There are albums of unknown bands that sound like albums of very famous bands. ‘Buzz and Fade’ by Norman is such an album. The quality of the songs is so high that it is hard to believe that Coldplay is better known than Norman. The two bands don’t have much in common but they both write melodies that you accept from the first listen that they must have always been there. If that is the definition of ‘timeless’ then Norman makes timeless Indie Pop. It rocks and pops and it is above all very pleasant.
Eric Nordby explains.
How did this record come together?
We’ve been a band for 15 years now, and as time has gone on people got wrapped up in life; School, families, careers, and we’ve always tried our best to make room for Norman because there’s something special about getting in the same room with these guys. It’s like that same feeling when you don’t see someone for a year and then you get coffee and you feel like you saw them the day before. It feels like that to play music with this group. That being said, we had a major undertaking in releasing something new. We recorded this album for a bit over a year and a half in Portland, and although it’s been 5 or 6 years since we’ve put something out, we want to make sure that we’re putting out something that really deserves the listen, and something we’re really excited about playing live.
When did you decide to start asking for opinions on the new songs?
We were stuck in this musical whirlpool for a while, writing demos, messing with ideas and had just over 20 different ideas and songs we had penned, and it seemed like we just needed to get another voice in the room. Adam, our drummer suggested a producer he had the opportunity to work with earlier in the year that might be a clear candidate for producing the songs and perhaps help shine a light on what would be good to work on. When we first played demos to Danny he immediately trimmed the list down to 14 ideas, then 11, and from there we went into the first session with producer, Danny O’Hanlon. It was brutal some days. Danny challenged the hell out of us, to write a cohesive album and not just a personal diary of songs. The songs needed a voice and to tell a story in 3 minutes. I felt like I was back in songwriting class and guitar 101 some days. Ultimately I believe we all became a better band because of it, and there was some real unity we had going into recording the album. We weren’t allowed to hide behind what our ideas of what the songs should be anymore. The songs were stripped of what we found familiar or comfortable. I remember the first sessions we were told we weren’t allowed acoustic guitar, harmonica, no piano tones, only synth and electric. In the same way, you become attached to a certain genre or sound it’s easy to become attached to a composition, lyrics, or what a song is about, that the song becomes this linear thing that isn’t necessarily as good as it could have been had you given in to letting the elements of the song serve the overall compassion. So, I guess share your music, and collaborate, because there is a lot to be gained from that kind of vulnerability.
As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?
Sometimes sharing the songs that feel like they’re a story from the pages of your life is the most challenging. One of the hard parts with that is being able to disconnect from the music in a way that serves the song, so it can exist without you and mean something to someone else. And of course, it’s uncomfortable.
Any ideas about how to turn this one into a million-seller?
I’m sure we could come up with some kind of scheme scheme. Maybe get the cops on our side by saying people need to buy a copy as a diversion to their parking ticket. Or it could be alike a Willy Wonka golden ticket thing where they win a free horse or something if they get the ticket from the album, like a lottery. Make the album super rare by burying all the copies at the garbage dump like the ET Atari game, and then 30 years later everyone tries to find that RARE album and it becomes this mystery that everyone is trying to uncover, bootlegs everywhere, t-shirts, hysteria.
You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who? … and Why?
Ray Davies – There’s something really special about how honest and sentimental and appreciative for the small things in life. Ray does this turnaround in songs like “Do You Remember Walter” and “Some Mother’s Son” this is victorious and celebratory even when life dishes out the unexpected.
Laetitia Sadier – Would absolutely love to write something colorful and wild with one of my favorite songwriters. Laetitia is always challenging the way I experience music, and her voice is absolutely gorgeous.
Nils Frahm – When I hear a composer that interacts with the world in the way Nils does it reminds me of how small and insignificant I am. In the same way, I respect the landscapes that someone like John Cage or Brian Eno create I always have immense respect and admiration for those that can capture human experience musically without words. I also am fascinated with the explorative approach Frahm takes to his works. They are an adventure that I’m in for.
Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?
Absolutely getting heard is more difficult. There’s so much out there and it’s hard to get the attention. There’s so much music now, and it’s available everywhere. It’s almost like you have to be an Instagram influencer or have to have the promo dollars to get a record into the hands of the right people. I don’t want to risk sounding like an old man, because I do find new music on Spotify and look up bands new and old on blogs still, discovering most new music online unless I’m in a record store or listening to local college radio. It’s one of the perplexing challenges of putting out a record. How do I get people to discover it? I think it’s one of the greatest challenges a musician faces.
Vinyl is back, Spotify is ruling, tickets for concerts are becoming more and more expensive, everybody can record songs, social media is the marketing tool, Coldplay stops touring … how will the music industry look like in 5 years?
This year vinyl just surpassed CD sales for the first time, which is exciting to read. I particularly enjoy vinyl as a format for the sake of the artwork and craft that goes into making a record. I think as dark as it seems, there’s going to be this continued devaluing of music that happens, but there’s always going to be a love, need and desire for what music brings, and that’s culture, story, and memory. I think the hard part for a lot of artists is being able to make a living as a musician, and nowadays looking to avenues like music licensing is becoming more commonplace.
As always Don wrote a pretty amazing review. Check it here!