As seen in issue 55 of Closer Magazine, published on 2009-01-06 in the "LocalMusic" section.
They Did It Norway
There's nothing past tense (or Norwegian) about Ex Norwegian
By: Larry Boytano
And now for something completely different: the Ex Norwegian world.
No one in the Miami Beach band is even vaguely Scandinavian--they got the name from Monty Python. And while they only got together this summer, they’ve already played a coveted CMJ gig and snagged air time on radio stations across the nation. But as of press time, they haven’t even played Churchill’s.
“It’s very surprising,” front man Roger Houdaille says of the band’s swift rise. “It was as simple as posting ‘Something Unreal’ on MySpace. We’re not kidding when we say it happened out of the blue. I posted the song and the next week a station in Hawaii is asking for it.” A mid-tempo, straight ahead indie rocker, “Something Unreal” features Houdialle’s light alto vocals over his strumming guitar and a simple, poppy rhythm section tightly held down by bassist Nina Souto and drummer Arturo Garcia. It’s one of those infectious, uncomplicated tunes that gets your head bobbing and your mind thinking that you’ve heard it before, but you haven’t.
Building on the “Something Unreal” buzz, the band shot a video for the tune. It became an indie rock fave on YouTube and has logged over 13,500 plays.
As the buzz was spreading, Houdaille— who handles promotion – sent promo EPs across the land, including to the annual New York City music showcase CMJ, where they were invited to play.
“We just applied like any other band,” Houdaille says simply. “I think only about twenty percent of bands that apply get accepted, so that was a pretty cool.” Ditto with XM Satellite Radio. The band’s tune “My Name is Paul” was featured on XM’s Radar Report program a couple of months after Houdaille sent the station a promo pack.
“It’s really above my head,” Souto says of all the interest. “And we did it all ourselves, too,” adds Garcia.
Even though the band is on the youngish side--Houdaille is 23, Souto, 22 and Garcia, 24--they’re no strangers to the ups and downs of the rock world.
Houdaille and Souto both attended Beach High on Miami Beach. He was a member of the Rock Ensemble, and has been in a handful of bands since graduating. Souto, a classically trained guitarist, was in the school’s Guitar Ensemble.
“I look back at it and we were on a grueling schedule,” Houdaille. “We’d practice everyday till five or six and sometimes during the weekends. It was really like being in a professional rock band. We toured and did like 50 gigs a year.”
“It was pretty much everything for me,” Souto says. “We even played in Japan, which was a great experience.”
Garcia rocked out in cover bands in his native Venezuela before coming stateside to study music at U of M. “This is what I do,” he says. “I studied engineering for a year, but I’ve always been all about music.”
The trio has a good, tight vibe live. Houdaille takes the mic with a guitar (sometimes single neck, other times double). He shuffles and sways and contorts his face coolly to hit notes and harmonies. Souto contentedly bobs as she holds down the low end with Garcia, who taps away with precision, sometimes using mallets, other times hand-held cymbals. To help flush out the sound, the trio often invites guest guitarists and vocalists.
The band holds its Miami Beach roots closely. At the same time, they feel that with today’s digital stylings, location is almost a non-issue, so that Miami’s heavy dance music vibe hasn’t slowed them down.
“It’s different now with the Internet,” Houdaille explains. “It’s a global thing and we have fans wherever this music is popular--England and the rest of Europe.”
Since morphing into Ex Norwegian this summer, the band hasn’t played a ton of shows around South Florida.
“We’re still slowly being noticed in Miami,” Houdaille says slyly. “It’s almost harder to gig locally. Let’s just say we played CMJ before Churchill’s.”
The band hopes their DIY ethic can carry them beyond the fast track laid via MySpace. They’ve pressed a seven inch, Dance Trance Pants, and are recording a debut disc due in February, to be released on Dying Van Gogh, a label Houdaille created primarily for Ex Norwegian and Transcendence, his studio project.
“We need to create a plan,” Houdaille says. “We’ll create a six week plan around the release. We’re hoping to get more exposure, some reviews and go on the road.”
“I want it to keep going at this pace or faster,” Souto says. “It’s happened so quick. I’m so excited about what’s going on and all I can think about is going on tour.”
Garcia feels the same way: “As soon as we got back [from CMJ and an Atlanta gig] I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to be home.’ I just want to keep going.”