By Amaris Pollinger
Alt-pop musician Sofia Khorosh, aka Sof, is preparing to move. Her bedroom is crammed with boxes, folded clothes that don’t have a place, and an oversized mirror that is her prize possession, looming over her in the background. It’s almost larger than the wall it leans on, and she has no idea how she will transport it. “But someone has done it before, right?” The New Jersey singer laughs. After dropping her latest single, “Limerence,” and announcing her next EP, Dusk, the release date of which is to be determined, Sof is also uncovering new aspects of herself, and feeling what she calls, “aggressively optimistic.”
“I think I’m starting to annoy people,” she says of her new determined sense of positivity. “People will tell me things and I’m like ‘Look on the bright side!’ and they’ll say, ‘What bright side!?’”
Sof exhales, smiling, the very act of which improves her mood. The soon-to-be California girl has paused her hectic life to speak with me about roller rinks, Dusk, Dawn (2022), and her long-anticipated move to California.
When I first interviewed Sof a few years ago, she mentioned moving to the west coast. It’s something the singer has desired for years, that Covid rudely interrupted. But in light of some recent circumstances that may or may not have inspired “Limerence” and an entire EP, Sof is finally taking the leap. In my opinion, the move is long overdue for Sof, whose talent long ago reached its peak in New Jersey.
Her debut EP, Dawn (2022), released earlier this year, has performed well beyond Sof’s expectations. She was surprised, since most of the tracks off the EP had been released as singles, and she felt that no one would care about it. Only two tracks off Dawn, “Awake” and “I Had A Dream” were previously unreleased.
“I got a lot of messages from people saying ‘this is so awesome! I love how these songs go into each other.’ I got a lot of positive feedback from listeners, and that’s always shocking to me.”
For Sof, she often expects that no one will listen or care about her work—but they do. Part of that is Sof’s painstaking attention to detail in her music, despite that she’s sure no one will get it. She mentions a premiere piece I did for her when Dawn was released in January. In it, I related Dawn as being akin to a novel, meant to be listened to in chronological order—despite whether or not you had heard the tracks before. Her songs, strung together in their intended order, take on an entirely different meaning.
“When you talked about Dawn being like a novel, [and it] needing to be listened to in chronological order, I was like, ‘oh my God! She gets it! She fully dissected it, understood it for what it was,’ I loved that! It made my day.” (And this made mine).
Similarly, Dawn is the precursor to Dusk, and therefore “Limerence.” Specifically, the tracks “Awake” and “I Had A Dream” run parallel to “Limerence,” Sof’s official heartbroken disco-dance track that paints a larger story of love and loss. She wanted “Awake” and “I Had A Dream” to reflect on giving up on a dream as well as waking up from one.
At the time, the emotions plaguing Sof were raw, pulsing, and vulnerable. She wanted to mirror those fresh wounds in the music, and subsequently, the music video. “I wanted the video to reflect that dream world where things are still good…” but then, Sof wakes up to reality.
Before “Limerence” dropped, I was already in tune with a heartache that seemed to bleed between the lines in “Awake” and “I Had a Dream.” I say as much, and Sof finds this compelling since she only writes for herself, not with other people in mind. For her, writing music is very cathartic, a way to process her emotions fully in order to understand them.
“It’s very therapeutic for me to get my emotions out,” she says. Afterward, Sof is left with a product that exists as a reminder of those moments in time. Even if it tends to be exaggerated or overly hyperbolic, Sof strives to be nothing but honest about what she is feeling.
The best example of this process, she explains, is like the scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Dumbledore pulls memories out of his head and places them into the pensieve; a sort of memory pool where anyone can view the memories that have been placed there.
“I feel like that with my songs,” Sof points at her temple, snickering. “You can watch them [songs/memories] unfold—I’ve taken this idea and put it into this…thing. Now whoever wants to watch it, can.” This concept allows Sof to remove herself from the material once the song is out of her head and out in the world. Then, it no longer belongs to her.
If listeners do pick up on Sof’s personal life, she avoids discussing the finer details. “I want to be respectful of anyone living in that story,” she says, waving dismissively.
The choice to remain elusive shows just how considerate Sof really is. As a journalist, I respect her boundaries but as a person, I am appreciative of her refusal to throw anyone under the bus—no matter what the circumstances may have been. It says a lot about her character, and it’s a rare find in most people. It’s part of her charm, both musically and personally.
