Where did the band name come from?
RH:From a bit of Monty Python dialogue, something about an Ex-Norwegian Prime Minister. It just caught my ear. Of course, the Prime Minister part was too much, so it became simply Ex Norwegian. And we rebel a bit by not using a hyphen!
“Sketch” is so different musically from “Standby” — it’s almost like a whole new band. How many new bandmembers are there?
RH: It’s funny, because it’s essentially the same band on both albums. It was Nina, Arturo and I. Now we have a different group, but I think the material I brought to “Sketch” was a lot more band orientated than on “Standby” which made for a slightly different sound. Also, the mixing was a little more ambient and our playing a little more developed, probably thanks to being a band for over a year. On “Standby” it was more of a studio project as most of it was recorded before Ex Norwegian really took to the road and everything.
The influences are varied but you have a real knack for great dramatic melodies. I love “Mind Down” – where did the idea for that song come from?
RH: Thanks! “Mind Down” started as an excuse to come up with an interesting two part harmony and I remember it was written very fast and easily. The theme of the song is mind control, particularly the kind that is done without our consent through processed foods, or via water and air. It was fun writing out the verses which are just these random phrases. The funny part is as random as it is, it was a piece of cake to memorize. There is a flow to it. Even a story if you look hard into it. Meanwhile, I still have trouble getting the words right on way simpler songs like “Something Unreal” and “Upper Hand”. Go figure!
Nina Souto sounds great on “You’re elastic over me” the track really stands out from the others. Any plans for more Nina on the next album?
RH: Well unfortunately Nina is no longer in the group. I wish there would’ve been more tracks contributed by her but it just never happened. Actually, there was this cool song we collaborated on that just never got recorded, or fully finished for that matter.
What do you find works best for your creative process when bringing a song together? Does it evolve from jams, riffs, lyrics?
RH: For me it usually starts with an idea for a cool chord progression. I also like to start with song titles first. If I get stuck I stop and just wait, a week, a month, until the rest of the song just comes to me. Also, sometimes I may finish the song on the spot when I’m recording the demo, which could lead to happy accidents. There really is no jamming with the band and lyrics almost never get written first. Usually there are key words that come out when I’m writing a song, and I try to keep those in there.
Tell me three musical heroes who inspired you.
RH: Ray Davies of the Kinks – I think he’s the real deal. Ollie Halsall of Patto, The Rutles, Kevin Ayers, etc – he was the real deal! Frank Zappa for his professionalism and the way he thought and fought.
How is the touring going in support of “Sketch”? Tell me about your best or worst experience playing live.
RH:We’re planning another trek in support of “Sketch” in March 2012. But it’s tricky now that it’s a different group. The songs are much different, we aren’t sticking necessarily to the record arrangements. So it’s kinda weird but we are already playing songs from our next album live.
Best experience playing live is when the sound is great on stage. It allows us to really shine. It’s always a bummer to have an inadequate sound, especially for the type of material we play. I can’t really think of any specific best or worst experiences, but it’s always a blast when people start dancing or really getting into the performance.
I heard you are also working on a solo album. When is it coming out?
RH: The solo album will now be the third Ex Norwegian album. We are finishing it this month and then we’ll schedule a release, hopefully early 2012. Depends on all the business stuff. I think this one is really gonna blow some minds! It’s got some strong power pop things and then some really far out rockers.
What’s next for Ex-Norwegian?
RH: Full steam ahead! There’s tons of ideas and it’s just a matter of figuring out how to execute all of them. But basically we got the new album, the new line-up, touring, and hopefully we get some lucky opportunities come our way. Even though the band started in 2008, I feel like it’s really only the beginning.
Cool. Thanks so much for the interview Roger.