The Anglo-French electronic auteur JULIA-SOPHIE is finally learning to let the humanity back into her music; to use her spectral avant-pop to reveal something about herself.
Today she shares the pulsating “Dial Your Number”, her first release on Beat Palace Records (a new imprint founded by Anna Prior of Metronomy).
"It's about ending the ending, the last time you’re going to speak to someone you love,"
explains the Oxford-based musician.
"You know, even though you don’t want something to end but you can’t see any other way out."
“I was trying to use that heavy, almost tribal drum beat to reflect that punch in the gut feeling,”
“It’s pretty relentless, it makes it hard for you to breathe and expresses how I feel really
"Dial Your Number" is the lead single from it feels like thunder; also released today and the first in a trilogy of EP releases. It’s a marrying of her two main impulses: electronic discovery and classic songwriting roots; analogue warmth tempered by digital chilliness.
Of the EP’s second track, the throbbing and insistent “Not Beautiful”, Julia-Sophie says:
“I only do depressive shit because that’s what’s in me, I’m afraid. Life doesn’t always have to be beautiful. By trying to make everything perfect we’re setting ourselves up for a fall.”
Meanwhile, “Video Girl” oscillates between the distant and enigmatic and an often widescreen vision of electronic pop.
“I guess I wanted to show a vulnerable side, which was really exposing, with all my hurt, fragility
“It’s a bit of a nod to my roots, my singer-songwriter background, because I love writing songs.
It’s pretty open, vulnerable, and is imbued with feelings of solitude in the opening half of the song.
I loved playing with the production and structure of what could have been a very straight up acoustic song, I wanted to really play with the idea of being open and vulnerable verses that safety,
the sheen we can all hide behind.”
“The world is this relentless fucking beating machine, and I’m trying to put the human back in. I’m trying to find the human inside me too and not just become a machine.”
Julia-Sophie’s journey has been as unconventional as the sounds she produces.
“I started as a singer-songwriter, having started a band inadvertently,”
That band, a decade ago, were signed to a major label.
“I felt like I was pigeonholed to be this rock chick, and I didn’t really know how to do music, so I went along with it.”
Slowly, as she gravitated away from other people’s major label expectations, she began a journey of intense self-realisation through sound.
While her early releases found an audience for their singular flavour, her work has won comparisons to artists like FKA Twigs, Kelly Lee Owens and Ela Minus. 2020’s y? and 2021’s </3 (heartbroken) EPs were acclaimed by, among others, The Quietus (“elegant and smoky electronic pop… darker, more expansive and more hypnotic”), Bandcamp Daily, Electronic Sound and received regular plays on BBC 6 Music.
During this period, Julia-Sophie enjoyed support slots with Art School Girlfriend, Stealing Sheep, Lætitia Sadier (Stereolab), Haiku Salut and Low Island. She has since been asked to remix Art School Girlfriend and also Teleman.
The upheaval of the 2016 Brexit referendum had proved galvanizing in returning her to songwriting - how else do you make sense of your world splitting in two? - as well as meeting a collaborator and producer, who wishes to remain anonymous, set her on the journey that continues with it feels like thunder. Julia-Sophie has found a new confidence to be less messy, more personal.
“After stopping music for some years, I became quite depressed and writing again was my cure. I actually felt my humanity coming back. My first solo release was a real personal attempt to get to the core of how I was feeling,”
she says of y?.
"With </3, I was determined not to be put in a box, I knew I could give more, and so decided to flex my muscles playing around a lot more with song structures, modular beats, venturing into unknown territories. If ever I find myself in a box, I’ll punch my way out, it’s just the way I am.
Looking back, I feel like I missed a bit of the heart in </3 , and that although flexing was fun, relating to people is what really counts.”
Her first two EPs had been recorded in the context of intense personal upheaval.
“Maybe I get scared of relating, scared of rejection, scared of relationships, but that’s a whole other fucking story. If you show too much of yourself then what happens? Actually I feel I ran a little bit too far in heartbroken.“
Julia-Sophie live 29 June - Manchester, Aatma [tickets] 30 June - London, The Victoria [tickets] 01 July - Oxford, Modern Art [tickets] 02 July - Brighton, The Green Door Store (supporting tAngerinecAt)