Norwegian indie punk with an important message, Sløtface blend feminist fire with brilliant bangers.
"We all know the whole ‘stick to the music, you’re not politicians thing’ is complete bullshit. After all, who would Bob Dylan be if he wasn’t politically engaged? Whether you’re a musician, student, politician, whatever, you should use the tools you have to make a difference”.
It’s midday, and Sløtface’s four members are in Hammerfest - a town in their native Norway so far north that “you get midnight sun, and it’s only dark for a few hours.” A punk band in the truest sense, the four-piece rarely do much of anything without a cause.
“Anyone that finds it weird that we disagree with Trump clearly hasn’t listened to any of our songs or knows anything about us!” laughs Haley Shea – Sløtface’s frontwomen and lyricist. She’s recalling the time her band were quizzed about feminism on CNN prior to the US election; a platform new bands very rarely find themselves on.
“I remember lots of people saying, ‘Who the fuck cares what a Norwegian band thinks about American politics?’” recollects guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad. “I think that’s fair enough,” interjects bassist Lasse Lokøy, “but we feel like we have a right to pass judgement. Anyone that’s actively working against women, in the way that Trump is, deserves to be condemned for it.”
While many bands may shy away for having their music labelled so frequently, Sløtface welcome the ‘feminist’ tag so frequently attributed to their output. “I don’t see the feminist label as a restriction,” remarks Tor-Arne – “it’s something we truly stand for and like to highlight.”
“We’ve written some songs that are feminist manifestos,” continues Haley, “but even the songs where we’re not trying clearly speak out about a feminist issue still come under feminism. They’re rock songs written from the perspective of a female in a story that you’ve often heard told by a man. That’s what we want people to view feminism as. I think you can stick the feminist label on any song we’ve written and it would still apply.”
Sløtface made headlines following the release of their 2016 single ‘Sponge State’, for which the band released a music video filmed while protesting against a Nordic mining company. Environmentalist groups prevented the company from dumping millions of tonnes of waste into a fjord. “The whole project came from ideas from friends of ours,” says Lasse.
“We saw a lot of bands were sharing the blockade on social media, and we thought it would be a nice way to spread the message to make a video for them. It was fantastic to see so many young people come out and protest legally – it cost the mining company millions just because a few teenagers made an effort to stand up to them. That’s why we thought we should show our support.”
“People always talk about trolls on the internet, but we’ve always found people to be really supportive of great causes,” asserts Haley. “If anything we feel like we deserve to be critiqued more for what we do.”
Moving forward, the band aim to be even more direct in their messaging. “We’d like to write music that’s even more powerful in terms of reflecting on major issues. I think that’s an amazing craft, for someone to be explicitly political in their lyrics”.
After sitting on it for an entire year, they’re finally ready to unleash their debut album ‘Try Not To Freak Out’ onto the world. “It’s crazy how much there is to consider with timing a release, with all the random stuff that comes into play is incredible,” explains Lasse. “With the title, we wanted to poke fun at the sense of expectation people seem to have for debut albums. There’s this feeling in the music industry that you’re more talented when you’re younger – but personally, I’d expect more from someone who’s been making records for twenty years than a band making their first album.”
“For any new band, their debut album has to be the best thing they’ve ever made,” continues Tor-Arne, “or else it’s a shitty first record. It’s pretty unhealthy that the music industry works like that – young bands are expected to be super talented and revolutionise things. I also think it’s just a really fun, cocky title.”
The band have drawn inevitable comparisons to pop punk bands gone by – not all of which have been embraced by Sløtface themselves. “I think Wolf Alice and Los Campesinos! are good comparisons, we all really love those bands,” reveals Haley. “The only thing that pisses us off when it comes to comparisons is obviously when we are compared to other female fronted bands that we don’t sound like. There are so many other things that are more important points of reference than the pitch that I sing at.”
“When we write music we choose different things from the bands we listen to,” muses Tor Arne. “Some of it comes from electronic music, some from hip-hop, some from old and new rock bands. For us, all we hear is those references. Our music feels like something that’s been pieced together like a quilt.”
It isn’t just music that inspires Sløtface’s output. Their breakthrough single ‘Empire Records’ makes reference to the 1995 film of the same name, as well Stephen Frears’ 2000 adaption of the Nick Hornby novel ‘High Fidelity’.
“Movies and TV shows about music were really inspirational to me,” Haley recalls. “My dream job as a teenager was always to work in a record store. Proper record stores don’t really exist where we’re from, so I think I had an unrealistic fantasy that I’d be surrounded by other people that really liked music all day, discussing our favourite albums. Then we started a band which is probably a bit better because then you get to make the music!”
Continuing, the Sløtface frontwoman reveals that High Fidelity, in particular, had a major impact on her. “The thing that’s always resonated the most with me with that film is the way Rob [Gordan, portrayed in the film by John Cusack], associates music with the different relationships in his life.”
“I’m part of the playlist generation, so when I was in high school I had this playlist that was my love songs playlist,” laughs Haley. “You could really follow it in and out of relationships. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people that aren’t into music how much it makes you feel and what it means to you. High Fidelity showcases that really well – just how important music can be to someone”.
Sløtface’s debut album ‘Try Not To Freak Out’ is out on 15th September.