They were the kisses seen 'round the world: a black-and-white video gorgeously shot by director Tatia Pilieva, documenting two strangers meeting for the first time to share a kiss. Some were tender and brief, some were prolonged and passionate. While the video's earnest origins were questioned once it was revealed that the "strangers" were actually actors and models hired by the clothing company WREN to enact the script, 48 million views on YouTube prove it satisfied a big cultural sweet tooth.
French musician SoKo not only stars in one of the most moving scenes in "First Kiss," (in which she kisses a woman), she also provided the pretty tune "We Might Be Dead Tomorrow" as a score to the three-minute amour. The Huffington Post's Alexis Ferenczi caught up with SoKo to talk about the genesis of "First Kiss" and its shockingly global reaction. Their interview, originally posted on HuffPost France, is below.
HuffPost: How did you end up kissing a stranger?
Soko: I’m friends with Melissa Cocker, designer of WREN and I am a huge fan of her brand. She tells me that she's doing an art project with a friend, Tatia [Pilieva, the director], [based on] a big idea where they gather a lot of friends that don’t know each other and have them to kiss.
I didn’t really know what the concept was. A video? A short film or a campaign? But my nickname is "Kissing Bandit" so I thought that would work pretty well. It turned out to be just friends wanting to have fun and do something artistic in the most organic way possible. The creators weren't trying to prove anything. [Everyone was] just joining forces to portray love in a specific way: the single act of kissing a stranger.
How was the experience?
Tatia didn't give any directions. She told us where the camera was, where the light was and where we were supposed to stand. We were all wondering what to do. You're obviously bit embarrassed because you're about to kiss someone you don’t know in front of 20 people. It’s 9 a.m., you’re the first to do it and you have no idea what it is going to be like. It was actually -- and surprisingly -- pretty awesome.
I asked if I could kiss a girl rather than a guy and they said "sure." Everyone was asking: "Who am I gonna kiss? Who is it gonna be?" And Tatia was made it a point not tell anyone. No one but her knew who was going to be on set that day. No one knew who they were going to be paired with. I met [my kissing partner] Marianna five minutes before I kissed her and I assumed she was a lesbian. Nobody had done it before me so I didn’t have anything in mind in terms of how long we were supposed to kiss.
We were kind of shy. We just talked and she was really nice. We thought it was fun, so we took our time, looked at each other and made it real, not mechanical. I wanted it to be special and it felt that way. Marianna then admitted it was actually the first time she had ever kissed a girl.
How does it feel to know that 48 million people have seen your kiss?
The whole Internet experience feels like numbers and nothing real. When I think about figures, I'm more like: "So it means that this many countries have seen the video and listened to my song," which feels pretty awesome but is still unreal.
Why do you think this video has gone so viral?
I think it worked because it was such a genuine experience -- [it was] organic and true. It was made with friends for no money. People are saying: "They’re all actors, it’s a commercial," but it's not. Melissa happens to have this brand WREN but they weren’t thinking of making an [advertising] spot. In the video, I’m wearing my own clothes. It was not intended to sell anything. Sure, a few of the strangers are actors, some were musicians or stylists coming from different backgrounds. It's Los Angeles.
You spoke very openly about your sexuality in an interview given to Tetu in 2012. Are you still comfortable with the subject?
I like people. I don’t care who they are. I’m just a defender of equality. Being equal on this planet is the most important thing and I like equal relationships. Some people have been leaving very homophobic comments on the video which I find sad.
Which one is harder: a fake kiss in a movie or in a viral video?
It’s just a different experience. But the one thing I love the most in life is adventure. Each time I get thrown out of my [comfort zone] and challenged, I feel I’ve overcome some of my fears, whether it is like embracing a story for a movie or kissing an actor for make-believe. If people want me to jump off a cliff or go to the desert and swim with the snakes, I’m up for anything.
What reactions have you received about the "First Kiss" video?
People I haven’t seen in ages are texting me and congratulating me. I think [the video] melted a few hearts. What I learned from it is that if you do things with your friends without thinking about any consequences -- if you just do it for the heck of it -- then sometimes people will pick respond. If anyone would have done the same thing with a commercial [in] mind or [specifically to] make a viral video, it would never have worked.
To me, love is the most important ingredient in making art. It’s vital. If I don’t create, I die. I write everyday, I make music everyday. Music is absolutely life or death for me. If I can’t do it, I rot inside. The main thing I want to do in my life is make art everyday. And be a lover. That’s all.
What are you doing next, musically?
Right now, the record that I’m doing is produced by Ross Robinson who produced the Cure which is my favorite band in the whole world. It sounds a lot more like 80’s new wavy, punkish music with a very English sound. I’m having so much fun with it.
I still don’t have a manager, or a label for it. I think the ["First Kiss"] video will definitely be helpful, though. So many labels have reached out which is crazy because literally, just two weeks ago, I had nowhere to sleep. And now people want to sign me. I’m like, eventually, I can afford to pay rent.
This interview has been edited and condensed.