"It’s a very strange thing to experience all of this when you’re only 20. We get great opportunities but it’s just so chaotic." Tor-Arne, Sløtface.
2017 has easily been one of the biggest years yet for the Norwegian rock youngbloods Sløtface, with more attention, traction and touring coming their way than ever before. And that's even before their first full-length album is even out! During a rainy day at home in Norway recently, Sløtface guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad spoke to me about this hectic year, coming to Australia for the first time in September, the band's name, their music videos, the politics behind their 'Sponge State' clip, and their debut LP, 'Try Not To Freak Out'. Read the full chat below and get pumped for their inaugural Aussie headline tour!
With Sløtface coming to Australia, have you yourself been here before, Tor-Arne?
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No, never! I don’t think that anyone in the band has been to Australia before, but we’re very excited for it.
I bet! What’s on the bucket list for you guys to do while you’re here?
Well, to be honest, right after Australia we’ll be doing two months on the road touring. So we just really wanna spend our time in Australia surfing when we can. We come from a surfing town over here, one of the best in Scandinavia actually, so we’re excited to catch some waves for a few days.
Oh, rad! You'll wanna check out Bondi Beach for surfing in that case. And with the band being from Norway, which is usually seen as a black metal territory due to that genre’s infamous history, yourselves, Ulver on their last couple albums and Blood Command show that that cliché just isn’t true anymore.
The black metal thing is so distant from Norway and us now, and the metal scene here is still quite small. Especially in our hometown. But I think we’re very lucky as there aren’t any more rock bands left in Norway. There are loads of good rock bands but the sheer amount of people doing hip-hop, pop and electronic music allows us to have not as much expectation. It gives us room to really do stuff I feel. I know you said Blood Command and there are loads of good bands like them. But they’re all doing very separate things and it’s easy to see all the differences in the bands that are coming out. So we can really do our own thing and brush up against the sounds of the other crowds.
An interesting point to make, man. That kind of environment makes you stand out more in your country.
Yeah, and it’s when we travel to play, like going to the U.K., it's then that I get why people say places like that are great for rock music. As there are just so many rock bands around. It’s almost overwhelming. Nothing like that back home.
It’s very much the same out here in Australia, which is something you might find when you get over here in September.
You know, I can picture that being hard and demotivating. As you always see these other bands and what level they’re on, like how many people they played to and what tours they got. We don’t have anyone like that, not at our age, over here to look up to or a band that we could do similar things too.
Well, maybe you could pave the way for those bands then!
Now, when you did the music video for ‘Sponge State’, you played for young protesters fighting against Nordic Mining’s excessive dumping in the Geiranger Fjord. In terms of the politics of all that, what has since happened to the fjord, those young protesters and Nordic Mining themselves?
It’s my understanding that even when the protesters went down, they still did it [dumping in the river] anyway. But Nordic Mining lost, I don’t know how many millions of Australian dollars they lost, but it was a lot. That sent a signal out to our politicians of what they should prioritise – corporations, the economy, or what the actual scientists are saying and how such things will affect the ecosystem. People still live in those areas though but the fjord has been ruined. I think that the protesters received the worst fines. They were fined something like a $1,000 dollars for every day they were up there, each. And they were just kids, right down to 15-years-old. It’s so much money and they’re so young, so it just seems so unfair for people with such good intentions to receive that.
Yeah, that’s just fucked up. Excluding the protesters, did you and the band receive any issues or communications – legal or otherwise - from Nordic Mining about the video, using that footage, talking about their actions, and so on?
No, no one talked to us about that. When we had played the show for them, the police came up and each day, they gave the protesters a warning. They’d say that you’d have 15 minutes to decide if you wanted to leave, and if not, they’d forcefully take them down. They stayed and they got fined, sadly. When the police told us that, we stayed for 10 minutes and then left. As we couldn’t do the U.S. tour as we’d have criminal records! But no, the video hasn’t attracted people who are very into the environmental costs and it also hasn’t attracted people who are against the environmental costs. It’s attracted people who are into the music and who are now aware of what’s going on because of that video. That was really our end goal – keep people more aware of their environment and what was going on.
Good job in that regard then, mate. I do think that the story of that ‘Sponge State’ clips will hit home for some people over here. As out here in Australia, we had and still do have an Indian company called Adani continually trying to push to for a massive mining port in Queensland, one that would result in further environmental effects. Especially for the Great Barrier reef.
Oh, that’s good to hear that it's stopped for now but I am sorry to hear about that mining company.
Well, mining is basically our biggest industry so it’ll always be a problem I think. Still keeping within the realm of your film clips, one thing that I personally love about Sløtface is that you guys have a really good track record with music videos.
