Anxious Avoidant

Sophia Bel

Anxious Avoidant

In the summer of 2020, Sophia Bel dropped her single “You’re Not Real You’re Just a Ghost,” a punky dream-pop tune that dared to pose the question “What if Avril Lavigne covered Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’ and commissioned a Cocteau Twins remix?” That track marked a turning point in the Montreal singer’s artistic evolution, displacing her earlier forays into trip-hoppy tranquility with a guitar-driven motorik energy. After first landing on her Princess of the Dead, Vol. II EP, the song reappears on Bel’s full-length debut, Anxious Avoidant, as both a teaser for the album’s lovelorn preoccupations and as a show model for a genre-mashing aesthetic that’s been thrust into overdrive. Given that she wrote the bulk of the record in the thick of Montreal’s strict, curfew-enforced lockdowns, Bel claims its nostalgic musical palette and self-analytical lyrical framework are actually related byproducts of the same pandemic self-care process. “When I was a teenager, I had a hard time figuring out how to love myself,” she tells Apple Music. “In my early twenties, I was trying to be a whole different person and not really be in touch with who I was as an awkward teenager. But in learning to love myself, I also learned to embrace my musical roots. I learned how to write songs with my guitar and a piece of paper in my bedroom—so I just went back to that.” Here, Bel lays out her track-by-track path to self-acceptance. “All F*****g Weekend” “This is about that feeling when you just want someone all to yourself and you’re like, ‘Can we just spend all our time together?’ It’s this very clingy feeling that I’ve always tried to hide my whole life—I’ve always tried to be this independent person that doesn’t need anyone. I think that’s why I’ve been chronically single, because I was never able to be vulnerable. So, this is a vomitlike volcano eruption of all the repressed vulnerability and disgusting clinginess I had.” “You’re Not Real You’re Just a Ghost” “I felt like this song was the precursor to this record. It’s the song that made me dabble into guitar again, because I hadn’t played guitar in so long. I was working with [producer] CRi, and I just showed up to his studio. We didn’t really know what we were going to do, and then he hands me his guitar—which I hadn’t played in, like, seven years. I wrote this super-angsty, whiny blink-182/Good Charlotte thing—I had felt ghosted by someone recently before that, so that resentment was coming out.” “Lonely After Curfew” “Except for ‘You’re Not Real You’re Just Ghost,’ every song on the record was written during the pandemic, and they’re based on a lot of emotions that I felt through navigating relationships in this new context, where we have no balance of a normal social life, we’re working from home, and there’s nothing to do on the weekend apart from going to the park. And it’s minus-40 weather. I was just feeling this FOMO—like, everyone else is hanging out without me. But I’m sure half the city was feeling like that. I was transferring that loneliness onto this relationship that I had where I was like, ‘I wish we could see each other every day,’ but he was much more independent than me. So, dealing with having no variety in my social life made me reevaluate that relationship.” “I Won’t Bite” “This is about that cute little feeling in the beginning of a relationship when you’re in the honeymoon stage...but there’s still a lot of fear of abandonment in the song.” “Everything I Touch Falls Apart” “On this one, I’m feeling jaded, I’m cynical, I’m being the victim—like, ‘I’m just not meant for anything and I’m doomed to be alone.’ I see the album as a diary of temporary emotions. Obviously, I don’t want to live my life in that victim mindset. But I think it’s also cool to capture that emotion and let it out.” “2AM (And I Did It Again)” “I realized that I was a people pleaser my whole life, and I was scared of people’s reactions and scared of affirming myself and communicating in general. I would take everything that I wasn’t able to say and everything that I would keep repressed and put into my art. So, I guess this song is saying, ‘Oh, I did it again—I didn’t say what I wanted to say, and now I’m writing a song in the middle of the night, and I can’t sleep!’” “I Don’t Need My Space” “I was sick of having this pattern with people that need all of this space, and it always makes me feel like the super-clingy one. So, this song is an angsty evacuation of all those needs that I had never expressed before. This has some hyper-pop touches, like the silly little hook—originally in my iPhone memo, I kind of sang that thinking it would be a guitar, but then I just thought it was really funny and cute the way it was. When I sang it to my friends, it was always their favorite part because they thought it was intended to be sung like that. I wanted this one to stay very playful.” “Choke” “‘Choke’ is about fear of abandonment. It’s saying, ‘I like you and I want to be vulnerable, but please don’t hurt me.’ I think that my fear of vulnerability has often made me choke and change my mind. Sometimes, when I think that I’m talking about someone else in a song, I realize that I’m actually also talking about myself.” “I Only Want You Cuz You’re Mean” “This is a moment of awareness: ‘Why do I have this pattern with people that awaken my wounded inner child?’ That line ‘I wish I could love you the way you need’ is me not being aware of my own needs and adapting to independent/avoidant types that don’t want to commit and don’t want the same things as me, so I’m adapting to their needs. But really, that’s not love. Love should be a mutual desire to respond to each other’s needs.” “Just Like a Glove” “This is my psychedelic song. I started playing around with my little Rhodes, and we programmed an arpeggiation of the whole song. I wanted to keep it kind of clownish—a playful but vulnerable mood. And I wanted to keep it very raw—I didn’t want to add a lot of post-processing. We had rented a studio in the woods, and there were frogs outside, and it just sounded so cool. So, I decided to capture that moment. It really feels magical to me when I listen to it. The song is about when you feel like you’ve met someone where you’re not adapting to them, and it’s just like, ‘This is what love should feel like.’” “I Promise I’ll Stop Running From the Light” “I spent a long time struggling with weed, so that’s why I say, ‘You don’t need to waste another dream on purple clouds.’ Doing drugs is like a form of escapism, and being unable to be vulnerable made me want to escape because you need to be vulnerable to feel close to people. But a friend of mine told me, ‘A few years ago, I decided I would stop being a victim.’ And that really resonated with me because I was like, ‘I have the power to break this cycle. I can learn how to be vulnerable, and I can take control of my own life.’ It was a very positive feeling that I wanted to put at the end of the record.’”

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