Haley Shea parted ways with her long-time Sløtface bandmates Lasse Lokøy and Tor-Arne Vikingstad in June 2022. Shea is now the band project’s sole permanent member, having chosen to move forward with Sløtface as a fluid band collective.
On Friday, 10th March, Shea released AWAKE/ASLEEP, the first EP of Sløtface’s new era. Shea co-wrote the record’s eight songs with fellow Norwegian musicians Mikhael Paskalev, Odd Martin Skålnes and Simen Følstad NIlsen. Paskalev produced three tracks, while NIlsen engineered a couple of songs and played guitar. Skålnes produced the rest of the release, helping Shea make sense of the project as a whole.
Shea tracked the bulk record with a live band comprising Tobias Maxwell Osland on guitar, Marie Moe on bass and Nils Jørgen Nilsen on drums. “They then fleshed out almost all of the songs on their respective instruments and contributed with arrangements and wrote a bunch of songs, including ‘HAPPY’, in more of a traditional band set-up in the rehearsal space,” Shea said.
Here, Shea tells us how her approach to songwriting has changed and provides insight into the individual tracks on AWAKE/ASLEEP.
Haley Shea: After some weeks and months of soul searching and trying to figure out what the way forward for me personally, and for Sløtface, should be – some dark weeks where I wondered if I even wanted to keep making music like this, or whether Sløtface should just be over – I just felt it in my gut that this was what I wanted to keep doing.
In the process of finding what the music should sound like I started working with producer, songwriter and artist extraordinaire – and my teen idol – Mikhael Paskalev. We met up in his studio to try to write some songs together. I was so excited to be working with someone I admire so much, and of course managed to butt-dial him late at night the night before our first session. Always making a good first impression.
I immediately felt that we clicked as collaborators. We had so many of the same musical references and I really feel like we brought out a very cool attitude and sound in each other from the very start. Mikhael and I have continued working off and on in his studio in Oslo on new material with him as producer and songwriter, and as things with new band members solidified we’ve also written lots of songs in more of a traditional band setting.
I’ve also had the pleasure of collaborating with Sløtface’s long-time producer and friend Odd Martin Skålnes. Basically, Sløtface songs are coming from me, along with so many amazing collaborators at once, and it feels like there are endless possibilities and ideas floating about. It’s a really good energy to have going.
AWAKE/ASLEEP Track By Track
Haley: I tried to explore the activities that give me joy. Mostly watching TV, reading and listening to podcasts – escape in a more literal sense than into the fantasy, sci-fi worlds described in ‘Beta’ and ‘Come Hell or Whatever’.
Come Hell or Whatever
Haley: ‘Come Hell or Whatever’ was written by me and Mikhael Paskalev as we were mucking about trying to come up with a few last songs to be considered as singles. He had the idea to start with a weird drum loop and I was in the mood to write something that felt fun and tough and action-movie inspired.
You can hear me playing the shittiest, easiest drums ever in the background, which Mikhael ran through his tape machine and sped up, including his enthusiastic screaming, to create the original base of the track. Nils, thankfully, also laid some killer drums over the top later.
The lyrics in ‘Come Hell or Whatever’ started with just the title and an image of Sarah Connor’s amazing arms in my head, and I knew I wanted to write a song about what it would feel like to have a badass like that for a best friend.
It’s a song about ride-or-die female friendship over a Mad Max: Fury Road and Thelma & Louise backdrop. We finished the song with the whole live band contributing with bits and bobs in another studio at a later date, with some amazing band chanting sessions to top it all off.
Haley: ‘Beta’ was the very first song Mikhael and I worked on together in his studio. I think we both walked out of that session feeling like ‘Beta’ was the start of something quite cool and fun, so it’s extra fun to release the song where it all started as the first single of the new Sløtface.
The original idea came out of some verse snippets Mikhael had recorded on his phone the night before, along with our therapy-level conversations about who we are as people and what we want out of social settings, mixed in with a common love for Taylor Swift and me being obsessed with wanting to add some computer metaphors to some ideas he had about bullfighters and gladiators. There’s always a lot going on in our sessions.
The song is about wanting to connect with people on a deeper level but feeling like social media sometimes gets in the way, with things becoming somewhat intimidating, shallow and superficial. The song is a confidence booster for myself, where I’m trying to be cooler than I am.
It was written at a time when I really, really missed the rush of playing live and I needed to find some of that spark and edge in myself that only really comes out on stage. It’s inspired by the songwriting of Taylor Swift, the sounds of Caroline Polachek and the ever-present HAIM records, and it should be listened to while wearing sunglasses, even on cloudy days.
