Home Arts & Culture New Jersey Music Spotlight: Sof Confronts Hustle Culture With “Movement”

New Jersey Music Spotlight: Sof Confronts Hustle Culture With “Movement”

by Amaris Pollinger
Sof Tackles Hustle Culture

Sofia Khorosh (aka Sof) is on the move, shooting up into a lightwave that gets further and further from the Earth plane. Don’t be surprised if she’s the next pop queen whose name is on everyone’s lips. Not only is Sof one of the NJ musicians you should be paying attention to, but she’s getting global praise and thousands of TikTok shares as we speak. 

Recently, Sof surprised her already loyal fanbase with her new single, “Movement.” It’s an alt-pop track with pulsating beats, dreamy synths, and violins that are wrapped in reflective, catchy, and oh-so infectious lyrics.  A common staple in Sof’s work. She originally wrote the single in March of 2020 with her boyfriend/producer Tyler Toomey, but shelved it with the onset of COVID. However, believing in the song’s potential, Sof came back to it with the help of producer Russell Hayden, with whom she released a duet track, “Cupid’s Chokehold.” (Hint: Sof is also a talented artist, responsible for the “Cupid’s Chokehold” cover art.) 

“Movement” very well might be the song that revives disco beats, and even if it doesn’t, it’s sure to turn heads in all the right ways. I’m not remotely interested in roller skating, but “Movement” makes me think twice. 

When “Movement” first dropped, I couldn’t get over how Sof put into words how I had been feeling for the past three or four weeks (and most of my life) almost verbatim. A fun, driving tune, “Movement” is a conversation about hyper-productivity meeting (or crashing) headfirst into burnout, and ultimately, stagnation. Simultaneously, it’s just as much about burnout as it is about productivity. Sof has the same motivating ability that Madonna has: using a dancy pop tune to inspire you to stop feeling sorry for yourself and get moving.

So, after dancing in my kitchen at one in the morning with “Movement” on repeat and adding it to my driving playlist, I caught up with the singer/songwriter on a June afternoon to explore the backstory of what Sof calls the “hellscape” of hyper-productivity from which the song emerged. From living in extremes to living our hyperactive dreams, here’s Sof on everything that moves her.

Welcome back Sof and congrats on your success with “Movement.” You’ve been busy! 

Thank you! It’s been pretty hectic. Usually, I’m writing a song about an experience that’s happened in my life, and by the time I’ve gotten to writing the song, I’ve already lived past that experience. So [I end up] writing about it from a hindsight perspective. Then, as I’m preparing to release the song, my life cycles back into the moment I was in when I wrote it! Things just get crazy for some reason, and it’s this recurring thing that’s been happening. 

So I wrote about this idea of mania and hustle culture. That feeling of ‘you have to be doing a thousand things at once’ and that’s when you’re valuable to everybody else when you’re contributing something. The more you contribute, the better you are, and getting stuck in [that] idea.

After I wrote “Movement” [in 2020] things slowed down significantly. I wasn’t commuting to the city every day or having this crazy, stressful routine. I started to relax a little bit. It got put away for a year and then in April,  I started to work on it with Russell Hayden, who produced it. Everything had been chill up until that point. As we’re finishing up and getting ready to release “Movement,” a trillion life events hit me all at once. I was like: “My God, what is happening!? Why am I living in the hellscape of this song!?”

I know exactly what that feeling is. You’re doing all this stuff and you burn yourself out, and you end up kind of doing the same thing you would when you’re completely unmotivated.

Yes! You start self-sabotaging! You say ‘yes’ to every single thing, and you know you can’t do every single thing. So it becomes this endless cycle of thinking you’re doing too much but in reality, you’re doing less than you would if you had appropriately planned everything or took time for your mental health. 

You’ve been getting a lot of attention lately, especially internationally! How does that feel?

I’ve been getting so many streams from Turkey! It’s crazy! [“Movement”] hit 1K streams before the end of the week! I just want to keep improving, but what’s kept me going through the whole process is that I’ve been doing this for way too long to give up now. It’d be weird, what else would I do!?

