Sophie (musician)Sophie Xeon (born 17 September 1986), better known mononymously as Sophie (stylised as SOPHIE), is a Scottish musician, record producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ. Sophie is known for her synthesised and "hyperkinetic" take on pop music, and came to prominence with singles such as "Bipp" (2013) and "Lemonade" (2014). Her compilation Product was released in 2015, and the debut album Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides followed in 2018. The latter earned her a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Sophie has worked closely with artists from the PC Music label, including A.G. Cook and GFOTY, and has produced for acts such as Madonna, Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Let's Eat Grandma, Kim Petras, Flume, Namie Amuro and Itzy.
Origins and early yearsSophie was born and grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. Starting at a very young age, her father would play cassettes of electronic music in the car and take her to raves, and she quickly became enamoured with the music. Describing her childhood in an interview published by Lenny Letter, she revealed, "I spent all my time listening to those cassette tapes. I'd steal them from the car." After receiving a keyboard as a birthday gift, she then began to create her own music. By the time she was approximately nine or ten years old, she confessed to her parents that she wanted to drop out of school to be an electronic music producer (although they did not let her do so and she continued her schooling). She continued to create music throughout her adolescence, even regularly announcing, "I'm just going to lock myself in my room until I've made an album." When Sophie was still a child, she started to DJ weddings and birthdays. Her half-sister asked Sophie to DJ her wedding, as Sophie admitted that her half-sister "didn't know what I was doing in my room on my own" and had assumed she was a DJ. This was when she started learning to DJ in addition to production.
Sophie began her adult music career in a band named Motherland (with bandmates Sabine Gottfried, Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, and Marcella Dvsi), and later collaborated with her bandmate Matthew Lutz-Kinoy on a series of performance works. In 2011, she scored the short film Dear Mr/Mrs by Dutch team Freudenthal/Verhagen. Sophie became involved with artists affiliated with the PC Music label after encountering Dux Kidz, a project between A. G. Cook and Danny L Harle.
Sophie released her debut single "Nothing More to Say" in February 2013 via the London-based Glaswegian label Huntleys + Palmers. The single featuring vocals from UK songstress Jaide Green consisted of two mixes of the titular track (titled the "Dub" and "Vox"), as well as the B-side, "Eeehhh", which was initially posted on (and later deleted from) Sophie's SoundCloud in 2011. Its follow-up, "Bipp"/"Elle"—which had been released on SoundCloud as previews in the previous year along with a third track "OOH"—was released on Numbers later that year. "Bipp" in particular, featuring vocals from Sophie's former Motherland bandmate Marcella Dvsi, received considerable attention from music critics, topping XLR8Rs year-end list and placing 17 on Pitchfork's. Pitchfork later ranked "Bipp" 56 on its list of the best tracks from 2010–2014. In mid-2014, Sophie collaborated with Japanese pop singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Also in 2014, Sophie collaborated with A. G. Cook and the US-based artist Hayden Dunham for the project QT, co-producing her debut single "Hey QT" with the former. The project included an energy drink called the QT Energy Elixir. At the singer's request, "Hey QT" repeats the drink's name for product placement.Sophie's next single, "Lemonade"/"Hard", was released in August 2014, with vocal contributions on the former from fellow musician Nabihah Iqbal and model Tess Yopp and vocal contributions on the latter from PC Music artist GFOTY. Numbers released "Lemonade"/"Hard" as a 12" single. Both tracks appeared on the Billboard Twitter Real-Time charts. "Lemonade" and "Hard" placed 68th and 91st respectively on the 2014 Pazz & Jop critics poll, and the single was included in the top ten of year-end singles lists by The Washington Post, Resident Advisor, Complex, and Pitchfork; "Hard" was included in the top ten on lists by Dazed and Dummy. "Lemonade" appeared in a 2015 commercial for McDonald's.
2015–2017: Product and breakthroughIn March 2015, Charli XCX announced a collaboration with Sophie. It was later revealed that the pair had worked on multiple songs for her upcoming studio album. In September 2015, Sophie's debut album Product was made available for preorder. The eight tracks listed were the four Numbers singles from 2013 and 2014, as well as four new tracks: "MSMSMSM", "Vyzee", "L.O.V.E.", and "Just Like We Never Said Goodbye". "MSMSMSM" was released on 29 September, and "Just Like We Never Said Goodbye" followed on 15 October.
In February 2016, Charli XCX released her Vroom Vroom EP, produced primarily by Sophie. It was later revealed that the extended play would act as a teaser for XCX's upcoming album, which would be produced by Sophie. After the extended play's release, Sophie embarked on tour with Charli XCX in promotion of their new music. Sophie, along with A. G. Cook and Hannah Diamond, also involved with the EP, received cameos in the official video for the lead single, "Vroom Vroom". The video was premiered on Apple Music and other platforms soon after.
In late 2016, Sophie acted as an additional producer on Charli XCX's song "After the Afterparty", which features vocals from Lil Yachty. Sophie cameos in the single's official music video. Sophie also received production credits for two songs on XCX's 2017 mixtape Number 1 Angel, and another for one song on XCX's second mixtape of 2017, Pop 2 which was released later that year.
In January 2017, it was announced that Sophie was working with record producer Cashmere Cat. She appears on "Love Incredible", alongside former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello, and "9 (After Coachella)" with MØ.
