With both a name and an album title taken from Monty Python, it’s an easy mistake to think that indie-pop band Ex Norwegian are a quartet of Anglophiles or expat comedy fiends just looking to fulfill the American rock ‘n’ roll dream. But that’s only partly true.
In reality, the band is a group of 20-somethings from sun-drenched, coconut oil-soaked Miami Beach. The group’s been performing together for a year, but the hype surrounding them is massive, thanks to a relentless touring schedule and the success of a new debut album, Standby, which is full of hooky experiments that navigate folk, pop, and rock, paying tribute to bands from The Shins to The Kinks.
Roger Houdaille, 27, lead singer/songwriter, put together the group after performing as a solo artist for a few years. He recruited high school friend Carolina Souto, 24, to play bass, Arturo Garcia to take the prime role behind the drum kit, and Billie G on the guitar.
Within months of forming, Ex Norwegian had already been invited to the biggest, and most influential party in an independent band’s foundation: College Music Journal‘s (CMJ) New York-based new music festival for college music stations. The weekend-long music marathon — a breeding ground for hobnobbing, discovering new talent, and relentless self-promotion — proved to be just the kick-start the band needed, and set the pace for a grueling but exciting first year.
“We were gonna take it slow, like, start touring next year, but then suddenly we had to get to New York,” Rogers says. “We arrived on one of the last days and went to the hub of everything, and there were actually people who knew us and our songs and were singing to us, and it was kind of like, ‘Wow.’ We were surprised at that, but it gave us a vote of confidence.”
A further boost to the Ex Norwegians’ self esteem was an invitation to play on the Sky News channel hugely popular European show Sky Live that broadcasts their live performance to millions of people.
“It was just this random opportunity,” Houdaille says. “They queue you, and we just kinda sing and have no idea what’s going on. And then afterwards you have people in Ireland saying, “We saw you live!,” and my mom, who lives in Paris, was like ‘Yeah, we saw you live, I’m so excited.’ The best part is our guitarist at the time, he had no idea it was live and was totally calm, and he’s wondering why we’re so nervous, and we’re like, ‘Dude, we just played to millions of people, literally.”
For all the international accolades, though, Houdaille admits that playing in Charleston is actually at the top of Ex Norwegian’s wish list.
“We booked this show first,” he says of the tour planning. “We played Columbia a while back, and that was one of our greatest shows. They told us, ‘Columbia’s great, but you gotta go to Charleston.'”
This might just be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.