Despite her insistence to remain tight-lipped about her personal life, Sof is very willing to be open and vulnerable if the topic is profoundly universal. Like with mental health or toxic behaviors (see “Movement” for hustle culture), but when it comes to her personal life? Nope. “But I’m fine with people speculating or relating it [“Limerence”] back to themselves in any way.”
Besides, if an artist releases their work to the public and it no longer belongs to them in the intimate way it once did, does it really matter where it came from? Sure, the artist still owns the work, but once its intimacy is available to the world, it is cracked open for scrutiny—good and bad. The art’s purpose becomes saturated by the perspectives of others, who hitch their own emotions to the art, distorting its original intention.
Take one instance where a listener reached out to Sof the day “Limerence” was released. Rather than take the song for its romantic context, they related it back to having recently ended a platonic friendship. “She’d just ended this long friendship after realizing she cared more about them than they did about her. It really resonated with her. Even though I wrote “Limerence” from a romantic standpoint, it was cool to see that it really could be all-encompassing. It wasn’t my intention, but it’s awesome to see people relating to what I’m writing.”
But that’s just part of the draw. Sof reels you in at once because what she’s saying is something we’ve all felt at one point in our lives. Her music is so encompassing, that I now refer to different stages or moods of my life based on her songs. For example, I’ve been known to say that I was “feeling somewhere between “Movement” and “Inertia,’” while Sof herself slapped my comment section with: “It is sooooo not Fruit Water SZN!”
Despite the pain of “Limerence,” Sof chose to dance rather than sob over piano keys. It would have been too easy for her to do, while roller skating in a mod-retro outfit against an equally mod-retro background was a fresh challenge.
“I could have become super depressed…that’s the easy [and] natural thing to do. But I wanted to try something new for once. I thought, ‘what if I’m just aggressively optimistic? What if I just embraced this?’ I figured that way, I wouldn’t be so sad.”
Much like “Movement,” “Limerence” is a song that sounds like it came over the loudspeaker at a disco roller rink and with roller skating being one of Sof’s hobbies, it came as no surprise that collaborator/producer Russell Hayden suggested a rink as the backdrop for the music video. Sof was elated and knew of the perfect place, a roller rink she’d gone to last year for her birthday.
While she still wanted to express how disproportionate she felt—which is just too easy to do over a sad piano—Sof was also feeling optimistic. What she learned by enforcing a militant sense of joy is that we are in control of our own story. We can’t always control what happens to us (or at all, really) but we can respond to how we deal with the cards we’re dealt.
“I didn’t want to write a story for myself that was solemn or depressed. I wanted to write a story about someone who’s empowered,” says Sof.
The result isn’t just “Limerence,” but an entirely new EP, Dusk, which will reflect everything Sof has felt during this period of her life. She just couldn’t encompass all her feelings with one song.
And sure, Sof has certainly written about heartache before, dozens of times in fact. But “Limerence” is the first song of its kind that her fans can listen to forever. The earlier tracks are lost to time, or whatever vacuum art that’s never been released gets sucked into.
Removing myself as a journalist for a moment (which is rather easy for me to do), I ask Sof how she’s healing and if she’s okay. But of course, it’s a process, as healing of any sort always is. “It’s never linear,” Sof contemplates, “Some days, I’m ecstatic, and others…I think healing takes a long time. But I’ve been genuinely very happy.” Whether that’s due to her aggressive optimism or not, Sof isn’t certain. But she’s both enjoying and rediscovering herself.
Recently, Sof’s realized how much she loves talking to people. In the past, she considered herself an introvert, often easily burnt out by social interactions. Now Sof has found that she’s much more of a social butterfly than she ever knew, reveling in this new self-discovery.
As Sof continues packing, seeing California sunsets in her near future, she is clinging to her newfound optimism. “Everything you experience doesn’t have to be something negative,” she says, “You can have negative feelings towards something and still choose to rewrite the story in a way that feels best for you.”
So, if you are going through a tough time, Sof wants you to choose happiness. It sounds outrageous, but studies have shown that just the act of smiling can generate feelings of contentment. “I never fully grasped the concept of that being a choice until recently. If you choose happiness, you find all the little things in life that make you happy. But it’s something you need to do actively every day.”
It sort of goes hand-in-hand with the concept of gratitude and focusing on the what of your desires rather than the how. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be active in achieving what you want, but you know, energy flows where energy goes and all that. No one understands that better than Sof.
She has so much on the horizon to share with us. Some of it sad, some of it happy, and a little bit of both. What we can expect is that everything will be straight from her ice cream pink heart, reminding us that she’s experienced and lived fully in these emotions, these moments, before moving on to something better…Probably California sunshine and a golden state of mind.