Cowboys in the Dark
Haley: ‘Cowboys in the Dark’ is a song that came out of me and Odd Martin writing together in Bergen. We knew we wanted to have something Springsteen-inspired, so Odd Martin and I started off there, just ripping off Springsteen with the Juno synth and the feel of the guitars.
I was listening to and thinking a lot about the Bleachers album Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night at the time and wanted to do something similar in a Sløtface way – take those very American classic rock sounds and make them feel like us. It’s something I’ve previously quite actively tried to steer Sløtface away from, but in the process of making an EP where the vision was to set as few boundaries for ourselves as possible, it felt like the perfect time to try.
Odd Martin and I finished the song pretty effortlessly in Bergen, and not a lot has changed from that first demo, except the addition of a bridge and a guitar solo. The lyrics were inspired by that same trip to Bergen, a city I lived in for four years while attending college at the same time as Sløtface started properly touring. Being back there in the midst of figuring out what the new chapter of Sløtface should sound brought up a lot of thoughts about the ways I’ve changed as a person.
The ‘Cowboys in the Dark’ are a metaphor for people trying to push you off course, whether that’s in a relationship, people I’ve worked with and had difficult experiences with in the music industry or friendships I made in my early twenties.
For me, the song is about how an amazing part of maturing is that it gets easier to know who you are, what you like and don’t like and what kind of people you want to have around. The outlines of what it means for you specifically get filled in, and it gets harder to push you off course.
The idea of using cowboys in that metaphor also tied in with something inherently American to me, which I loved in the context of the Springsteen energy we were trying to put into it. We leaned into a lot of things on this track that may have felt too cheesy before, like the slow fade out, the loud guitar solo that Simen plays, and the Wild West-inspired lyrics. But at this point in the songwriting journey, breaking all those rules felt fun and freeing and we had so much fun playing this one in the studio together.
Haley: ‘Nose’ started when I visited Odd Martin at his studio in Bergen in March 2022 to write some songs. We’d worked very closely during the process of recording, writing and finalising Sløtface’s second record, Sorry for the late reply, but the two of us had never sat down to write things from scratch together.
It ended up being a super productive couple of days. We wrote about seven different demos on the first day and then chose a couple to flesh out on the second day. ‘Nose’ was the last song we tried at the end of that second day. It started off being very heavily inspired by HAIM and their take on late 90s/early 2000s pop R&B.
We both immediately loved the chorus and the layered effects on it, but weren’t in love with the verses as they never really felt like a Sløtface song. So I brought the original demo to the live band at Simen’s studio in Oslo and the prompt was to try to keep the chorus and see what new stuff we could make up for everything else.
We ended up writing some parts that were kind of Khruangbin inspired through a Sløtface lens, and then I finished the lyrics and melody in my home studio before we pulled it all together in our DIY studio in the rehearsal space where we finished the last tracks on the EP with Odd Martin.
‘Nose’ is what I would call a pretty general “Sløtface anxiety” song, a recurring theme I always come back to. ‘Nose’ is a conversation between me and a loved one where I’m trying to use imagery to describe what anxiety feels like to someone who doesn’t experience it. How even the smallest things can trigger it and send me into a thought spiral that feels impossible to stop.
The choruses are the replies of someone I love reminding me to breathe. This tactic usually helps me calm my thoughts when done in the right way by my partner, family and loved ones. The mix of the heavier, rhythmic, bass-focused verses and the big, layered, poppier choruses, combined with saxophonist Aksel Rønning adding some extra spice, grit and depth to the whole track, makes it one of our absolute favourites on the EP.
Haley: This is one of the first songs we finished writing together with the new band who perform the Sløtface songs live and contribute on most of the recorded music. Tobias, our guitarist, came up with the riff, and he, Nils, Marie, Simen and I just jammed around that in the rehearsal space, which was a nice change after working in a studio setting for a lot of the other new Sløtface songs.
Lyrically, the song is very direct, simple and honest. I was working on how to write about the themes of the EP – joy, happiness and all of the opposites of these feelings – and thought I’d try saying it as simply as I could. I truly do just want to feel happy. And after a few years of soul-searching as to what that could mean, this felt like the most direct way to express those feelings.
We tried the song out live a bit before recording it and the crowds seemed to respond well to it – mosh pits and stage dives on the very first play-through live must be a good sign right?