Interview: Ex Norwegian

Ex Norwegian is an Art-pop-indie-rock-shoegaze fusion band from Florida that has been cranking out quirky, unique, and dance-inducing sounds since 2007. Roger Houdaille, founding member, was the brainchild for Ex Norwegian and even survived the band’s days as Father Bloopy. Today, Ex Norwegian is made up of Roger Houdaille, Michelle Grand, Lucas Queiroz, Giuseppe Rodriguez and Andres Bedoya. Roger answered some questions about the ever-evolving project that is Ex Norwegian and their adventures along the way!

Music For Lunch(MFL): It seems like Ex Norwegian has experienced many phases as a band. Members coming in and out, releasing records with or without a label, and experimenting with new sounds depending on the composition of the band! How have these phases shaped what Ex Norwegian is in 2016?

Ex Norwegian (Roger Houdaille ): That’s a great way to sum up our history! It’s true; there has been an ever-evolving Ex Norwegian…that much has been constant. Right now, things are back to operating more as a straightforward band. It’s hard to say exactly how all the previous phases have shaped us today. There’s been a lot of learning, growing, and experiences that finds its way, especially on stage, onto the band. At the end of the day it’s always a work in progress to me.

MFL: Looking back at the ups and downs of the band prior to 2016, what was the highest high and the lowest low for Ex Norwegian?

EN: Wow, let’s see…let me start with the lows. There have been many lows, unfortunately. Most of which are down to personal problems. For example, we had a drummer bail on us a few times. The same guy! Fired him a couple times. The third time he just left for New York without even telling us…now that was a serious low! Didn’t bother to fire him that time. Getting stuck touring without a drummer. But at the end of the day, I think the band just comes out stronger after getting out of those dire situations. Ex Norwegian has survived a lot. It keeps going, even when I try to stop it. The highest highs for me were at the very beginning just because it was all so fresh and exciting. It was the first time I really had my own band, and the material was good and getting attention. I do miss that, even though I think things are overall better now. Those initial days were good and innocent times.

MFL: I’m dying to know why Father Bloopy and later Ex Norwegian were the chosen names. Please explain!

EN: Oh man, Father Bloopy! That was the name I gave myself when working with the BJ Experience group. It was meant to be ridiculous and I just kept using it as I was starting to take my music seriously. It wasn’t until I started getting reviews that criticized the name that I realized, “WTF am I still using this name for!” However, Ex Norwegian can be and has been argued for not being much of an improvement. However, back to your questions, both monikers come from the magical world of British comedy. Father Bloopy is blatantly taken from a series called Maid Marian & Her Merry Men. It’s basically a spin on Father Christmas. And Ex Norwegian has its roots from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

MFL: What are the biggest crowd-pleasing tracks at live shows these days?

EN: A couple of our new tunes, “Life” and “Ice” are getting great responses.  I knew it would happen, people asking us about those songs after the show and having to say that out of our 6 albums available, sorry…those are non-album tracks! Well, at least for now. Our new versions of “Something Unreal” and “I’m A Fighter, Not A Lover” also seem to be liked a lot. It depends too on night and crowd. We find ourselves doing all types of shows. We just played at a Jewish temple for mostly 70-80 year olds. They loved us! However, we avoided some of our quirkier, harder stuff like “Not A Mouse” and “Jet Lag”. But those get a good response when playing the indie rock clubs. Oh, and actually whenever we cover “Who Loves The Sun” – that never fails to get an awesome response!

MFL: What are your favorites as a band or personally when playing live?

EN: I like the songs that I’m on autopilot for. That way I can just rock out and not focus on getting the stupid words right. Songs we’ve done million times like “Aventura” or “Something Unreal”. I do enjoy “Not A Mouse” which we’ve recently put back in the set. There are so many songs we aren’t playing though, and that makes me sad. We’ve got over 50 tunes! Not too mention all the covers. It’s tricky, because not all of it works live. I don’t think most of the new album works live. I really didn’t imagine us doing any touring for it, so I didn’t care about that. The next album will be different, much more live friendly.

MFL: If Ex Norwegian were to do a cover album, what would it be and why?

EN: Funny you ask that because our new album, Pure Gold, is actually mostly covers. But they are very obscure tracks so unless someone really digs into it, it might not be obvious. Also, the songs don’t sound much like their originals once given the Ex Norwegian treatment. I’m not sure I’d want to do a full covers album, although there are plenty more covers I’d like to record. We have a cool version of “International Feel” by Todd Rundgren we’re working on now. I don’t like the idea of recording a cover that’s mimicking the original. We were commissioned to do a cover of the Kinks “Apeman” many years ago but there was no inspiration and it ended up sounding boring and pointless, so I’d like us to avoid doing stuff like that.

MFL: Have Ex Norwegian’s influences or musical inspirations changed over the years of its existence? What/who are the current musical inspirations?

EN: Now that’s something that remains pretty consistent. There is new music (to me, at least) that creeps in. For example, I spent most of 2013 listening only to Lucio Battisti, no joke! And that influenced my writing at that time. In general though, my inspiration draws from 60s and 70s music. A good example of the variety of influences could be found on the new album Pure Gold. As I mentioned, it is mostly covers of songs I like but also felt could use a different arrangement…take them someplace new. So if you look at the artists chosen, it’s quite an eclectic bunch. You’ve got the 60’s British psychedelic group Tintern Abbey, hippyish singer-songwriter Melanie Safka, Beatle Paul, another underappreciated Liverpudlian Jimmy Campbell, a very obscure late 60s act New York Rock And Roll Ensemble, quirky progressive 70s group String Driven Thing and the CBGB staples the Shirts. All completely different artists brought together by us. I am very proud of that!

MFL: What are some highlights from your March tour and which was your favorite show?

EN: We had a blast of a time. It was short, but jammed packed. I think doing a couple sessions; one for Daytrotter and another for THRD Coast were definitely highlights. Getting to try out the new material and arrangements was also a treat. And just being able to rock out, out of Miami, that felt good. I particularly enjoyed playing with drummer Andres who just joined us. I don’t think we played the same way every night. As for favorite show, I believe we all had different favorites. For Michelle it was New York. For Andres it was Chapel Hill. For Giuseppe it was Chicago. For Lucas it was Dayton and for me, I’d say Rock Island.

MFL: Finally, what’s in store for Ex Norwegian for 2016 and beyond?

EN: I wish I knew exactly what to expect but then again, that’ll lose the fun of it all. I would like to see a new album come out towards the end of year on a decent label. Work with new people. More touring, more traction, bigger exposure, generating more money… Ultimately, let’s just say I’m prepared for the unexpected!

Thank you to Sneak Attach Media for connecting Roger and I and thank you to Roger for being part of Music For Lunch! Their latest album, Pure Gold, is available now! Check out their website for all the Ex Norwegian info you could ever need.

 

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