2017–present: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-InsidesIn October 2017, Sophie made her solo musical comeback with a new single, "It's Okay to Cry", the first new material she released in almost two years. The music video for the song was the first time she used her voice and image in her work. She subsequently opened up to the press about being a transgender woman. Later in the month, she also made her debut live performance, where she premiered newly-recorded songs from her second album with vocal performances by Cecile Believe. One of the songs, "Ponyboy", premiered on Australian radio station Triple J, and the song was released with a self-directed music video on 7 December 2017. The third single from the album, "Faceshopping", was released on 16 February 2018 with a music video on 4 April 2018.
On 3 April 2018, Sophie announced via Instagram that her album was complete, and that it is not titled Whole New World as previously thought. On 1 May 2018, an interview with Crack Magazine revealed that the official album title is Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides. It was released on 15 June 2018 by her own label, MSMSMSM, along with Future Classic and Transgressive. In early 2018, she revealed in a tweet that she contributed to and produced Lady Gaga's latest album. In a video posted up on social media, when asked, she said: "Yes. I mean whatever, you know. I work on a lot of different things. If it comes out, then it's cool. You can never tell. But she's a really cool person."
In July 2018, she revealed that she has worked on four new projects, including her newly-released debut album, which are all going to be released that year. She said, "I have the next one finished... I'm going to release four albums this year". She has even stated in an interview with Lenny Letter that she has done so much collaborating with other people that, "Basically, I've done a whole new album in the last two weeks." When asked to clarify whether she meant EPs or albums, she stated that it would be "a mix". She has also been working with Kim Petras, Charli XCX and Bibi Bourelly on new material within the year, as well as some rap collaborations in addition to the confirmed Lady Gaga collaboration.
During a red carpet interview at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, Sophie confirmed that she is working on a remix album on alternative versions of her Grammy-nominated debut album Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides. She had been nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album, and has made history as both one of the first openly transgender artists to be nominated in this category and one of the three first openly transgender women to be nominated for a Grammy.
In July 2019, the aforementioned remix album was announced as part of an exclusive 3-CD set that includes the original Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides album as well as a clutch bag featuring its artwork. The remix album was later released as two videos on YouTube on 29 July.
Sound and image
Sophie primarily uses the Elektron Monomachine and Ableton Live to create music. Instead of sampling, instrumentals are built from waveforms. Likening the construction of a track to building a sculpture out of different materials, Sophie uses the Monomachine to create sounds resembling "latex, balloons, bubbles, metal, plastic, [and] elastic." AllMusic wrote that Sophie's "sophisticated, hyperkinetic productions" feature a "surrealist, blatantly artificial quality", typically making use of high-pitched female vocals in addition to "sugary synthesizer textures, and beats drawing from underground dance music styles." The New York Times described Sophie's work as "giddy fun, but [...] also an invitation to consider pop's pleasures, structures and gender expectations, and pop's commercial status as both a consumer item and an emotional catalyst." The Fader likened it to "K-Pop, J-Pop, Eurodance at its most chaotic, and even turn of the millennium American/UK boybandisms." When Billboard asked Sophie what genre her music falls under, she replied "advertising".
Sophie's early visuals came from a series of colourful images she refers to as "Homemade Molecular Cooking". Her singles' cover art often depicts objects made from plastic or other industrial materials, an idea that originated from discussions with John Roberts, a fellow electronic musician. At the POPcube event, Sophie unveiled posters and postcards outlining the products to be offered through her online store, which included a set of wedge heels, a puffa jacket, and unique sunglasses. Although these products were offered for sale when the album was released, they were immediately sold out except for a "body safe silicone product" bundled with a special edition album, raising suspicions that these auxiliary products were never real.
IdentitySophie has been described as a reclusive figure, and remained anonymous for some time, concealing her identity in interviews by masking her voice or covering parts of herself. Early in her career, her real-life identity was the subject of press speculation. A 2013 Pitchfork feature said that Sophie was "assumed to be male". In an e-mail interview, when asked about her choice of 'Sophie' as a stage name, she responded "It tastes good and it's like moisturizer." At one Boiler Room show, drag performer Ben Woozy was recruited to mime a DJ set while Sophie pretended to be a bodyguard.
In 2015, around the time of the release of debut album Product, news outlets began reporting that the person behind the 'Sophie' moniker was a London-based producer named Samuel Long.
Prior to the revelation that she was a trans woman, some commentators accused Sophie of "feminine appropriation", on the assumption that she was a man using a female stage name in a field where women are underrepresented. A 2014 article in The Fader criticized her and PC Music collaborator A. G. Cook for using stereotypically feminine aesthetics in their work while enjoying male privilege. In a widely quoted 2015 interview with The Guardian, female singer and producer Grimes expressed a similar view:
It's really fucked up to call yourself Sophie and pretend you're a girl when you're a male producer [and] there are so few female producers... I think it's really good music. I probably shouldn't have said that.
In October 2017, Sophie released the music video for "It's Okay to Cry", in which she used her own voice and image in her work for the first time, appearing nude from the bust up against a backdrop of clouds. This was widely interpreted as her coming out as a trans woman. She has confirmed her trans identity in subsequent interviews, though she has spoken of feeling boxed-in by labels, describing her music as her "chosen method of communication" and self-expression.