I think it all depends on what you’re out to accomplish. We do the music videos we do because we have people in the band who are very good with cameras and editing. We do it all because we then expand what this band can do; so we aren’t just writing, recording, performing songs but that we can do other things as well. I love making music videos, and we love the effort and the acting involved. We make the amount of videos that we do because we do it ourselves. Our music video budget has been anywhere from about $100 AUD to $1,000 AUD, and maybe that’s why other bands don’t do it; they have to hire others and that can be expensive.
For sure, doing things DIY like that and keeping it in-house can save you a lot of money!
Now, with your new album, ‘Try Not to Freak Out’, and with your prior two EP’s, I take it that this new release has been a long time coming for the band?
It definitely has! It’s been about building the band to the level we’re at now before a full-length record – as a debut record is a milestone that can come to define what you are. We’ve been doing music for five years now and some bands have their first album well before five years. We wanted to get good at writing and recording music and just wait before we made an album. There was once a discussion that we’d record an album three years ago when stuff like ‘Empire Records’ and ‘Like Lions’ came out. It just didn’t feel like the right time to do it though.
True, your first album is a big statement that your band makes, after all.
For sure! If I were to talk about the EP’s, I’m perfectly happy with them but I can’t talk for hours like I can with this new album. There are more layers and more thoughts to this album than those two EP’s.
That’s good to hear! Does the album’s release date (September 15th) give you any nerves knowing that it’s still so far off?
No, I’m not nervous as we’ve done crazy stuff before. We did a full U.S. tour without an album and all this other stuff, and while the album is important, it’s not THAT important. We’ll be coming to Australia before the album’s out and that’s a long way to go – it’s like 15-16 hours. To be honest, I think that our label are the nervous ones here, though [laughs].
[Laughs] I'm sure you'll be fine. And again with Australia, there are only two shows on the tour, which to me seems pretty short even for an East Coast tour...
Well, I’m not sure how much I am allowed to say now but there hopefully won’t just be two shows in Australia...
Oh, right! Well, with all these shows and touring, I must say that this has easily been the biggest year for Sløtface thus far.
Yeah! It’s a very strange thing to experience all of this when you’re only 20. We get great opportunities but it’s just so chaotic. It used to be that you once had the opportunity to look forwards to stuff and then it was suddenly bam, bam, bam – and it’s all over. That was three weeks of your life gone. I was talking to Hayley [Shea, vocals] recently and I said “Hey, you remember last week when we did this?” and she looked at me and went, “that was in December.” I was like "Oh… I need to take more photos then". [Laughs].
Aw man, that’s kinda sad. But at the same time, things are going well for the band, so it’s a give and take, I suppose. In terms of those opportunities you mentioned, with the band’s slight name change from “Slutface” to “Slotface” recently, that was because you guys missed out on certain things due to the name. So, what kind of opportunities did you lose out on prior to the change?
Well, it wasn’t at all a problem in Europe. German and French people were all cool with it, but with America and all English-speaking countries, it was an issue. So we couldn’t get our name onto shows or tours promoted as when you post about a tour flyer online, Facebook and such would censor it because of the band name. We got loads of algorithm issues and it was such a pain in the ass. It caused a bunch of problems for different people. It doesn’t matter how punk rock you are, if you can’t play shows, then you’re not a punk rock band! I think this was all before Australians caught onto us, but I’d imagine that you guys would be quite liberal with that?
Probably! I mean, you’re talking about a country in which some people casually refer to their good mates as ‘cunt’, so… yeah. I don’t think we’d have cared as much.
Yeah, I think so as well. When you think about it, there have never been more bands and artists on earth than in 2017. When you think about bands like The Sex Pistols, they were competing with others on their own channels, channels that were controlled by people. Nowadays, channels of information are controlled by maths and equations that amount to all of these algorithms, which can be tricky for anyone who does art or music and make a statement that uses certain words or challenges language. I think that’s a huge issue and that social media sites have a big responsibility to keep people’s expressions free.
Too right! When I first heard stumbled across your band, I said it as "Slutface", so I think most people will pick up on it without taking too much umbrage with it. And on the band's name, we'll have to leave it there Tor-Annie. Thank you so much for your time and I wish you nothing but the best for the album and the Aussie tour!
Oh cool man, thank you very much!
In support of their debut album 'Try Not To Freak Out' and courtesy of XIII Touring, Sløtface will be touring Australia this September. Find the dates (and one of my personal favourite Sløtface songs) below. Get your tickets here!
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6 - OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7 - HOWLER, MELBOURNE