Norwegian political punks SLØTFACE rebel against sexism and the state. From calling out unrealistic body standards to taking part in mining protests, they’re just getting started
We’re backstage at KOKO in Camden, and only three-quarters of the feminist punk band SLØTFACE are present. Currently on the final date of a UK tour supporting Los Campesinos!, lead vocalist Haley Shea is nowhere in sight. Guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad, bassist Lasse Lokøy and drummer Halvard Skeie Wiencke are discussing their South by Southwest (SXSW) adventures and the wellbeing of their poor tour manager: “We paid her enough for the stress! We totally compensated,” they joke, when Haley suddenly comes flying in.
“I’m so sorry!” she says. “I’ve been fantasising about washing my hair all week. I didn’t bring any shampoo, so I got really lost in Boots just now.”
Hailing from Stavanger, Norway, punk quartet SLØTFACE (originally, they changed their name because of social-media censorship) make party-perfect guitar music littered with ’90s pop-culture references. Their debut record, Try Not to Freak Out, is slated for release in September, alongside a world tour. Taking pride in using their platform as musicians to speak up about important social issues, SLØTFACE are doing their part to start, and open, the conversation about gender politics and sexism in the music industry.
“We just kind of grew into it,” Haley says, when asked how they managed to align their politics with their music. When they started the band, they were 16, 17, and they didn’t know much about the theoretical side of feminism, or riot grrrl. “We just wanted to make music that would be a party.”
Soon after, Haley started writing lyrics based on the need to tell those “indie boy stories” from the female perspective. “It just ended up being feminist, no matter what we did. It became a feminist project in itself. We became more vocal about it when we played more shows, dealing with people who felt unsafe there. It became a political mission of ours.”
SLØTFACE’s political mission rests both inside and outside of their socially conscious lyrics. Their track “Bright Lights”describes the dangers a woman faces when walking home alone at night. The “Sponge State” video sees the band join a young activists’ campaign to protest against Nordic Mining’s systematic offloading of dangerous chemicals in Førde. They are also active in the fight to stop sexual harassment at gigs. “We have signs that the venues hang up, with the number of a contact to call,” says Haley. “We appoint a contact so that people [can] send a message if they’re feeling uncomfortable.”
“When we were writing the signs, we were like, ‘This should be obvious,’” says Lasse. “When people are reading them, [I hope] they’ll have the same thought of how these signs shouldn’t be necessary. But if it’s there, then you’ll also remember the next time you get drunk.”
Formed in 2012 after Haley and Tor started writing songs together, the band have been a breakthrough on the recent guitar scene. Latest single “Magazine”, taken from their debut, tackles bad body image and unrealistic body expectations. Though it was originally intended to be a breakup song, Haley thought that she wouldn’t be able to write one as good as already out there. So she wrote about breaking up with bad body image instead. “It’s always in the back of your head, the feeling of not quite living up to those expectations,” says Haley, “even if you know that they’re not realistic. That things are Photoshopped, or whatever.”
Read the full interview in our print magazine, which you can purchase here.