Norwegian political punks Sløtface were just over a month into the release of their acclaimed second album ‘Sorry For The Late Reply‘ when the coronavirus lockdown forced them to scrap their tour and stay home. Then, after months of trying to distract themselves, they decided to re-record a bunch of their songs in a much more stripped-down way to the fiery post-punk you may know them for.
As a result, the songs took on a new life and meaning – including an old one that nearly never saw the light of day. Today, ‘Doctor’ is released – a track that deals with “the struggles women face with a lack of understanding and focus on their bodies in medicine”. It’s also the first taster of a new acoustic album ‘Slumber Tapes’ coming out next month.
“We had originally recorded ‘Doctor’ for ‘Try Not To Freak Out’ as one of the first songs we worked on, but then it didn’t make the cut,” singer Haley Shea tells NME. “We feel that it really gets to shine with a new arrangement.
“I was like, ‘This is such a good song! Why can’t it be on there? If you listen to the lyrics, they’re about something that the rest of the record isn’t about it and it’s a different perspective’. I was constantly like, ‘You don’t understand! This song is really good. You’re just not a girl and don’t understand!’ All of the guys from our record label were just like, ‘Naaah’ – but now it’s easier to understand in this new context because everyone agrees. This version is way better and I totally understand why we didn’t include it before.”
Check the new song out below, as the band talk to NME about life in lockdown, new material, and why Sophie-Ellis Bextor is a boss.
Hello Sløtface. How have these troubling times been treating you guys?
Lasse Løkoy [bassist]: “It’s been strange, but we are alright. We just started a new tour, playing stripped-down sets with people sitting down at tables with candles and eating popcorn. It’s actually really quite nice.”
Don’t you miss crowd surfing?
Lasse: “Yeah! Don’t you?
Indeed. It must have been tough, because ‘Sorry For The Late Reply’ had only been out for a little while before the world went to shit, right?
Tor-Arne Vikingstad [guitarist]: “Yeah, for like a month. We did four shows in Norway.”
Haley: “Then we all shut down.”
Tor-Arne: “We were supposed to fly to London on Friday March 14, and that was the date that our Prime Minister said that no one’s going anywhere. The UK hadn’t really reacted yet, so it was a really strange week.”
Haley: “I’ve been so sad because we worked so hard to prepare for that tour. We’re so lucky because we live in Norway and by comparison Norway’s handled things pretty well, but I was just really pissed to not be on tour. We really feel for our friends around the world who are struggling, and we also feel super lucky to be able to tour now – even if it’s just for 20 people.”
What can you tell us about the thinking behind your new album, ‘Slumber Tapes’
Haley: “We wanted to record more stripped-down versions of our songs for a while, then the world shut down so the summer seemed like the perfect time to do it. Some of my musicians friends were being super creative and writing a lot all the time, but my brain stopped working in March. It was really nice to record new versions of songs but not have to start from scratch. We recorded in the summer just so we had something to do.”
Tor-Arne: “Maybe it’s just me, but just doing the project shows how good the songs really are. An acoustic setting rather than a rock n’ roll setting really highlights that.”
Do the songs mean more when you can’t hide behind the volume and intensity of a Sløtface live show?
Haley: “It gives a different focus to the songs. We listen to a lot of stripped-down music. We’re huge Phoebe Bridgers fans, we love singer-songwriter music, so it was really nice to try our hand at that.”
Did you learn anything new about the songs in paring them back?
Haley: “‘Sink Or Swim’ was pretty bare bones in its original recording, but given recent events it seems to have taken on a new context and seem much more serious. I don’t know if I’ve thought about it too much, but a bunch of people have come up to me and said that they’ve listened to that song non-stop during lockdown because it really speaks to how they’re feeling right now when everything going to shit. For us, I’ve blocked out the fact that we’ve released a a record this year because we didn’t get to tour it!”
Lasse: “We also did a small lyric change in ‘Take Me Dancing’. I thought it was interesting because the context of that particular lyric was strange post #MeToo.”
Haley: “The original lyric was ‘Get me a little drunk’, but we changed it to ‘Might get a little drunk’. We’re not 18 any more and understand what words mean! We had to reflect differently on some songs a few years later.
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Starting tomorrow! We're going to play our songs in completely new arrangements for the first time. super super excited to show you💝 11.09 – Kristiansand / ØStsia 12.09 – Horten / Artilleriverkstedet 17.09 – Røris / Ungdommens Hus 18.09 – Trondheim / Samfundet 14.10 – Ås / UKA 15.10 – Oslo / Youngs 16.10 – Larvik / Bølgen Kulturhus 17.10 – Stavanger / Tou 22.10 – Drammen / Union Scene 23.10 – Fredrikstad / St. Croix 24.10 – Moss / House Of Foundation
‘Slumber Tapes’ also features a cover of Sophie-Ellis Bextor’s ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’. Why that song?
Haley: “Because it’s a banger! And no one remembers how much it bangs! It’ll come on at midnight and they’ll be like, ‘Oh! This song! It’s a fucking good song and we should respect that.”
Have you guys been writing new material at all lately?
Haley: “We want to finish everything with ‘Slumber Tapes’ first, so we haven’t really been working on a new record. We’ve been working on our own bits and bobs and I guess we’ll start trying to work on that after we finish this tour.”
Tor-Arne: “It feels really strange to work on another record when you haven’t toured the last one.”
Haley: “In three weeks we would have released two records this year. It’s like, ‘Jesus, can’t we just chill for a bit?’”
Being a band that mixes the personal and the political, do you think the next album will be inspired by world events right now?
Haley: “We’ve already talked about following up ‘Sorry For The Late Reply’, and why it was great to make more of a serious and mature record, but because of everything that’s happened in the last year, all I want to write about right now is stupid fucking shit for the next record. It’s just going to be a record to dance to. Maybe some cry-dancing, but mostly dancing.”
Sløtface release ‘Slumber Tapes’ on October 9.