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?
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.
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].