Norway’s own SLØTFACE came to SXSW with a fiery live show to be brandished and brandish they did over their trip to Austin. We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with the band – Halvard Skeie Wiencke, Tor-Arne Vikingstad, Haley Shea and Lasse Lokøy – to find out how their SXSW had treated them as well as their musical development heading into 2017.
Welcome to SXSW. You’ve got quite a few shows while you’re here. How are you keeping up the energy so far? How are you feeling going into this cluster-fuck of an event, to say the least?
Tor-Arne: Go to bed early. Some of us try to go to bed early.
Halvard: Really, really good. It’s a lot of fun. So far, it’s been great. It’s exciting. It’s a lot going on and we’re enjoying it I think. But also sun, definitely. We don’t have this weather in Norway.
Lasse: Not at all.
Especially this time of year. How many hours of sunlight do you have at the moment? It’s probably a few more than here. It’s getting a few.
Halvard: Six hours, I guess?
Haley Shea: A little more. It’s getting better now. It just got to the point where you don’t have to walk to work and home from work in the dark, which is a good development.
Tor-Arne: It’s hot.
Haley Shea: Hopefully when we get back, it’ll be longer days, more sunshine. It’s good to load up on Vitamin D here, though, just in case.
Yeah, that’s right. You’ll go back with a tan. Everyone will be confused. So, how many shows have you played so far? I know you played one yesterday.
Halvard: We just played one.
Tor-Arne: We’re playing five more. One today. Two tomorrow. And three on Friday. Is that right?
Haley Shea: Yeah.
Have you ever done that many in that short a period of time?
Tor-Arne: We’ve done three gigs at separate … No, not separate. Remember when we did three gigs in 24 hours?
Haley Shea: In three different cities. That was a different kind of intense. We were touring high schools in Norway as this government funded thing. So we had morning shows with them and then a regular club night in another city that same evening. And for Eurosonic we were there in January and we did four showcases in a day there. So we’re prepared.
When it comes to you guys as a live band, are you feeling like you’re developing playing that many shows and doing six shows at SXSW. Is this all making you a better live band, do you feel? Or do you hope?
Haley Shea: Definitely, we hope so. But we also feel like all of the work we did in shitty clubs, with really quick line checks and stuff, has kind of been part of preparing us for this. So hopefully we can … Even though, obviously at SXSW, we don’t really have a sound check and you don’t really know what you’re going through with the different venues like you would at a normal show. We’ve trained for this and we can put on a good show, even though the circumstances are kind of uncertain.
You strike me as a band that if something goes wrong, you’re just going to roll with it and just go for it.
Tor-Arne: Yeah, that’s it. That’s a way to grow also. It’s not going to be perfect at SXSW. You just have to deal with that fact.
You’re already five steps ahead of everyone else knowing that so you’re doing well.
Tor-Arne: Yeah. The show we played last night, we had one microphone for Haley working and we brought it ourselves. And nothing was miked up. It was just the room. That sort of thing is really fun as well.
Over the course of the releases of your records over the last couple years, it’s been great listening to you explore more, explore new sounds and develop as a band. Where do you feel like you’re going musically? Are you finding that your sound is developing internally or is this something that I’m just experiencing?
Lasse: I feel like we’re more confident now. We can dare to do stuff now that we maybe didn’t dare to do before.
It terms of?
Lasse: In terms of both musically, theoretically. But also just the recordings, the sounds. We want to try out new stuff as well as we do know that. I think it’s just more confidence in the song writing now. We have become better song writers.
Tor-Arne: Also like just recording. When we recorded Empire Records and stuff, it was a short period of time, so we just put a guitar really loud and really distorted and just went with that. But now we got an album coming out this fall. That’s more time put into the writing and the recording and all thoughts around the album. It’s just more time put into it which is good.
It’s sort of a magic, though, in some of those earlier tracks especially with that in mind that what can come from just throwing yourselves into a room and just seeing what happens.
Haley Shea: Yeah, but that’s what’s been so cool about recording the album is that we’ve gotten to do both of those things. Some of the tracks on the album are recorded completely live and the vocals are one take. And then they are set in there together with things that have a million layers of backing vocals and harmonies and stuff. We feel like we’re really conscientious of keeping that spur of the moment feeling. But also trying out a bunch of different things in the album, which we’re really pleased with the way it turned out and the differences and the dynamic of that.
