet. A lot of this EP actually wrestles with social media and the problem of constant comparison. I wrote this during a time where I was challenging myself to be more concrete with my writing, so some places from my life are directly referenced here. It’s easy to write with the audience in mind, so I’ve found I can be most honest in songs when I tell myself nobody is going to hear it. That way I don’t censor myself. It’s not the most hopeful closer but I felt it kind of wrapped up a lot of themes on the EP regarding loss.
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? © Ashley Frangie