“FAROESE QUEER VEGAN SHITPUNK HOSTED BY JOE!!!!!!!!!!” Proclaims the Facebook page of Joe & The Shitboys – we’re not sure why Joe gets to keep his name, and everyone else has to be a Shitboy, but it seems to work for them. Now we’re going to level with you, Dear Readers, we didn’t really fancy getting two separate planes to the Faroe Islands to speak to Joe and the gang (especially with *waves arms around* everything the way it is) so we video called them instead.
The call goes through, and we’re greeted by the sight of Joe and Ziggy Shit (no, really) sitting on a faux leather sofa eating crisps straight out of a share-sized bag. “It was the Faroese Music Awards last night, and we won Artist of the Year, so we’re pretty hungover,” explains Ziggy. “It was great! We were up against the pop idols of the Faroe Islands, but we won,” adds Joe, grinning as Ziggy holds their trophy above his head.
You get the sense that there may not have been too many punk entrants to the awards, something that Ziggy confirms. “Yeah the music scene is pretty small, so all the musicians know each other – we’ve been playing music for years, so we know everyone really well. There’s no separate punk scene, either, there’s like one other band, and that’s the one we grew up listening to.”
“That’s why you can’t really be a punk on the Faroe Islands,” says Joe. “We like punk music, and we play punk music, but there’s no punk scene, so we just hang out with whoever. We couldn’t only hang out with punks, we’d have no friends.”
The size of the scene is matched by the number of venues the Shitboys have access to, with a tour of the Faroe Islands taking “about a weekend” estimates Ziggy. “It does depend on how much effort you’re willing to put in, though,” Joe explains. “We’ll play basically anywhere we play at skate parks and all that kind of stuff, you just gotta get creative. There are two or three venues in the capital and a few others elsewhere, maybe 11 venues? And that’s spread across 18 islands, just for perspective.
“Because of that, we can never really play shows back to back, either. You have to space them out because it’s the same people coming to every show, you don’t want them to get bored. The songs probably aren’t long enough for them to get too bored, anyway.” He’s not kidding – their upcoming album weighs in at around 10 minutes, and each song is about a minute long.
“We press them on 7-inch vinyl,” says Ziggy. “Five minutes each side, I figured it’d be the most punk thing we could do. So that’s sort of how we arrived at the album length. Then we book a day of studio time, and write, practice and record each song in an hour each. Once we’ve done 10 of them, that’s the album finished.”
“Normally we come up with the song titles first, talking about which subjects we want to cover,” says Joe. “Then the song itself and the lyrics. We’ll sit there like ‘hey, what’s pissing us off’, or ‘what do we like’, then write a song about it. Like the latest single ‘Life’s Great, You Suck’, is just like ‘fuck you, you’re being a downer!'” He laughs, before adding: “There are obviously legitimate depressions out there, but loads of it is people romanticising depression and writing these boring Facebook statuses, making it a personality trait or whatever – which is actually pretty depressing itself.”
“The Faroe Islands are pretty conservative,” says Ziggy. “I think we beat out Poland as the most Christian nation in Europe. I think we also beat Poland in being the place in Europe where the highest proportion of people are creationists, too. There’s a lot of that kind of thing. We just started talking about legalising abortion, gay marriage was legalised three years ago, which is pretty late – we’re part of Denmark, and they got gay marriage in the 80s! What I’m saying is that we don’t have a shortage of stuff to write angry songs about.”
Joe nods in agreement, saying: “People here aren’t very confrontational. A lot of people silently support liberalising things, but they don’t say anything because they don’t want to be an inconvenience. Nothing fucking happens when you’re like that, so we just decided to be in your fucking face about it.”
Their frustrations with the Faroese quickly lead to a discussion of where they’d rather be. “We’d definitely get away if we could,” says Joe, before Ziggy cuts in. “We’d love to move to the UK – can we stay at your place? [sorry lads, no room at Dork Towers, even for the Shitboys – Ed] Actually, maybe not, you drive on the wrong side of the road, that’s a real dealbreaker. There is a British connection here though – you occupied us during WWII, so we all drink tea, and they sell Cadburys chocolate in the shops. Your politics aren’t too great at the moment, either though. Welcome to life outside the EU, I guess.”
We’re not sure whether we’re flattered or insulted that we’re mainly known for tea, chocolate, roadside rules and the tories, but we decide to leave the Shitboys to nurse their hangovers in peace, with a few parting words from Joe: “Hello world, we’re Joe & The Shitboys, and we’re the Faroese champions of music.” He smiles and grabs a final handful of crisps before hanging up the video call.
Words: Jake Hawkes