"There’s no standing with your arms crossed. And there is supposed to be a safe space."

Norway is a country of great natural beauty. From its imperious mountains to its spectacular glaciers and fjords, the most westerly of the Scandinavian countries is an idyllic gem and revered tourist hotspot in the North sea. Dig a little deeper beneath the surface however and you’ll find a bubbling music scene.

A scene that just so happened to produce Sløtface, the kind of snotty pop-punk act you’d expect to find on the sun-drenched west coast of America, pushing strong political and feminist agendas to an ever-growing fanbase. With an arsenal of angst-ridden, unapologetic pop-rock tunes Sløtface have managed to break free of the restraints many of their Scandinavian counterparts have struggled to overcome and find an international audience. Also testament to a relentless touring schedule that has seen them adorn stages far and wide.

With their debut album ‘Try Not to Freak Out’ landing last week to substantial critical acclaim, Clash caught up with guitarist Tor Vikingstad.

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How does it feel to have finally got your debut record out there?

It feels good. It’s been a great week now. It’s good to see that people enjoy it. It feels great to see that the reviews are good - and some are bad - which is also a good thing. People are reacting to it.

You’ve called the album ‘Try Not to Freak Out’, what do you mean by this?

To be honest, I think it really depends on who you ask within the band, because I think I might have a different angle on it. Hayley’s thought is what most of the lyrical content is about. Being in your teenage years. What are the right choices? What’s not? And dealing with your anxiety.

But also, it felt like a good name for the record because, it feels like to me there’s so much anticipation connected to young artists, and especially a debut album. People think that because you’re young and into music that you’re making break point on the debut album, but that’s the first real product you make as a recording artist. I don’t think that necessarily has to be a revolutionary product in order for you to be an artist who’ll be around for years to come.

It’s supposed to be a big splash, but I think it’s more of a slow, bumpy road. You have to work your way up, and be better and learn things and have experiences.

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I think it’s more of a slow, bumpy road...

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Norway isn’t really the first place that people think of when they think of pop punk, what led you on this musical path?

Globalisation I guess (laughs). I feel like kids/ teenagers, especially those born in the late 80s and early 90s have the same references. Especially when it comes to listening to the same rock and hip-hop of the early 2000s, and also pop punk. But there’s definitely been some Norwegian artists that have inspired us. Not necessarily musically but more in the culture they create and the live shows they have.

What role did your surroundings and the music scene in Norway have on your sound? How did Norwegian bands influence you?

There’s an all-female ska-pop band called Razika and they had their 10th anniversary last year and they’re just 25. And people like Honningbarna, they bring fans up to play guitar with them and then the guitar player jumps into the mosh-pit. It’s something you don’t see that often anymore and not as co-ordinated and as well thought through as they do it. And also just loads of metal and hard-core bands were coming out of our town.

A lot of people older than us did that kind of thing. There were lots of ‘straight edge’ hardcore bands, and those were the only shows we could go to being less than 18 years old, because there wasn’t any alcohol present. It was the only choice we had really, other than big corporate gigs in the city centre, but that wasn’t really of any interest to us and didn’t happen very often. That was our only option.

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It felt more interesting to move into the rock world...

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Obviously there’s the limitation of instruments. A guitar, bass, drums, vocals, there is only so much you can do, so it felt pretty natural to take stuff into the rock and pop punk aesthetic.

What made you move away from the metal, hard-core punk genre that a lot of other young people in Norway were becoming heavily involved with?

I don’t think anyone had that much interest in doing the metal thing. We’re all huge fans of pop music and also growing up listening to a lot of pop punk bands, it felt very natural to do that sort of thing and it felt more interesting to move into thr rock world, while trying to bring along some of the pop music we love. Just stuff like Robyn or Taylor Swift, whatever that would make it more interesting than just trying to do the same thing with heavier music.

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The album is also littered with pop culture references, what was the thought behind this?

It’s all about trying to describe the place we’re in. It’s a very pop culture driven world we’re living in. Especially looking at Facebook and Instagram and all the information we’re receiving. There’s now a big mix between what is information and what is entertainment. I think it’s only natural to bring in all the stuff that’s in our lives. You’ve said before that you are very into films and cinema.

How does something like that feed into the way you make your music?

I think movies, especially growing up, were really important in how you look at life and social encountering. Looking at parties and how movies give you expectations of how things should be, and most of the time it’s very unrealistic. So when we started out that was a very prominent thing.

Our first EP was called ‘We’re Just OK’ because of that, most of the time things are just OK. They aren’t super great, aren’t very bad, it’s not as extreme as in films. That really has dug into Hayley’s lyrics and the expectations movies create for teenagers. Maybe the biggest inspirations we have are music movies like Scott Pilgrim all these sorts of films.

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Politics doesn’t necessarily define you as a band...

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How important is politics and being political to Sløtface?

I really enjoy when people come to our shows. There are many people completely unaware of our opinions and what we spend most of the time talking about. Looking at our statistics we have a few more male listeners than female listeners, and I think that’s quite interesting. Just because we’ve been really pushing the feminist cause, and in one way it shows that people care about those issues. Men care about these issues as well.

At the same time politics doesn’t necessarily define you as a band. To me it’s the live show and music that are the most important.

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So you would say the live show is a really important factor in giving your band its identity?

I would definitely say so. That’s where we’ve been working most towards and becoming a live band, creating a unique experience every night is something we try to do. Also that’s where I get the most joy out of music in the live shows. There are a lot of uninteresting shows around.

What do you do as a band to keep your shows interesting?

It really depends because most of the time we get the opportunity to feed off the crowd, and that’s where it gets really interesting. We’ve been playing a lot of shows, and sometimes there aren’t a lot of people. So even though there’s a small crowd we want everyone to come to the front. There’s no standing with your arms crossed. And there is supposed to be a safe space.

That’s really important so we’re trying to put up all these posters saying “sexual harassment is illegal” at shows in order to make women feel safe. I think that’s the most important thing, and when you get a good crowd everyone feels safe and they can let loose without anyone harassing or judging them. That’s sort of where we’re aiming to be.

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There’s no standing with your arms crossed. And there is supposed to be a safe space.

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That’s almost part of the DIY Punk ethos you’re trying to follow through with in that sense there.

Yeah people have been working with these issues for 40 or 50 years and we’re still trying to get it right. Although I also see hip-hop and rap artists doing the same thing. Which I think is great.

I can’t remember the artists name, but we saw him at Reading and Leeds and he was just like “only women get to stage dive and if you touch them I’ll kill you”, was the message. And I think that’s a really good place to start, especially in rap and hip-hop where so many of my friends are being grabbed and harassed. It’s not just for punks and rock but hip-hop as well, and they’re trying to create a safe space for their audience.

You’ve just released your debut album, and it's been met with critical acclaim. This is a good stage for Sløtface, where do you see yourselves in five years time?

I’m looking forward to creating a better second album. This album - when it comes to music and the playing - is very much trying to prove what we know and what we’re capable of doing. We try to switch between genres and pull stuff out from hip-hop to create a diverse record. And maybe moving forward we’ll try and create something that’s a bit more concise and sharp. Because the album is kind of all other the place. And also just doing bigger shows and more high-budget music videos. Playing more with ideas and different concepts.

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'Try Not To Freak Out' is out now.

Words: Rory Marcham

For tickets to the latest Sløtface shows click HERE.

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