INTERVIEW: X Norman

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thanks for inviting us! We’ve been busy in every sense of the word. New babies, new jobs, family in grad school, and yes, a new record, have been keeping us on our toes for sure.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The World And You”?

This was a demo that we came up with in late 2017. The chorus lyrics and melody were immediately there. It was a very special song, because of the way it arrived felt very natural and magical. Once Danny started on our record he really latched onto this song and insisted we play the bridge twice, on the piece and really capitalize on the dreaminess. I was wrestling with the verses, because I really wanted the song to mean something really special, and what I was attached to was that feeling of first holding hands or kissing someone, and how amazing and innocently beautiful it can but. I disconnected from that idea and cowrote the verses with my old friend Evan Way of The Parson Red Heads. We had played together for years, but haven’t written together in this capacity. We talked more about how love is a concept that keeps on moving with the years, and how you sometimes cannot change the outcomes in life, but that love always endures. I guess that’s where the song stems from.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

I remember writing the basics for this song, and there were some definite influences musically, Pedro The Lion’s album, “Control” was on my mind for the drum sound, particularly the song “Magazine”. In the same vein, I thought a lot about bands like Mew and how they approached songs like this.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

It was a one shot take. My friend Josh amazing behind a camera. I’ve worked with him a couple times. I acted in two of his short films. One is out on Amazon Prime and it’s called “The Fish Out of Water”. We brained up a simple setup for an evening in front of a grand piano and I played the song. We did 4 cuts of the song and by cut 4 he had the one take he wanted. We used audio from his camera and an iPhone in my pocket. Tricks of the trade I guess. Beyond that, we had my buddy, Rob master the audio and make it pop.

The single comes off your new album Buzz and Fade – what’s the story behind the title?

This set of songs references the idea of “fading” a lot. The word “fade” appears a lot in the lyrics, in fact. When we were discussing titles as a band, we had the thought that this album seems to ride a buzzing, New Wave style, sonically speaking. That went perfectly with the opening line of the closing track “Second Day of Spring.” The words are “Radio waves buzz and fade.”

How was the recording and writing process?

It was very challenging for us. We went in with a track list that we felt represented Norman, but that didn’t stray too far from the familiar sound we’ve had for 15 years before this. We wrote the whole set of songs collaboratively as a band, which is our way. Then we got hooked up with Danny O’Hanlon at Bungalow Nine, and everything changed. The writing we had done gave us the bones of the songs, but they didn’t really become what they are until Danny worked with us.

What was it like to work with Danny O’Hanlon and how did that relationship develop?

Danny has known our drummer, Adam Beam, for a while now, and they had wanted to get Norman into his studio for about two years before it came about. But when we got there, I’ll be honest, we had some personality clashes that we weren’t really ready for. Having been basically insulated from outside influence by working with just the band on songs, this was a big change. And it’s important for us to publicly say that we can’t thank Danny enough for sticking with us as we adjusted to that working relationship and developed a truly lasting friendship because of it. We owe him a lot.

How much did he get to influence the album?

Danny was truly the producer for this album. He deserves a ton of credit for hearing our sound as it was and giving it the potential to become what it is now. He turned a lot of songs on their head with new and unique sounds, but he really left a lot of the bones of each song intact. So his influence at first was in shortening or lengthening parts of songs so that they fit a pop sensibility. Then, as songs had to be taken apart and reworked around that, the way performances were gathered in the studio was all up to Danny. He rarely, if ever, was unable to get what he wanted. He has a true talent for capturing and encouraging performance styles from musicians that fit his vision. There’s an organized chaos to it when it’s happening, but this record is chock full of standout moments that were all due to Danny’s guidance and pushing.

Did you approach this record as a continuation or rather a departure from your previous material?

Oh, totally just a continuation of our growth as musicians together. If anything I think it’s empowered us to take new liberties in ways we hadn’t moved before, and it’s allowed other members of the band to shine in new ways. Our drummer, Adam really is kicking it into overdrive, coming up with a bunch of new ideas.

What made you want to go for a much New Wave direction?

I think a lot of that came from Danny and his experience playing in a New Wave in Nebraska in the 80s. He was pressing me on bands like Blue Nile and XTC. We talked about Talking Heads, Television, and The Cars. God, we talked about The Cars, and not just hits, I mean like the moody deep cuts. I think it was late nights on his porch when we were initially recording when we would be drinking wine, and he’d be smoking a cigar and we’d have songs on that just slayed us. I remember hearing “All Mixed Up” by The Cars, and it had this quality that was almost baroque in a Zombies or The Left Banke vibe. I was addicted the synth tones and the Queen backing vocal wall. I think the song from last year that cut me the deepest when we were wrapping up vocals and lyrics was another Cars tune “Since You’re Gone”. Good God, that song will make me lean into the new wave pop vibe forever. I think it was a natural progression for us to move this way, and it really feels like we’re not trying to recreate the late 70s or early 80s. We’re just taking some of those elements and forgotten sounds and reapplying them to pop. We use the real synths. There’s no mods. It’s all the real shit, cause you can’t beat that tone! When you play a Univox Minikorg thee’s a sort of magic with all that circuitry and a square wave chorused out lead line.

What role does Portland play in your music?

I think the biggest role Portland plays is just the community of other musicians in the city that make this historical community and family. Everyone knows each other and supports each others bands. That’s the most important part to me anyway.

What aspect of personal nostalgia did you get to explore on this record?

There’s elements from so many songs we listen to in every song. I could go through the entire album and I’d be hard pressed to not point out at least 6 different things in each song that remind me of moments in music that impressed me that other artists contributed that I wanted to find room to add to my music. That’s one of my favorite parts of writing music. Finding those elements, that style, or moment and being able to reimagine it in a new way.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

Nature, memories, my relationships, my wife. I wrote one of the songs from her perspective of me being crazy and immature when we were younger and dating. It’s all this looking at yourself in the mirror and trying to pick out the things that help you work through the parts of life that were either hardest or the pieces you think can still shape you.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’ve had a few tentative offers in the past, but nothing solid for 2020. We’ve all got hopes that our music will speak to people everywhere, and maybe a tour is how to make that happen. Right now, we’re focused on building a social media presence and giving our local audiences shows they want to tell their friends about.

What else is happening next in Norman’s world?

We’re already writing new material. We have a writing day with band members at least once a week. We’re active and playing out, staying busy and involved in each others lives. Adam has me hooked on natural wine. We’re kinda in a phase.

We just added a new guitarist to our group, and that’s something I think we’re the most excited about. Brian Harvey is someone who’s been a longtime friend and fellow songwriter that has played with most recently his group, Poison Beaches. He’s someone that definitely stretches me as a musician, and he co-wrote the first song on the album, Crystal Memory, so it kinda just made sense. I cannot even wait to hear what we come up with next and how we further expand these songs.

WATCH: Norman – “Bindmender” (Music Video)

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

Check Also

INTERVIEW: 32’M

Q: Can you talk to us more about your latest single “M24”? Did any event …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.