Sløtface — Getting a Leg Up
I am at Folken, Stavanger. The venue that, together with Checkpoint Charlie, has a very special place in the hearts of artists coming out of what is Norway’s oil capital. Sløtface is playing tonight.
Photo: Emma Swann, DIY Magazine
It’s pre-soundcheck and the atmosphere is relaxed. No fuzz. I tell the backstage hostess that I have an appointment for an interview with Indie-pop-punk comets Sløtface. I am escorted backstage where I meet singer Haley Shea and guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad. Their backstage is set up to do a live recording with cameras and condenser mics taking up most of the space.
“We’re trying to squeeze a million things into our schedule today”, Shea says. “I’ll be with you as soon as the guys start doing their soundcheck. I’m not needed until they’re set up”, she continues politely. Respecting the work ethics I have no problem hanging back. I observe Vikingstad pacing about talking on the phone about guitars (didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but it was impossible not to overhear). Bass player Lasse Lokøy walks in with a kazoo in his mouth and drummer Halvard Skeie Wiencke is banging on the locked backstage dressing room door. The band seems busy preparing for the homecoming gig and the other events of the evening. I get a sense of a band not wasting any time. So, when I finally sit down with Shea I try to make my questions as clear and to the point as possible.
10 years from now, looking back at this night, where was this in your career?
“Hmm….well, this could play out in so many ways. But, we definitely want Sløtface to be around in 10 years. We’re almost at the point where the band is a 24/7 gig and we’re hoping that within 2–3 years time we’ll be able to make some kind of living out of this”.
What do you think keeps a band together?
“To spend some time getting there. Be patient. For us it has also been important that we were pretty close long before we started touring. If you want to improve your team working skills; there’s no place like the road. For instance: Don’t bug Lasse when he’s hungry”, Shea informs me.
Are you consciously working on keeping everyone in the band happy?
“It’s important that everyone enjoys their freedom and that Sløtface, and all the work involved, is something that everyone chooses to do”, Shea says implying that the four members are on the same page as far as what being a member of Sløtface means. “There has to be mutual respect” she continues,”I guess it’s in our songwriting we really push each other, but in a good way I would say”.
Shea explains that everyone in the band are songwriters and after signing deals with management, label and booking the pressure has been on to deliver new songs. “We figured that there are a lot of talented artists out there, but that not everybody has the capacity to work professionally over time. If we could do just that, then maybe we’d be able to get a leg up and eventually cut through the noise by constantly taking small steps. You have a lot to gain just by being a bit professional”, Shea explains.
How many shows did you do the last year?
“I haven’t been keeping count, but I guess somewhere between 100 and 150. We’ve toured England three times, the US once and also stopped by in Estonia, The Netherlands and Germany. In addition we’ve of course done a couple of shows here at home as well.”, Shea points out.
“Definitely the US tour. People are so nice to us and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback over there, even though most of them haven’t heard of us before. The next time we go back it will have to be for a longer tour”, Shea says enthusiastically. “We played SXSW, and in addition to playing these big festivals ourselves, we get to see other artists perform, which is great”
You went from Slutface to Sløtface. Why?
Shea explains, “Well, the obscenity filters on the internet went off the charts with us spelling our band name correctly and it affected our availability” (The Norwegian Ø is pronounced in the same way as the U that was taken out from the original Slutface).
Norwegians know about the Ø, but what about the rest of the world?
“We often have to explain how our name is pronounced during interviews. It may throw show hosts or journalists a bit off, but it usually works to our advantage when we have to correct interviewers. It’s quite fun actually”
What are your experiences with the music industry?
“We’re raised on horror stories, but so far we’ve had a good relationship with the business. We’ve taken our time before deciding on which people to work with; making sure our ideals match before entering into long term agreements”
You’re students. Is it possible to combine going all in with Sløtface and at the same time study?
“Yes. I would say that because we live in Norway, where education basically is free, it allows us to go all in with the band at this point”, Shea says without commenting on if pursuing the band affects their studies. No point in going there.
Any big differences between touring in Norway and abroad?
“In Norway everything is pretty smooth as far as venues, sleeping arrangements, food, PA systems go. People help you carry your gear and there is always an artist contact whose soul purpose is to take care of you. Touring abroad you’re pretty much on your own. We often sleep on the floor in the same club we just played. But that’s cool”, Shea explains and paints a not so glamorous picture of their touring abroad.
Anything special about the show tonight? Playing at home?
“Definitely. Folken and Checkpoint Charlie are the two venues we first got some stage experience. We also feel like we have to sound a little bit better every time we come home to play. There will be a lot of familiar faces in the crowd and we do not want to let them down”, Shea says and answers the final question of the interview.
I leave Folken wondering what it will be like the next time Sløtface is in town. After talking to Haley Shea I feel pretty confident that they will continue taking those small steps. Each time reaching another level. I, and I’m guessing truck loads of people, can’t wait to see where that staircase leads.