Norwegian Pop-Punks Destroy a Literal Patriarchy Monster in New Animation
When Sløtface first released the song “Nancy Drew” as a single off their excellent LP Try Not to Freak Out, singer Haley Shea said she wrote the track about a “superhero who crushes the music industry’s boys club and the patriarchy with one punch.” From the first verse, the lyrics hit just how deeply that boys club has seeped into our collective head: “10,000 hours of falling asleep to / Singer-songwriter tunes in my ear / And I’ve filled my quota of boys with acoustic guitars / But more are born every year.” On the chorus the hero comes to smash it up: “Watch out she’s your nightmare Nancy Drew / She’s sneaking around / Checking up on you.”
In the song’s new animated video, the band handed creative duties to comics artists Ida Neverdahl and Ola Lysgaard to interpret their feminist superhero. Neverdahl and Lysgaard bring super-Drew into the context of modern dating, showing her fighting harassment and toxic behavior during dates before going on a harrowing quest to destroy a literal patriarchy monster.
Sløtface have a tradition of using their music videos to amplify their music’s message. Occasionally their clips give a literal interpretation of the songs, as in “Magazine” where Shea gradually become frustrated with beauty standards, but more often they serve to publicize another issue, as in “Sponge State” where the band plays a concert in support of activists protesting Nordic Mining’s drilling in Førde. With Sløtface we get the rare band who have powerfully catchy songs, clever visuals, and a willingness to use every platform they have to confront power. I spoke with the band about “Nancy Drew” and the political realities in Norway and the US.
JOEY LA NEVE DEFRANCESCO: When you released “Nancy Drew” last year, you put it in the context of your industry, saying it’s about a superhero who swiftly destroys the music industry boy’s club. In the video we get to see that heroic character, but in a somewhat different situation. Has the song’s meaning evolved over the past months or has it always had a broad meaning?
HALEY SHEA: Well, the song’s meaning and the inspiration behind the lyrics are separate from the video, because with the video we worked with our friends Ida Neverdahl, who also works under the name JellyVamps, and Ola Lysgaard. We pretty much presented them with the inspiration behind the song and then let them run with that. So they get full credit for the idea of bringing it all into a modern dating context.
The song has always meant the same general thing, but obviously it’s evolved with all of the attention around power dynamics and sexual harassment in every industry. I don’t know if in the US you’ve had the same thing, but in Norway we’ve had a bunch of open letters, open calls. Every industry has its own call against sexual harassment. Like, one for acting, one for music, and they’ve gotten a lot of attention in the media and I think all of those things have maybe pulled the song into a new context. It’s something that we have always been fighting for, and talking about, and writing music for since we started our band pretty much, but it’s gotten a different kind of light in the course of the last year. It’s been interesting because it’s one of our only explicitly feminist songs where we’re celebrating something, where we wanted to try to create the character who was fighting for something and not against something. It’s not me ranting about feminism like in other songs, but rather a savior character that we’re trying to create. I think our message is being strengthened as time goes on.
You’ve put out quite a few music videos. Just on this record you’ve already done one for “Pitted” and “Magazine,” and then a handful of lyric videos as well. Whats the role of videos for you?
Music videos are this added platform that can be an incredibly powerful tool since they combine music with visuals in a really explicit way. We’re not always so interested in making music videos that are underlining the literal topics in the song, but it’s another platform to show something we care about. Like in the video we did for “Sponge State,” it’s not necessarily a song written about environmental protests, but we think the media attention that you get when you’re premiering a music video can be used for something cool and important. Or like the video we did for “Bright Lights” that’s about everyday sexual harassment. The song wasn’t explicitly written with that in mind, but it’s just a good chance to show people something that you care about.
In the video the protagonist is visited by a sort of uterus creature who provides her with power. There are of course many women and people of all genders who don’t have a uterus but are still fighting the patriarchy just as the video heroine does. Do you recognize the power she discovers in herself as open to heroines of all anatomies?
Yeah, of course. Our platform isn’t feminism in the first wave feminism definition. We’re trying to work toward making gender less restrictive so that your choices aren’t decided by the gender you’re assigned at birth. So whether that means you identify as a woman or a man or neither, we want to live in a world where gender doesn’t determine your choices. That’s our view – with the specifics of the video, that would really be more of a question to ask the directors, since the visuals centered around other parts of her art and the comics that she does.
That’s good to hear – is there anything else you’d like to add about the video?
I definitely want to stress all of the work and creativity and ideas that the directors put into it. They’ve taken an idea and like totally run with it. So we’re very pleased with the results.
Have you worked with creators before?
No, they’re just people we admire. I wrote for a student magazine that both Ida and Ola worked for and they have always just made really cool art. We wanted to do something with people that we admire and videos are a great platform to showcase other people’s art and help build each other up in a creative industry.
If people want to see more stuff that’s kind of in the same vein as this video check out Ida’s comic “I’m a Girl, It’s Fantastic,” it centers around a lot of the same themes. It’s very good.
Whenever US bands tour internationally right now the first interview question is about how we’re interpreting the political situation in the US. So, I wanted to flip that and ask a band from Norway who is touring the US right now: what are your impressions? I know you toured here in 2016 as well.
My parents are both American and I’ve lived in Norway since I was four, so the American political situation is never very far from my life. But I think seeing it from the outside, we are surprised everyday by the extremity. We come from a country that currently has a government leaning far more right than we would like it to, which is affecting our environmental policy and many other areas. They renewed their term in September, so it’s kind of like sneaking into a lot of other areas of politics where we would prefer it wasn’t, even for a social democracy. So looking to the US, that’s kind of like the utmost extreme of that from my perspective. I find that terrifying as a US citizen. I’m pretty glad not to be living in the States currently. Not much you can say about it, it’s terrible.
I think a lot of people on the left in the US imagine Norway as a shining example of democratic socialism, but of course throughout Europe you’re seeing a similar rightward swing, with already rampant xenophobia and racism on the increase.
Yeah, of course. There are many problems, but it’s so much less of a degree that I would probably still agree that as a member of the left in America there’s a lot to strive toward in the social democracy we have in Norway. Of course, it’s not a utopia, it has its own issues.
Musicians in the US are always specifically hearing about programs in Scandinavian countries to benefit musicians. Are there these kind of programs in Norway have made it slightly easier to function as a working musician in 2018?
Yes, definitely. We fully take advantage of all of those opportunities that we have, and we feel really lucky to because we know that that’s not a privilege that everybody in the world has access to. We’ve been completely reliant on that, especially, when we were even younger and we had no money to fund any fund anything. They’re really good about sponsoring especially young people who are trying to make things.
How does it work? They give you like a month stipend or salary?
No, it’s not really like that. It’s more like a grant. Then you have to do the things that you said you were going to do in order to get the other half of the money. So if you don’t accomplish what you wanted to accomplish then you have to pay that back.
We’ve really got to get on organizing for something like that in the US.
Slotface finish up their US tour tonight in Philadelphia at Everybody Hits, and tomorrow in Brooklyn at Elsewhere, before embarking on a full tour of Norway