After finishing the process of producing and releasing their debut album, Try Not To Freak Out, Norwegian band Sløtface (pronounced ‘Slutface’) have embarked on their European tour. I had the chance to catch their show at The Basement, York, earlier this month and they did not disappoint. Fast-paced pop-punk bangers with the energetic stage presence of the band members (in particular, bassist Lasse Lokøy) saw the crowd turn into a community of pop-punk lovers whilst listening to the raw sound of this European breakout act as they performed songs such as ‘Nancy Drew’ and ‘Magazine’; both political in their nature due to the not-so-subtle feminist tones to the lyrics, written by lead singer Haley Shea.
However, before the show began, I had the pleasure of chatting to the band about the tour, the new album and the link between music and politics.
“I think people need to do whatever they can to stand up against all of the madness that’s going on”
Embarking on their month-long tour in September for their debut album the band have been visiting a vast array of places, from Brighton to Berlin. I decided to ask them about their favourite place. Whilst Lokøy and drummer Halvard Skeie Wiencke told me they preferred British cities such as Leeds and Manchester, Shea mentioned the Norwegian summer festivals as you get to see a variety of other bands, showing the open and welcoming nature of the Norwegian music scene. Sløtface is also perhaps of this nature, as it is clear in the lyrics written by Shea, as they cover personal struggles such as her experiences with anxiety.
After releasing numerous singles and EPs since 2014, just last month Sløtface released their debut album Try Not To Freak Out. The album contains 11 tracks, although, ‘It’s Coming To a Point’ acts as more of an interlude, giving the listener a few seconds to stop and think. The song seems to be inspired by the break during heightened anxiety to relax; a method to essentially prevent others ‘freaking out’. Therefore, the album itself is definitely a completed concept, consisting of a diverse array of songs – which guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad mentioned aim to ‘push each other in different directions’ – as the album features sounds like the slower, more laid-back pace of ‘Slumber’ to the wilder sounds of ‘Backyard’. In fact, when talking about favourite songs from the newly released album, Skeie Wiencke and Vikingstad both mentioned ‘Backyard’, which explains why the song was chosen to close the show. However, Lokøy made mention of ‘Slumber’ as his favourite song from the new album, with Lokøy’s vocals complementing lead vocalist Shea effortlessly, fitting the song’s dream-like tone.
I also took the opportunity to ask the band about the album artwork. This consists of an angel with exploding confetti in place of the head, clearing linking to the title of the album, Try Not To Freak Out. As with producing the actual songs for the album, the artwork itself took a reasonable amount of time to produce, with the band pondering over various ideas which they “couldn’t find a proper meaning” to, such as a simple photo Shea took of pizza. It took a while to reach an agreement on the final piece, which fabricated as an ode to Shea’s lyrics, inspired by her anxiety.
From their kick-ass feminist lyrics such as those in ‘Magazine’, to their activism evident in the ‘Sponge State’ video where the band joined the protests regarding the mining of the Førde Fjord in Western Norway, the band are not shy to making political statements. Firstly, we touched on the feminism that features within the band’s work and the inspirations for this. Whilst the lyrics are inspired by personal experiences with sexism, as well as the general misogyny that exists within society, Shea explained their frustration with limitations of gender. The outfit believe “that gender and the roles that you’re placed in because of gender are some of the most constricting roles we have of being a person in general” and further noted how they cause strict expectations of how you are meant to look and act.
Within the interview we also faced the current relationship between music and politics, which of course, resulted in discussion about Trump. Vikingstad noted how music remains “very high” in importance of the Trump era (something the band have commented on in the past). Shea noted the change in attitude to music after Trump’s inauguration: “When Trump was inaugurated there were all these conversations going on about being like ‘oh well at least the only good thing to come out of it are people are gonna be angry and punk music is gonna be really strong and we’re gonna have all this really politically engaged music.’ But that’s a pretty backwards way of thinking about things because wouldn’t it be better if there was just a good punk scene and you didn’t have to put up with the bullshit. It’s like, it’s always nice to have something to be sort of band together around but I don’t know if it’s more important now than it has been. I think people need to do whatever they can to stand up against all of the madness that’s going on.”
Finally, to wrap up the interview I asked the band about the name. Whilst most English-speaking people would automatically assume that the band is called ‘Slotface’, the “little trick”, as Vikingstad described it, hides (from English speakers at least) the real pronunciation of ‘slutface’. This has become a type of political statement in itself, and the censorship issues they had with the original name ‘Slutface’, only emphasises the statement further. Vikingstad went on to describe how whilst the band name was inevitably going to be provocative in places like the UK and US, it was fun to see how people in these places would be constricted by the rules, for example the name of the band could not be said on the radio. However, in some places the band name did not elicit this same reaction of controversy, from places like Germany to, surprisingly, Australia (which Shea had noted had a really strong feminist punk scene), compared to the more “censorship-wise conservative countries” like the US and UK.
From a name as provocative as Sløtface to a brilliant debut album, I expect that we will be hearing a lot more from this band, and I can’t wait to see what their next step is after touring.
By Sian Tipping