Backstage in South Florida: Ex Norwegian Takes the Next Step -- Free Music

I'm an unabashed fan of Ex Norwegian, mostly due to my fondness for their music (of course!), but also because I love to make jokes about their name. What's the significance of an ex-Norwegian, I've asked them time and time again without getting any kind of serious response. And yet, if that seems like a strange handle, it sure beats the one they started out with early on, that being "Father Bloopy." Consequently, I saw the shift in identification as a sign of progress, if not necessarily a means of further clarification.

Nevertheless, my commentary detailing their name is getting old already, so it's fortunate that there's a new Ex Norwegian album, entitled House Music, to focus on instead. Even so, this isn't any ordinary album, at least in the traditional sense. For starters, the band plan to put it out online for free, a decidedly unorthodox tack to be sure, but one strategized to bring them wider exposure. Consequently, I asked Roger Houdaille, the band's chief musical mainstay, what his rationale was for literally giving it away.

"One reason is that there just isn't any money to promote the record properly at this time," Roger replied, while also mentioning that nevertheless a vinyl release is due out this summer. "Number two, record sales are so low that it's discouraged me from trying to sell copies. Thirdly, I just wanted to release it to the fans and not wait two to three months. Additionally, I think for a band still trying to reach their audience, the free album concept isn't such a bad idea."

Houdaille's logic makes a lot of sense, and yet fortunately for those folks like me who prefer a physical release, there's no reason to be left out of the loop. A limited run of twenty CDs were printed and are currently being made available on the band's online shop at shop.exnorwegian.com. As an extra incentive, the disc boasts six extra tracks, including a few pre-Ex Norwegian recordings and assorted outtakes.

"The album was recorded over the course of a year, starting life as a solo record when Ex Norwegian broke up last year," Houdaille explains. "But with the re-release of Sketch (the group's sophomore set) and the resurrection of the band, I wrote and recorded some new material, keeping only what fit out of all the solo stuff. It's the first post-breakup release and features a couple different drummers, Alex Ibanez and Eric Hernandez (of Capsule and Kylesa) as well as previous band members Michelle Grand on vocals and Lucas Queiroz on additional guitar. I'm playing pretty much everything else."

Even so, the nom-de-plume House Music appears to be a bit of a misnomer. "It's not actual house music," Houdaille maintains. "But there is a loose theme regarding house music, particularly on the songs 'Not A Mouse,' 'Siesta2Tiesto,' and 'Tong As In Pete.' The whole album was put together with a bit of a story flow to it, but I would hardly call it a concept album."

In truth, the effort represents a bit of a stretch, given its modern rock sheen and a sound that occasionally veers towards bands like Talking Heads (check out the first track, a remake of a Father Bloopy track called "Ginger Baby," for what sounds like a dead ringer of David Byrne's former band), Roxy Music, and Magnetic Fields. While their earlier efforts, Standby and Sketch (re-released last year on the Dying Van Gogh label) hinted at early influences that included British bands like the Beatles, Kinks, the Who, and the Move, Houdaille and his revolving cast of co-conspirators have evolved with an assertive style and clear pop savvy that distinguishes most of the better bands operating within rock realms -- not only locally but on a national scale as well.

One can only hope then that Ex Norwegian's current strategy pays off as well as Roger hopes it will. While this crazy career called Rock 'n' Roll may not pay any dividends now, this is a South Florida outfit that packs potential for a national break-out and House Music provides the proof.

"We're just laying low a bit focusing on generating interest in the free release," Roger suggests. "I already have the fourth album written, so hopefully we'll soon start working on that next."


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