It’s very therapeutic for me, [and] even more so to get solidarity from people who relate to the song. I’ve been afforded the luxury over the last year to really sit with my songs and hone my sound and achieve something that I’m proud of, that’ll have longevity for me. Even if it doesn’t carry for other people. I’ve learned that it’s more important to keep pushing forward because the more you put out, the higher the likelihood is [of a million streams] but also I’m really enjoying the process of finding my sound.

Sof tackles hustle culture

‘Got me like AH AH AH’ Photo courtesy of Sof, by Skylar Watkins.

Last time we spoke, you talked about “Bloom” and “Inertia” being related. And what I noticed right away is your ability to tell a story with your songs. “Movement” follows your last two singles perfectly, especially “Inertia.”

I wrote “Movement” right after “Inertia” and it was supposed to be its antithesis. My boyfriend, Tyler, and I wrote it right before COVID hit. We didn’t see each other for four months and the song just stayed where it was. Then he sent me an idea for what became “Bloom,” and we started working on that. We sorta brushed “Movement” off, but I’ve always believed in it! I have a soft spot in my heart for “Movement.”

[But] when you’re looking at what you want to release, especially for an EP, you want to look at all the songs you have, and [there are] some that won’t make the cut. So you wrestle with the idea that you’ll always have songs that are unreleased and sitting. But I wanted to make “Movement” work. 

Recently I met producer Russell Hayden through a mutual friend. Hayden was looking for a singer to collaborate with and it was great. We wrote a song in the first session and we have great musical chemistry. I gave him the demo I had made with Tyler for “Movement” and said: 

“I don’t know what to do with this, but I know I want it to be disco, and I want it to be reminiscent of what I currently have going on. I’m hearing driving beats, violins, and I have all the vocal arrangements and harmonies in my head. But I can’t find the right sounds.” Hayden did it in about a day, I was like, “Okay this is ridiculous!” I finished all the final vocals and we had it done within a few weeks. I knew I had to put it out immediately. So yeah, that’s pretty much the story behind “Movement.” 

What I love about “Movement” is that it’s also a very motivating song. Even though you’re very clearly making that connection to mania, it’s also about being productive. 

I love when I listen to a song and it feels energetic and fun, [something] I can dance and move to, but the lyrics are really heartbreaking, dark, and you don’t realize it. I always think of “Hey Ya!” by Outkast—and everyone’s like: “Yeah! Woohoo!”; but they’re singing about divorce and how nothing is forever. So dark! I always wanted to put out something like that. Something that doesn’t feel obvious unless you’re really listening to it.

2020, despite its obvious stressors, was a year where a lot came together for you. In 2021, even more so, do you agree?

Yes. I think 2020 was a really good year for me to refocus and get a good idea of how I was going to release music and what I was going to do. As awful as the pandemic was, it gave me time to slow down and reevaluate. I set up a mini studio in my childhood bedroom, recorded all these vocals, and started doing projects for people. 

“Bloom” came together in such an easy, fun way. I was sad that it was the only thing I released in 2020. I wanted to do more but so much of the year was focused on learning, refocusing. But now I have a ton of stuff I can’t wait to show everybody! 

How is that process of learning to record and produce on your own going?

It’s still ongoing, to be honest. I went to school for music and took a lot of production and audio engineering courses, so I have a little more than a fundamental idea about how everything works. So I get the general gist of it. I wouldn’t call myself an advanced producer. I can make you a really good demo right now but that’s where it ends!

You did actually move this year. How are you settling in?

Oh my God. Amaris—no one tells you how much money you’re going to spend when you move in! They don’t tell you, “Hey, prepare to spend money on everything you’ve ever thought about.” [laughter] It’s been nice, we’re finally getting to the tail-end of things, now it’s just all decor stuff. 

I’m just loving [that] something new is happening. I’d been living with my parents all my life, so now I feel like I have something that I always have to be doing—and it’s usually house stuff.  But it feels good!

Sof! You changed your California plan! Do you still want to make that move?

I still do, yeah! My ideal situation was to work at the label I was at before the pandemic, save money, and then move to California in the summer of last year. Then COVID happened and I thought, “maybe the fall.” But I hadn’t really moved before. I didn’t know what to expect and it felt like not the wisest to make such a drastic move. But I want to end up there, mark my words, I will!

