Ex Norwegian's Roger Houdaille Calls New Album "Ear Candy"

Given the consistent output and accessible sound Ex Norwegian offers, the band has positioned itself as the next South Florida act destined for national success. The group fostered the same all-inclusive likability as its initial influences,
 like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Move, even as it morphed into an assertive groove all its own.

Over the course of a career that extends the better part of a decade, the band has exuded the confidence, creativity, and authority needed to usher it into the spotlight and gain wider recognition. The indomitable mainstay, Roger Houdaille, projects the savvy of a true pop savant, a musician who long ago learned how to emulate a pure pop sound and recast it with a cool, contemporary sheen.

Nevertheless, it's the truly innovative artist that can defy expectations and reinvent him or herself in ways that entices the listener and occasionally catches them off-guard. Not enough to baffle them completely, mind you (unless you're Bowie or Neil Young, and then only sometimes), but rather to add just enough intrigue to keep audiences interested.

Wasted Lines, Ex Norwegian's fifth album in six years -- and second with esteemed local label Limited Fanfare Records -- finds them abiding by this axiom, shifting ever so slightly from the pop perfect sound they minted early on and into an edgy insurgent one reminiscent of Blondie, the New Pornographers, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and other indie auteurs.

Songs such as "Much Rooms," "All the Time," and "Only the Clues" show the group taking a bolder stance. The addition of new singer Lucia Perez adds another dimension also, one that promises to make this change in direction more than merely a temporary reset.

On the eve of the album's release, we caught up with Houdaille and asked him to elaborate on the new motif.

New Times: So Roger, what inspired the songs?

Roger Houdaille: There's an element of freedom and fun in the new songs that wasn't around for a while, thanks to the recent changes and direction Ex Norwegian has taken. Of course, each individual song has its own inspiration. But I'm always writing, and this being that this is our fifth full length album, I think that shows! 

Was there a special concept or idea that was plotted out in advance in order to tie these songs together?

We recorded about 30 songs and eleven made the final cut. The idea was to have a great, cohesive sounding record. The debate on the validity of the album format in the new digital world goes on, and while I'm not exactly a pro-album activist, it made sense to think in those terms for this one. As a result, we had to leave a couple of our more commercial tracks off! Those are earmarked for single releases, and almost the whole bunch of tracks that didn't make the record are still being released via our deluxe edition that's available only directly from the band. 

This is a marked departure from the more polished sound of the earlier albums. Why the decision to make it edgier and rawer?

It's funny how it ended up that way, as it actually started with the intention of being the complete opposite - the most polished and commercial album yet! Working closely with co-producer Fernando Perdomo did change things up a bit, but I think what really did it was that as time went on and the mixing budget depleted, I ended up mixing the record myself and got a little creative. No attempts were made to copy our previous sound and instead I opted for a more lo-fi, edgier approach. Vocals are treated with delays and echoes and even distortions. And so are the instruments! I was listening with headphones just the other night and I was blown away. There's a lot of ear candy. Maybe too much at times I will admit, but hopefully our ADD listeners will appreciate it. The irony is beautiful too, in that here is Lucia with the most commercial and accessible voice Ex Norwegian has ever featured, and it's on the most adventurous and edgy album we've done.

Where and how did Lucia Perez come into the fold?

It was at one of our shows. Her friend told me she sang and that I should try her out. Before we knew it, we were working on new material, playing shows, recording out in Los Angeles, performing live on national television... and yet Lucia had never sang in public before! It really is quite crazy looking back. This all happened in a span of like five months; it's only been a year since we teamed up. It all happened at the right time too, just as it appeared the old Ex Norwegian's days were numbered.

What brought you to your (new) label?

Brian, our manager, is the man behind Limited Fanfare Records. We had put out last year's album Crack and the single "Feelin' It" on the label, and so it made sense to keep working together with Wasted Lines. The thing with Ex Norwegian is that it's always been incredibly DIY. I don't like the idea of just shipping out an album to a label I don't personally know well and don't have anything to do with it. I like to be involved in working it.

What's the plan for the band now?

To follow the wasted lines...

Ex Norwegian will host two free CD release parties for the new album -- at 10:30 pm on Friday, November 7 at Kill Your Idol, 222 Espanola Way, Miami Beach, with special guest Sound Sleeper. Phone 305-672-1852. And at 6 pm on Tuesday, November 18 at Radio-Active Records, 845 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale.

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Lee Zimmerman