When, where and how did you establish Norton?
We started Norton in 2002, in our hometown – Castelo Branco, in the Portuguese interior. Each one of us lives in a different city in Portugal now, but our home base is still there, where we rehearse and compose our songs. We all had bands since teenagers and Norton came up with the intention to take music more seriously. Well, we’ve been doing it for 18 years.
Through our career, we had lots of challenges. First of all, keep making music all this time and keeping it fresh. Making a record is a challenge itself. Since we are an independent band, our records go beyond the songs. Artwork, music licensing, CD and Vinyl productions, booking tours… all with the help of our team, of course. It’s tough, but, in the end, it is a very satisfying feeling.
On the other hand, we think our biggest challenge was to deal with the passing of our guitarist and long time friend, Carlos Nunes. It was really hard to go on without him. We know he would like us to keep making music. We dedicate every record to him and he’s still on our minds and music.
The name Norton doesn’t mean anything in particular. It is just a name that can be pronounced in every language, everywhere. We like that kind of universality that it can reach. It’s somehow in touch with our music and with what we want to transmit.
How would you describe your sound?
We would describe it as modern indie pop, indie rock, synth pop with a lot of heart.
Your songs seem to be influenced by bands like The Kooks, MGMT or AWOLNATION – in a nutshell, UK or US-Indie Sounds. Why did you choose these indie tones to express yourselves and to convey your messages to your audience?
Those indie tones, like you said, really translate what we play. We’ve grown with indie music made in the UK and in the US.
Today we are a bigger expression of it. Having all those experiences since our younger selves really brought us to where we are today. And we are glad we’re still connected to our roots through embracing the sign of the times and still anxious about the future.
Our role models are, firstly, our lives, and what we take from it. Travelling can be really inspiring too. But, on a music level, we like bands like Pavement, Phoenix, Radiohead, or Sonic Youth. They can, sometimes, give us guidelines on what to do in logistics, for example. And they’re all artists that really grown. It is and was a pleasure to live at the same time as them and watch how they evolved.
To be honest, we don’t have that many Portuguese artists in our playlists or charts. Can you tell us a bit about the Portuguese music industry?
The Portuguese music industry is very diverse. There’s for all tastes. The independent musicians have grown considerably with all the possibilities that technology has been offering. In Portugal, we guess people are risking more into making music for a living, which is not a realistic portrait of the country in its majority, but it’s a good start.
A lot of musicians have another job that pays the rent. We have all other jobs besides Norton. Pedro is a pedagogue, Manuel a journalist, Rodolfo works with tour/stage management and Leonel has a film company. Although time is short, we can manage these activities and merge them into our music duties.
Taking the Portuguese music scene across borders is something that has been growing too. The digital world facilitated the connections between venues, labels, managers, and musicians around the world.
Portuguese bands are taking baby steps, but they’re doing it. The Gift are a famous band that has been doing it for more than 25 years now, they had their last album produced by Brian Eno. They’re restless and an inspiration source. You can check other bands like Capitão Fausto, Ditch Days, Marinho, Cave Story, Norberto Lobo, X-Wife or Sensible Soccers, just to name a few, ‘cause they’re really good.
We can’t say our music genre is popular in Portugal. Maybe popular in a small scale, but with a lot of interesting indie bands.
„Passengers”, the second song of your new album “Heavy Light”, what is the song about and why did you choose a “recap video” of your Japanese tour for the music video?
“Passengers” is about a couple that moved away from planet Earth and describe what they see from the outside. It’s not a very positive view of our planet, but the message is that we can still turn it into a place where we can live in a peaceful way. A world without wars and political conflicts and without constant information that creates frontiers between people. We can make it better.
We choose our Japanese tour footage because, since we didn’t make anything with it (in the beginning we wanted to do a documentary), we decided this was the right time to do it. Also, the song started to grow from that Asian arpeggio you can hear on the chorus. It made sense for us and the song goes really well with the footage. The images give a lighter mood to the song’s gloom atmosphere.
You obviously travelled a lot and you’ve played in many different places. Would you say different places and audiences have different energies? Could you describe some differences, e.g. Japan, Portugal, Europe?
Yes, we can say that the audiences change depending on the place. Overall, the energy is always positive and we always bring something from it. It’s important to know about different stages and different audiences. In Japan, people are so respectful. On our first show in Tokyo, we were so nervous because we didn’t know how they would react to our music.
Well, at the end of the first song we knew the show would work, the audience let themselves go and it was memorable. They are so devoted when they really like a band they follow you around, we had a lot of people that traveled from far just to see all our shows there. It was unique!
In Portugal it’s different, Portuguese are harder to conquer, but, when it happens, it’s amazing!
Have you already performed live in Austria, Switzerland or Germany? What have been your experiences?
We’ve played in Germany in 2009 when we did a tour across Europe. Hannover, Hamburg, and Berlin. We remember the warmth of the venues, of the audience, and of the hosts. We would love to do it again and add Austria and Switzerland.
Do you know any German words or sentences?
I know some (Rodolfo), I had German classes in high school and my older old son lives in Hamburg with his mother so, when he was a small baby I learned again the basics along with him. Right now we only talk in Portuguese so my German is not that good, I only practice when I visit Hamburg, which by the way is one of my favorite cities. It has a special energy and it’s really beautiful even when it rains.
“Heavy Light” is going to be your fifth album. How would you describe the key message of the album in three words and how does it set apart from your previous albums?
Three words: belief, value, love.
We would say that we risked more on this album than on the previous ones. We really expose ourselves on “Heavy Light”. If you listen closely and give attention to the lyrics, you will realize that the album tells a story. We hope that people identify with the new songs.
We are Norton and we…
…can… take you on delightful journey
…are… ready to hit the stages
…have… a new album which we are very happy with
…play… songs to enlighten your heart
…want… to tour wherever we can and where we feel welcome.