'Mathcore's Harlequin Dream'
Norma Jean is a heavy metal band from Douglasville, Georgia. They've come a long way from the suburbs of Atlanta, being hailed as a Mathcore band and being nominated for Best Recording Package, at the Grammy Awards of 2006. They aren't quite mainstream but all the scene kids flock to their sound like moths to a flame. With the progression of the Metalcore revolution continuing, we find some of the movement's leaders in this group.
They released their first album in 1999 under the band name 'Luti-Kriss', and it's only gotten better from there. Showing great skill in song writing, the band has attained a level of technical musicianship most bands can only ever dream to gain. Their new release "Redeemer" is thier most melodic release yet, but still manages to pack a decent sized punch of chaotic auditory stimulation.
I arrived outside St. Andrews Hall in Detroit to see a line wrapped around the block, eagerly waiting for the doors to open for Norma Jean. I was told to look for a purple bus out front, and was not disappointed. After loading on the bus I was escorted to the back and sat down with Daniel Davison (drums), who was looking out his tour bus window at the line.
The band was originally named 'Luti-Kriss'. Is it true that the change was made due to the confusion with the rapper 'Ludacris'? "Well no, not really. We just wanted to start over new anyway. We didnít really like the name, and the fact that the rapper came out was an excuse for us to be able to change our name."
Like a re-birth? "Right."
Besides the obvious nod to Marilyn Monroeís birth name, where did you get the name, and what made you want it? "Well first, like you said, Marilyn Monroe sparked the idea, but we had a whole list of names we were trying to pick from. The word pattern was in a couple of those names, so something about the word pattern, we really wanted to use it. Then randomly our singer found out that Norma means Patterns."
Oh really? Thatís sort of a strange coincidence "I know, we all thought it was weird, because Norma Jean was our favorite one, but it didnít have any meaning. After we found that out, we looked up Jean, and it means Godís grace and mercy. Together then, the name means Ďpatterns of Godís grace and mercyí."
What inspired the title of the new album, 'Redeemer'? "Well it has a bunch of different meanings. It can be interpreted many different ways. We knew when we were writing it that we just wanted a one word title, that just basically was short and sweet. We wanted it to be powerful, and to stick out. It was really the first word that come to us and decided that we really didnít even need to think about it anymore, that we were just going to stick with it. And, we are all Christians in the band and a synonym for redeemer is Jesus. We didnít want it to be cheesy or anything, but that is definitely part of the reason. Just the power of that word was the main reason we chose it."
Speaking of being a Christian band, a lot of bands out there, who happen to have all Christian members donít really want to be marketed as a ĎChristian Bandí but rather, simply a band regardless of the fact. Do you feel that way? Or, do you think it is important that people recognize you as Christians? "Well, yeah, we think itís important for people to know. We try to make it the basis of our band. Sometimes it can be a struggle to keep that as the main focus, but really, thatís what we hope to do, and what we try to do. If people want to call us a Christian Band... we are. We do want people to know, we arenít trying to hide it."
The art for the new album is very strong. Where did that come from? What is itís relationship with the CD? "Itís pretty cool. The cover is very sentimental to us. The cover of the girl with the crow, then on the back, there is a boy in a similar painting. The guy that we worked with, Ross Robinson, he had this huge five or six foot, by five or six foot painting in his living room, and it was of the boy. So it was cool, we were at his house for about a month recording vocals and percussion. We would see it everyday, and just thought it was really awesome. When we were thinking about artwork for the record we though Ďwe should try and use thatí."
Was he the artist? "No, actually it was his friend, a guy named Shannon Crawford. We knew he hadnít painted it himself, but we asked, since we new he had bought it, if he thought we could use it. He was just like ĎYeah, my friend painted it. Iím sure he wouldnít care.í So we got in touch with him and he told us there was a sister painting. We saw that one, and liked it even more than the boy painting, so we used it. I donít know how it really relates, there are some things about deception on the record, so as far as the crow kind of biting on the boyís ear, it can be taken as deception. Something of that nature."
So it was just something you saw everyday while recording, and wanted it to be a part of it? "Yeah, and the other images on the cover is just some random collage work that Ryan Clark, the guy whoís done our last, well, heís done all three of our records. He did that."
