The night before their first ever stop in Madison, Wisconsin, Norwegian punk band Sløtface chatted with EMMIE to talk all things Try Not To Freak Out, equality and their upcoming performance in Madison.
EMMIE: What’s the meaning behind the name Sløtface?
Tor: When it started out, the band wanted to do something a bit different, or more provocative than stuff going on, so it started out as kind of a joke. When it developed, it became a really well-fitting name for what we stand for in taking back that term “slut” — trying to make it something that’s more positive.
I know you went through a process of changing the spelling of the name (from Slutface to Sløtface). Do you think it was perceived differently in Europe than in America?
Tor: In English speaking countries, there was a lot of misunderstanding going on with the name. The main reason we changed it was because of the censorship in America and England. It was a really hard time for us trying to reach out to people online, and it wasn’t as clearly a problem in European countries because they didn’t speak English as their first language. While we couldn’t really promote gigs in the U.K. or the U.S., we were playing national television shows in France and were traveling around Europe playing shows where there were no problems with the name. When we changed it, it worked out good for us.
One of the tracks on Trying Not to Freak Out, “Pitted,” is about wanting a night in, but instead forcing yourself to get dressed up to pretend like you’re having fun all night. Can you talk about the inspiration behind this song?
Haley: Yeah, it’s basically a collage of all kinds of experiences both as a band and when I was in high school, either having really high expectations and being really disappointed, or thinking “this is gonna suck” and ending up having a really good time. It’s always when we least expect it that we have a really good time. A lot of the stories are things that have happened when we’ve been on tour when we’re out together, so it was an easy one to write.
When you write, do you always draw off of personal experiences or do you sometimes view songwriting as more “literary,” like a creative narrative?
Haley: It’s usually a combination. Most of our stuff is based on diary journal notes that I keep and then when we’re actually working on a song and we have an idea for chords or a riff, I flip back and use those journal notes when we’re writing or finishing the song. Mostly it’s using stories that are personal experiences, and then sneaking in poetry that works.
Where do you find inspiration for making music, whether it be musical or lyrical?
Haley: The whole band really finds inspiration in other music. My favorite band is called Los Campesinos! with Gareth David. His lyrics are so specific and tell really relatable stories. Matt Berninger from The National is a really good lyricist as well. When I was younger I was fascinated with Regina Spektor and the way that she told stories too. Really everything that has to do with listening to lyrics and thinking they’re inspirational. I like to read a lot, so Patti Smith’s memoirs are really big inspirations for me.
Tor: Yeah, I get inspired by artists that are often on the same level. I think more female rock bands are cool because they’re a part of of movement in a male dominated genre.
You mention being inspired by Patti Smith, and you have a lyric you repeat in your song, “Magazine”: “Patti Smith would never put up with this shit.” Do you wanna talk about that a little bit?
Haley: Patti Smith is my hero in so many ways, but one part of it is her sense of style and how as a female artist she never put up with other things many female artists have to deal with, which may be a really superficial part of why I like her, but it’s what I tell myself if I find myself getting caught up in the superficial part of this business: Patti Smith would never put up with this shit, anyone telling her to wear more makeup or a shorter skirt; she wouldn’t.
You guys are known for your vocal support for equality, specifically feminism. What are the key messages you try to get out in your music?
Haley: I think the biggest thing we’re trying to share is not letting gender get in the way of anything. For the era that we’ve grown up in, that is one of the biggest hurdles we still see when it comes to equality. The gender you’re born into still affects so many of the options and choices you have in life. Our main crusade is trying to be advocates for that: Don’t ever let gender be the determining factor for the choices you make, whether it’s because you’re trying to go against what’s expected and don’t want to fulfill the stereotypes or because you’re doing things you think men or women should do, or girls and boys should do. It applies to everyone.
Touring the U.S. with our current political climate, do you find yourselves becoming even more vocal or do you tend to let the music speak for itself?
Tor: Touring the U.S., we try not to be too vocal about U.S. specifics, such as Trump. It doesn’t make too much sense for us to comment because we’re not American and we try not to act better than anyone, if you know what I mean, just coming in and saying what we think about another country. In regards to feminism, males being vocal is a big step. People are talking about it now, and sometimes people try to speak out get shut down because they have something to hide, which doesn’t make any sense to me. In my opinion, we should welcome anyone trying to contribute to the conversation and fight the problems.
Congratulations on your nomination for Best Rock Album at the Norwegian Grammys! When thinking about your successes, are there any other goals for 2018 you’re aiming for?
Tor: Thank you! We’re all starting to appreciate small steps up, and not thinking too much about the big stuff or the long run. We’re definitely really happy to tour the album, and we did Australia, Europe and now the U.S. which is crazy. We’re already starting to work on our second album and are really excited to see how far we can go in 2018.
What should Madison expect from you guys at FRZN Fest?
Tor: Lots of energy, a really good time. People should be pleasantly surprised by the live format of the album. We’re really excited to be performing with the other bands because they’re bands that we like a lot but that haven’t been to Norway. Just pure excitement.
Sløtface play FRZN Fest at High Noon Saloon on Saturday, Jan. 20 with Stef Chura, Snail Mail and Hinds.