Photo by Martin Høye
Sløtface are looking to take down the patriarchy one slimy piece at a time through their punk-infused rock songs. They challenged our complacent society on one of the best songs of 2016, “Sponge State”; meanwhile, last month’s “Magazine”, the lead single off upcoming LP Try Not to Freak Out, railed against unfair body image standards.
Today, the Norwegian outfit is again standing tall for what it believes in with new song “Nancy Drew”. Like the Scandinavian version of Sleater-Kinney, Sløtface deal out pointed guitar work and jarring melodies with a feminist fire. They sound nearly invincible on more than one occasion, which, it turns out, is exactly the kind of superhero swagger they were gunning for.
“For this song I wanted to create a kind of super hero savior, so I drew inspiration from Nancy Drew and tried to imagine a bad-ass super hero who crushes the music industries boys club and the patriarchy with one punch,” vocalist Haley Shea tells Consequence of Sound. Being a teenaged detective never sounded this freaking cool — watch out, Hardy Boys.
Hear the track down below.
“Nancy Drew” is taken from Try Not to Freak Out, which arrives September 15th through Propeller Recordings (pre-order here). In addition to the new song, both Shea and guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad have answered some probing questions from our own Ben Kaye. The two not only further discuss “Nancy Drew” and the new album, but also Sløtface’s use of other pop culture references, their underlying punk ethos, and combatting sexism and xenophobia. They also touch on what it was like touring with Los Campesinos!, one of Shea’s most beloved bands.
You’ve described yourself as “not a punk band,” but you do share many qualities of that scene, from your fondness of “underground” house shows to your aggressive energy to your message. And yet your reference points are things like Bully and Paramore. Since you’re not looking for it and you’re not necessarily directly influenced by it, where do you think this punk ethos you undoubtedly operate under originates?
Tor-Arne Vikingstad: I think punk is a term to be defined by individuals. To us it means the history of Riot Grrrl, house parties and a show where the differences between stage and floor are wiped out. We don’t necessarily identify with the old-school punk as a band, the mohawk and all that stuff, but we strongly believe the DIY ethos is important in 2017.
Haley Shea: And although bands like Bully are influences for us, I especially grew up listening to a lot of classic punk, and these are still some of my favorite bands today that I especially connected with when I was a teenager. We also try to incorporate a lot of classic punk elements to our live set because we love the energy and chaos.
You just got off tour with Los Campesinos!, a band your biography goes out of its way to point out is Haley’s favorite band. So, Haley, have to ask — how mind blowing was that experience?
HS: It was so amazing. Just to get to watch them live every night was such an amazing treat. I felt really lucky. To top it all off they are also completely lovely, smart and caring people, so it was really everything I’d hoped for.
You seem to love making pop culture references in your lyrics. “Empire Records” is pretty much built on them, “Sponge State” shouts out Bon Iver, and “Magazine” invokes Patti Smith. Even this new single is called “Nancy Drew”. Is there a reason you like to point out all these cultural signposts? Is it a matter of connecting with people or more personally about your own link to these things?
HS: Mostly the references are about specificity. I really love songs that feel like they come from a specific time, place and thought, so for me good songs are always about specificity, and I love when people have references in their songs that I can connect to. So I hope they connect with people, but mostly it’s just the songwriting style I prefer.
I can see why the anti-patriarchal view of many of your songs connects to listeners here in the US, but for someone who has never been to Norway and doesn’t know much of the cultural climate there, I’m curious about how your music has been received in your home country. Do you find yourself courting the same kind of accolades? Do you consider the things you’re writing about more impactful or relevant in one market versus the other, or is it universal in its appeal/necessity?
TV: To be honest, we’re not that many people here. Which means that when something bigger is happening, it’s not a great deal of people involved compared to the US. We’re five million people, which means the US has approximately 64 times more people than we do. But still, we have issues, and even though the US and Norway as vastly different in so many ways, we face many of the same problems like sexism, xenophobia and abuse. We have grown up on American films, music and TV-shows, so to us it feels natural that our songs also speak to US citizens.
HS: And the anti-patriarchal things is an issue all over the world. We’re never really writing for any specific audience, we mostly write for ourselves about issues we care about.
Can you talk a bit about “Nancy Drew”? What’s the track about and how did it come together?
TV: I think this song shows our way of copy-pasting stuff we all like together, trying to make it work. We’re all rock fans, but the band is also huge fans of electronic music, which is kind of where we got the bass-riff for the chorus. There’s also some serious rock with a capital R in this song. On the album we pay a lot of homage to artists we love and there’s no way of getting around that. I think this is a good example of what happens when you get four people with different musical taste together to write a rock song.
HS: And the lyrics are an attempt at making a song that has a more positive spin on an album that is mostly about things I’m nervous about or that are worrying. For this song I wanted to create a kind of super hero savior, so I drew inspiration from Nancy Drew and tried to imagine a bad-ass super hero who crushes the music industries boys club and the patriarchy with one punch.
Your album is called Try Not to Freak Out, and is largely about liberating one’s self from a mind that internalizes all the roadblocks life throws our way. It’s a valiant message, but I can’t help thinking that as young 20-somethings starting to explode in a challenging business, it might be advice you yourselves could use. Are you, in fact, freaking out, and how are you heeding your own words as you gear up for your big debut LP?
TV: We’re already on the next step. We’re writing album number two, planning tours, making videos and printing new merch. We don’t get that much time to sit down and really think about what’s going to happen. Being in a band is a 24/7 job, it’s mad and we love it.
HS: And it’s definitely advice to ourselves. I was freaking out the whole time we were writing the album, mostly about superficial “in your 20s” kinds of things. So most of the songs are about trying to keep your shit together.