Catch up with indie retro band Ex Norwegian's Roger Houdaille and check out their new video for "On The Sidelines" before catching the band on tour now.
Where does your name, Ex Norwegian, come from?
Roger Houdaille: It basically comes from Monty Python. There was a parrot sketch where the parrot is a Norwegian Blue, which is a made up parrot type, but since it's a dead parrot, there's a point in the sketch where they say, 'ex parrot,' so we got the Ex Norwegian out of that. It was just something I was also looking for when I was trying to name the band; I knew I wanted some country name or something geographical and it just fit once I heard it.
Which musicians have you been influenced by, individually or as a band?
As a band, I think our common thread is a love of classic rock, to cast a wide net. Classic rock would probably be our main inspiration in relation with the band. What's cool though is that everyone listens to so many different things so I think everyone brings in those elements to the band and then, myself, it's a lot of '60s and '70s music, that's really what I listen to, to this day. [Laughs] I'm really stuck in the past. Specifically, stuff like The Kings and The Who and a lot of the British invasion bands, really.
You're heading out on the road, do you have a roadtrip playlist?
[Laughs] I do have a Spotify playlist I've been putting together over the last few days. I know our drummer on tour, he is really excited 'cause he keeps saying how he's going to play us a bunch of tunes; out of all of us, he's probably the one that knows all the stuff that's going on now, plus all the old stuff, so it'll be exciting to see what he puts on. Yeah, part of the trip is definitely going to be that, just playing music for each other on the road; being DJs.
You've got some new tracks for tour too, is there one you're most excited for your fans to hear?
The whole set's kind of exciting and what has me really excited about this tour is the whole thing is basically going to be different. We have a few new ones but we already have 6 albums, so my goal is to try to, at least, do one song from each album but that required some rearranging so it would fit in better, stylistically. For example, we have probably our best known song, "Something Unreal" - which was also our first song - that one's going to be completely different, so I hope people like it because there's also that worry that people want to hear the same thing they hear on the record so changing it up is a bit of an experiment. Then, we have a couple new songs which I think the whole band is just really excited about and we hope to record those as soon as we get back.
What words would you use to describe your current sound?
This album [Pure Gold] was a bit of, I won't say a mistake, but it wasn't really planned, so we didn't start from, 'okay, we want it to sound like this,' or anything, it just sort of happened. We didn't really have a drummer so I used my friend out in LA and he put down some drum tracks so it has more of a studio sound versus what we're doing now. We're going on the road and we've developed more of a live sound and it's going to be more garage rock. We're keeping it very simple: two guitars, bass, drums, and the two vocals - the male and female lead. We've got some fuzz guitar, we got a great drummer named Andres who's just joining us for the first time on the road and it's going to be different again, even from the very last record [laughs].
What was the inspiration for your song and the video for "On The Sidelines"?
The song is inspired by us being in Miami and we're kind of cut off from what's happening all over the country; 10 hours away in Miami is still Florida, where 10 hours from New York City, you're in Chicago. We're really stuck here so we're sort of on the sidelines and we're watching things go on but it's hard for us to be a part of it. For awhile, the band existed but we weren't really that active, we were just mainly recording, so it's about that frustration, I suppose, of being on the side there and not being able to participate or fit in or what have you. The video just came together. We met up with a friend of the bass player who was interested in doing his first music video - so that was actually his first music video - and we shot it in just 5 hours one morning, one cold morning, I will add [laughs]. It was actually 39° on the beach and, I mean, for Miami people, that's like saying you're in Antarctica [laughs]. We were freezing, but I think the video came out great and it just all fell together. The concept is very loosely based on the song's theme and it works because the song itself has a bunch of different parts and it's only two minutes, but it goes through all these different emotions and thoughts and it's hectic and the video was shot and edited for lots of quick cuts and, again, it just happened. It was more of a happy accident than strict planning, and that's sort of the way we've been working the last few years [laughs] just going with the flow.
Could you tell us more about Pure Gold?
Like I mentioned before, this was the 6th album we've put out as Ex Norwegian. For those who have been following the band, the previous album was a big departure; we had a new singer, I didn't sing at all, and it really should have been a side project, but we still put it out as Ex Norwegian. So, this new album just happened because all the old players got back together and our friend gave us some studio time and we started recording songs and most of the songs were actually just covers, songs I wanted to do versions of, and the reels were coming out really, really well, so it just became an album. I had the name, Pure Gold, in mind and all these other ideas and it just put itself together, really. Then, I actually got sick and was in the hospital and I was going to wait on releasing it, try to get a label and do it that way but. in the end, we just put it out there ourselves and so it's a weird release in that sense, too. It just came out a little bit on the underground, so to speak.
The album itself has a bunch of covers, it's about 7 covers out of the 11 songs. What was also cool was each one of the four of us sang a lead song, which is the first time that's happened, so it was a throwback to the early '60s records, like The Kings or The Rolling Stones or especially The Beatles, where they had every member sing a song on those albums and they would also do a lot of covers, so it was a throwback to that era and Pure Gold also relates to that early '50s/'60s era.
What do you want your fans and listeners to take away from your music in general?
I'd like them to enjoy the music [laughs] and just to have a good time with it. It's not too deep, usually, I'm not trying to get serious points across or anything, it's just really about good songs and enjoying them. That's why I like music, just good songs with interesting production value. I try to also incorporate a lot of personality into the recordings, which I hope is unique enough that people catch on and enjoy that too, because that's what I like in music, that attitude or personality attached to recordings. I just hope I'm contributing something to music fans out there and the point is to make these records that people just really want to listen to, more than once. I guess that's why we're doing it [laughs].
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I'm very excited about the tour. We haven't really done much touring, ever. We did a few tours back in the beginning, but we've put out records and we've got more listeners, so I know there's a lot of people excited about this tour, which has me really excited, and the tours a great chance to catch the band. This is going to be a busy year for the band. We've got some California dates coming up also, so hopefully we'll meet and get some new people interested in the band this year.