Once upon a time (when they were playing Norwegian showcase festivals and looking for their “big break”), Sløtface was known as Slutface. But to avoid social media censoring, the Bergen/Oslo based-band ended up changing it. (Well sorta—as frontwoman Haley Shea points out, the new spelling is still pronounced the same in their native tongue.) It wasn’t a big deal, but they weren’t going retire the scandalous name without having a little fun.
“We did this whole video, where we had a bunch of Norwegian celebrities calling us sellouts,” says Shea of the big reveal, which happened on April 1. “Then we released it ourselves. Nobody knew if it was a joke or we meant it. Then we came back the next day and said, ‘Nope, we’re really doing this. It’s not an April Fool's joke.’ We didn’t take it so seriously. We were really surprised that anyone cared. For our sake, it was a really small change. It was purely bureaucratic.”
That same plucky attitude extends to the band’s debut album, Try Not to Freak Out, out today. Alongside Lasse Lokøy, Halvard Skeie Wiencke, and Tor-Arne Vikingstad, Shea tears through upbeat pop-punk which manages to pack wide-ranging references from the Marry, Fuck, Kill game and “Hotline Bling” to David Bowie and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (And that’s just on the opening track, “Pitted.”) For her part, Shea doesn’t pause when asked if she’d consider Sløtface political, given all their frank discussions of modern life both onstage and off. Of course, they are.
“I think a lot of politics is trying to learn about what people’s actual life experiences are,” she explains. “Trying to make a community to change things you disagree with. That’s what we try to do as a band at least. For us, that’s political.”
So is feminism, a theme that permeates nearly every song. Shea is vocal about her love for her (all-male) bandmates, but wouldn’t mind seeing a few more women in music’s boy's club—a subject tackled between crushing guitar solos on “Nancy Drew.” And on “It Girl,” she dismantles the idea that women are mystical creatures that can only be described with the intangible “it.”
“I’ve always been hung up on the fact that’s such a stupid way to describe people,” Shea says of the term. “It reinforces the myth that women are just these mysterious creatures. You can’t pinpoint what makes women special. There’s this 'it' factor, some mysterious thing that I think is stupid because women, the same way men are, should be valued for hard work or being really smart. It could be having a good sense of style, of being really talented musicians, or whatever. There’s nothing called an ‘it boy!’”
Life is sloppy and strange and uncertain. But ultimately Sløtface airs on the bright side, making the kind of guitar rock you can dance to. After all, we’re all getting through it together, right? Sure, she’s singing about life as a woman in her early 20s, but it’s an idea that Shea hopes fans will take from her band’s debut album, regardless of age, gender, or where they live. After all, some experiences are universal.
“You have bad days where you feel like everything is completely wrong,” Shea agrees. “But there’s always going to be a better day, whether it’s tomorrow or next week when things will be brighter. It’ll make sense. Nobody knows what they’re doing! So you don’t have to know what you’re doing all the time.”