On this CD, which song would you say is either a Band or personal favorite? Is there a particular song that you are all very strong about? "Thatís so hard, because Iím really so happy with the whole record and thatís how all of us are. Maybe, I think itís track 6, "The End of All Things Will Be Televised". I think itís a good summary of the record as a whole. It kind of touches a little bit on everything that we did on the record, and itís the longest song. There is a ton of percussion on that song, which is something that is pretty heavy throughout the record, we have a lot of percussion. We even had Coryís brother come in and do a lot of secondary drum parts."
So would you say that itís the song you would pick to represent the whole thing? "Yeah, but... there are songs with more melody, so maybe it isn't the perfect representation of the record? It is one of the heaviest songs on the record, there is some melody in it. Another song called "Songs Sound Much Sadder" is a better representation I think. That one is pretty, sing-y. It's hard to pick, because there is so much diversity on the record."
When you were developing this record, did you have any specific goals in mind? "I don't think that we ever really sat down and talked about what we wanted it so sound like. Most of us write songs on our own, then we come to practice and share our material. We sometimes might say, what type of thing we want to see as a whole. We never really say to stay away from a certain direction since we've already been there. It's just a natural progression. When we come together to write we have a bunch of stuff that somehow meshes together and makes, well made, "Redeemer". We don't set out to try and be different. That's just how it is. Our main goal is for us to be happy. We try not to wonder if kids are going to like it."
Which is good. It's important like your own music "Exactly, like we might say that we hope people like it, but we love it and that's what matters. Write what you love and hope for the best."
You guys got nominated for Best Recording Package at the Grammy's. Let's talk about that. That's awesome! "That's really crazy. I mean it's more so for the artist Ryan [Clark] who did the artwork. But still, just to be recognized on that level is, insane. I don't even know how that happened or how that works. But, YES! That was ridiculous. It makes no sense, but none of this does, I mean, we're out here playing these concerts for thousands of people, and it's kind of like 'How did this happen?'. We're stoked about it, we're glad that it happened and the artwork was amazing. I'm not going to say it makes sense that it was nominated, but it was really great artwork."
For someone who hasn't heard you play, how would you describe your music? "I guess it would depend on what kind of person it was. Like, how old they are, if they know anything that is going on with music right now, so you can give them references. But, sometimes we might be talking to someone, like in a restaurant or at a gas station while on tour and people will ask us if we are a band. When we say yes, they'll ask what kind of music. We just say 'Heavy Metal' and they will be like 'Oh, ok... like Metalica?' and we try to explain, that no, it's a lot different then that. This is really noisy. Then they'll say 'Ok, like... Puddle of Mudd?'... 'No... not really like that either. It's just more chaotic.' We'll tell them. 'You probably wouldn't really like it. Most people think it's just noise. Our singer screams... '"
You tell them they wouldn't like it? "Yeah," he laughs. "But if it's like a kid, then we might kind of give them a band they can reference."
Are there any particular stops on this tour that you are looking forward to going, or any places that you get a really great reception? "Last night was awesome. It was the first night of the tour. Last night was in Nashville. It's always scary the first night. We have an all new crew, and half of the songs you've never played before. Detroit shows are awesome. We havn't played this venue in 2 or 3 years. We used to play the Shelter all the time. Chicago should be awesome, which is tomorrow. California shows are always crazy. The tour ends in Atlanta, which is our home town. So that will be good."
It's a good place to end it, where you began "Yeah, it'll be good. Pretty much every show is good. Kids are crazy everywhere, it's awesome."
It's seems like Mathcore and Metalcore have gained a much stronger following over the past couple years than in the past. It has to feel pretty good to be a part of that. Does it? "That's totally true. It's insane. We really are one of those bands that somehow ended up in it. It's weird, we're just some dudes you know? I remember, 4 years ago, we were playing the shelter and it was probably a big show for us then. I think we played second then? Now we're playing upstairs. It's been years, we've headlined here before, but even so, it's just great. To see people lined up already. I walked in to use the the bathroom and they stopped me to take pictures with them. I was just like 'This is weird... but, OK!'. I don't think it's cheesy or dumb. Sometimes I feel kind of dorky, but they don't think that. It's just kind of funny."
Do you have any special messages to your fans? "Well, for fans in the UK, we'll be headed that way in January. I don't know when our record comes out there. It's probably out, or coming out soon. It's called "Redeemer". Thanks to all of our fans who bought our CD and supported us!"
Interviewed by Natalie Borsh
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