Lasse: I guess some of the reason why it has become like that is because this is the first time we’ve ever written an album. So this is the first time we ever written a song over five minutes. And with choir and trumpets and stuff like that. We haven’t never done that before. But now we’re like, “Okay. We can have one song with trumpets on.” It’s an album.
Has it allowed you to explore more diverse themes as well in your music? There’s no shortage of shit in the world right now to talk about.
Haley Shea: I guess the themes in it are kind of a little bit different…The way I write lyrics is it’s all snapshots of things that I try to be as specific as possible about. Certain events that have happened and paste them together into a song. In that sense, it’s the same style. We’ve taken one step further into actually delving into the actual emotions around things and around anger and guilt, especially, that I felt was really fun to get to explore a little bit more.
Is there anything that you don’t want to talk about? Or do you sit down and go, “Let’s not talk about this.” Or is there nothing off limits?
Haley Shea: I don’t really think that we have very many things that are off limits.
Halvard: There are things that we’re not qualified to talk about. Definitely. Also just being in America talking with Americans about the election and the country’s state, we can’t … It’s not our world. We’re not eligible to talk about that stuff at all, I think, because we’re not Americans.
Haley Shea: I don’t know if it’s the same in Australia, but in Norway, too, there’s this flux of people in Norway having huge opinions about the American election and about Americans. But it’s not your country. It’s not your election. You’re not in that world. I think it’s tough to have that international perspective when everybody’s paying attention to everything globally all the time.
But it’s still tough to be in that actual experience of living in a country. Everybody keeps asking us, “Now that Trump is president, are you going to write more punk songs and be angrier and stuff?” We think that all musicians right now with their rise of right wing extremism are apart with everybody else that’s liberally minded, engaged in banding together and fighting for democracy and taking an active stance in for fighting for what you think is right. At the same time, we’re not going to write songs about specific US issues because we’re not an American band.
Yeah. Exactly. It’s an interesting point. You’re right. It’s not about the idea of there being such a trend in the world. Anything you write is going to get interpreted in a certain way by different people. And Australia will be like, “Oh. This is about our right wing government or their lack of LGBT rights in Australia.” It’s interesting. And it’s interesting how frustratingly connected the world is on some of those issues.
Haley Shea: Definitely.
Lasse: Yeah. I think somewhere along the line of globalisation something has happened that is not …
Do you think that’s allowed you to connect with more people around the world because of that? You’re singing about issues that are affecting you at home but they’re common all around the world.
Haley Shea: I think that that’s just the amazing thing about music in general is that the power of interpretation is always with the listener. You can interpret somebody else’s music to mean something specifically to you. In that sense I don’t think it’s changed very much. But I think that the anger and frustration that young people have is really banding people together around certain cultural movements which is a really great thing actually.
It’s good to see a band who are actually sticking up for what they believe in as well. It’s actually very rare these days. So I love listening to your music and I haven’t seen you live, so I’m looking forward to seeing you live. I’m seeing you sometime this week. I can’t remember what show it is. It’s not this one, but it’s one of the next ones. The reason I haven’t seen you is because you haven’t been down to Australia yet.
Haley Shea: No, we haven’t.
You’re playing in Australia in Showcase, The Secret Sound Showcase. Are there any plans to get you down to Australia?
Haley Shea: It is definitely being discussed. We hope we can officially confirm that we’ll be there very, very soon. But Australia is really far away.
It’s a long trip.
Haley Shea: Getting the finances together to be able to go to Australia is a project for a band that’s from the other side of the world.
Are there any Aussie bands that you’re familiar with and fans of?
Tor-Arne: Yeah. Courtney Barnett obviously. And Tame Impala.
Haley Shea: And then last night we were playing this house party and we played with both Alex Lahey and Rolling Blackouts. They were both fantastic. We didn’t get to see Alex Lahey, but I’ve listened to her a lot before and she’s fantastic. We’d never heard of Rolling Blackouts but they were also really good.
Well hopefully you discover a lot more Australian music and music from around the world right here at SXSW. If there’s any way you’re going to do that, it’s here. Until then, thank you very much for your time.
Find out more about SLØTFACE here.