What was the moment, other than hyper-mania, that sparked “Movement”? Was there any particular moment that you recall where it came together?

Oh, that’s interesting. I never thought about that! It sort of developed weirdly. I had the first verse in my brain, and it was just building out from there and adding all the lyrics. The day writing the song was so anxiety-inducing for no reason! It was me, Tyler, and his brother Ryan, just hanging out in his basement. We all had three cups of coffee and we’d been downstairs from about 10 a.m. to almost two in the morning—just an absurd amount of time! 

We stopped a few times to eat and around dinner, Tyler was visibly tired and suggested we stop working on the song to do something else. I said, “We have to finish the song!” I wanted to finish it, otherwise, it wouldn’t get done, and tomorrow I might be uninspired, and [currently] I was feeling a wave of inspiration. But it was just coffee. [laughs] 

So I was manic writing [“Movement”] and by the time it got to finishing up the vocals for the demo, I was just so jittery and anxious. When I went to begin the vocals, I looked at Tyler, smiled, and said: “I feel anxious!” It worked so well, we decided to keep it and that’s what I’m saying at the beginning of the track. When I gave the demo to Russell, I told him he had to keep that in.

There’s a thin balancing act between “Inertia” and “Movement,” between hyper-productivity and stagnation. What do you have to say about that balance?

I’ve always struggled with trying to find balance in my life. I feel like I live in these emotional extremes, where I’m either doing phenomenally well or I’m suffering and depressed. I can’t get out of bed or do anything. [Where] I’m so unmotivated and [feel like] I should give up on everything. Not only artistically but in life… I think that’s present in the way that we view work, [this] hyper-productivity that is always stressed in America and feeling like the only value you provide to the people in your life and society, is when you’re putting out the most that you humanly can. 

On the flip side, you see a lot of media now addressing this and talking about taking it slow, taking time for your mental health. I read that as, “Okay, I should take a four-day weekend. I shouldn’t get out of bed, I shouldn’t do anything.” There isn’t enough emphasis on checking in with yourself in ways that are helpful to your body; like eating something healthy, getting enough exercise, getting things off your to-do list that doesn’t add 300 other things, but condenses it down to five or six things that you know you can finish. 

I’m either pushing myself or doing nothing, and I just felt that would be something that many people could relate to. As an artist, it gets hard to find that middle ground. Especially because so much of my work comes out of a period of extremes. All my best writing has come out of me feeling either wonderfully or horribly—usually, it’s horribly. I think that duality exists within all of us, maybe not to that extreme, and maybe not necessarily everybody. 

I’m laughing because I also work in extremes! I’m just never in a gray area. When I relax, I relax for days.  And the average lifestyle…I just don’t get it. 

Yeah, I’m the same way! I always feel like I’m wasting time! I’m constantly hyper-aware of my mortality and how it’s dwindling day by day. I’m constantly in this existential dread, feeling like I need to be doing more…and if I’m not [then] I’m failing. It’s definitely consuming. You and I live very unconventional lives, with our choice of occupation and just general life choices. I don’t think either of us settles for the traditional route!

Not even a little bit.

Part of that is because it’s been done. I’m not interested in doing that. I see it all the time! There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s what you want. Everyone has freedom of choice, that’s what’s so beautiful about life. With that being said, I like the idea of choosing something different. Something that fulfills me, but with that comes a lot of sacrifices, stress!

I’m not gonna lie, I’m a Sof super-fan! So when can we expect your EP? 

Oh my god! That makes me so happy! It’s been pushed back so many times. But definitely this year! I originally announced it for 2020, and of course, 2020 was the worst year. Now it’s changed so much over the last few years because so much has happened, and there’s been so much to chronicle and detail. But I think it’s going to be a lot better for it. We have a few songs to finish but I’m so excited! It’s not going to be a four-track EP, I’m not doing that to people. It’s going to be pretty long, [but] I don’t want to say too much yet!

*Keep up with Sof on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Listen to “Movement” out now on all streaming platforms! And be sure to dance on over to her new website at Sofmusic.com!

**Cover photo by Skylar Watkins.

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1 comment

Helen K. June 22, 2021 - 2:50 pm

Go Sof!! So proud of you <3

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