POZ Interview: Norma Jean
Senior Writer Jesse Richman had the chance to catch up with Cory from Norma Jean at SXSW for an in-depth interview. Jesse and Cory discussed the band’s new album, the delay in a release, touring, plans for more music in the very near future, and much more. Check it all out below!
Could you give your name?
Cory from Norma Jean.
Alright, so you guys finally have a new album.
It’s been three years?
Yeah three years, 2010. Meridional came out in June or July or maybe August. Summer time.
So why such a long break?
I don’t know man. All of our favorite bands take forever to write records. So to us, it’s kind of normal. But I think we’re starting to see that it might be kind of a bad idea. People want music faster these days. There’s more demand. So I think we’ll try to get stuff out quicker from now on. Really, we just wanted time to write.
Did you take time off in there or were you busy writing the whole time?
Between every tour, we wrote, since like mid 2011. That’s how long… We were originally supposed to be in the studio and out of the studio by February 2012. We kind of felt that it wasn’t ready, so we pushed it back.
POZ: Did you go back in a couple of times? How did it all play out?
We booked the studio time for January 2012, pushed it back to summer time, and then pushed it back again to December. Then we got out in February, about two months of recording.
POZ: So you bumped recording time for a whole year?
Yeah, we bumped it a lot. Yeah.
POZ: What wasn’t working?
Originally, when we started the record, we felt like Meridional was so widely accepted that it was kind of this lingering thing still. Like, “This is something we have to beat.” Then once we started writing we realized, “No. We don’t have to beat that. This isn’t even the same kind of music that we put on that. It’s totally a new direction.” So we kind of scrapped everything and started over. We kept a few songs from those writing sessions, but we really just felt like it wasn’t right. We just went with that.
How would you describe the direction of the new album? How does it compare to Meridional?
I think it has a taste of Meridional, here or there. But really it’s more of a tug of war between us wanting to play the fastest, heaviest songs ever and wanting to do more groove-driven things, and a lot of melody and experimentation and stuff. It’s kind of a half-and-half of that.
POZ: Maybe this is just my opinion, but I would have never considered your older work “groove-driven”…
Casy: Haha yeah! We definitely have a lot of groove on this one.
POZ: Where did that interest come from?
We’re old. We’re older and I think we appreciate the kind of slowing down of music and being more chill with it; having more of a spacey chill vibe. But still heavy as crap.
It’s funny you mention you’re old, because I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday, how there was this period in the mid-2000s where there was this huge mainstream explosion of Christian music and in particular, heavy Christian music. It kind of felt like this past year, with Underoath breaking up and Cornerstone coming to an end, that that was kind of the door closing on that era. It seems like you guys are the survivors of that period. Do you feel like elder statesmen at this point? Do you feel like things have passed you by?
I don’t know. Time did fly past. I’m getting closer to 40 at this point. We kind of see this for what it is, where we are now. We do this because we love it. Not because tickets are being sold or records are getting bought or downloaded or whatever. We love doing it. We’re going to keep doing it as long as we can. I know that at least I will keep doing something musical until I die, or until somebody gives me their lottery ticket that wins.
I get doing it for the passion, but it has to feel good when people are interested in what you’re doing too.
Are you concerned that after being away so long that people won’t come back?
I think we have a core set of fans that are going to stick with us. Those are our favorite people in the world. That’s who our music is for. I think every band, no matter who you are, is going to have… If you have a favorite band, you’re going to also have a favorite record by that band. Everybody has that. For me with Smashing Pumpkins, my favorite record is Siamese Dream. I do love stuff that they put out after that, but to me, nothing is better than that record.
POZ: Supposedly, they’re down here this weekend.
I heard that.
POZ: By ‘they’ I mean Billy and whoever he’s calling Smashing Pumpkins now.
For real. But, that’s kind of how we see it. We see it as, “Awesome, you’re a fan of this record, this record,” If you guarantee that you’ll play something off of every one of those records when you come see us live,” then we see, “Ok. Cool. You are a fan of Norma Jean. Even though the only record you like is the first or the second one.” To us that’s still a cool thing.
So with the album coming out, are their tour plans?
Well, we’ve got this. We’ve got a short couple of little shows coming after this. We’re in Australia and New Zealand in May, and we’re doing a summer tour. I don’t think I’m allowed to say what that is yet. It’s not announced.
POZ: Any idea when the announcement will be coming?
I don’t know. I don’t know where I stand on this or I don’t care. I want to tell everybody. It’s a really cool tour though; really good bands. Then we’ll do a fall headliner. We’ll stay on the road as much as we can.
Do you guys listen to any of this new breed of metalcore acts that have come up?
I mean really, we kind of listen to… I do appreciate some new bands that are great. Like Stray From The Path are doing some really awesome stuff. Not that they’re a “new” band, but you know what I mean. I like what Vanna is doing. This band, KEN Mode, really awesome. Royal Thunder is on this [SXSW] show too, they’re from Atlanta and they’re really good. There’s some good stuff coming out. I think that I’m definitely starting to see a little more care put into musical integrity and not just cookie cutter.
Do you take inspiration from the way things are going? Do you pay attention?
Definitely. I think that’s what keeps me from turning into a “Keep Off The Grass” old man. I don’t want to be that dude. I want to try to keep up and stay somewhat attached to what’s going on. Even if it’s mainstream, I’ll listen to it. If it sounds good.
I know you said you’ll keep making music forever. Do you think that’s Norma Jean’s future? What do you see after this album cycle?
We already have ideas to do something directly after this record. We’re going to record a completely live record in the studio. It will be released like that. We want to write new songs and track it live in like a week. So we’re working on that, it will be cool. We want to go work with an old producer, maybe Ross Robinson. Which would be awesome, I think. He’s definitely into it. So I think we’ll do that.
Is there anything written for that or are you just going to kind of wing it?
We have one song that got scrapped from this record, but I think we’ll probably just write something in a couple of weeks and go for it. We also want to do this cool thing we were talking about: writing and recording an EP in 24 hours. Film it and stay up…
POZ: Just go from beginning to end in one day?
Yeah. So we’re going to start working on that pretty soon too. That will be fun. We’re going to do some fun, different stuff. I don’t want to keep doing… I’ve been doing this so long it’s like, “Ok here’s the cycle: we put out a record, now it’s time to tour, now it’s time to write, now it’s time to put out another record.” We want to break it up and do some weird and different things that wouldn’t necessarily happen…
You mentioned that you just rolled into town. Are you going to be here or are you just doing this showcase and taking back off again on the road?
We have this one and we’re playing Firehouse tomorrow. I don’t think it’s an official SXSW show or showcase anyways. We’re going to do a totally different set too. We played in San Antonio today and then tonight we’re playing completely different songs and then tomorrow we’re playing completely different songs. None of the sets are the same right now. Then we’re off to Dallas and Houston.
Is mixing up the sets something you think you’ll keep up with as you tour?
I would love to.
POZ: That’s tough on a band.
We’ll find out tonight. I’m sure there are going to be a couple of weird things. But we had some mess ups today and we pulled it off. As long as we’re having fun, it’s fine.
Anyone you’re trying to catch while you’re down here?
I don’t even know, man. I haven’t even looked at the schedule for today yet. There’s probably a few shows we could try to catch.
Any parting words? Album info?
We’re looking at a summer release. We’re looking at June or July. We haven’t even started mixing yet.
POZ: Are you guys on a label?
Razor & Tie. And our record’s being mixed by Jeremy Griffith, who recorded Meridional. He starts on that on Monday. We’ll have something rolling out as soon as possible. We’re going to release some stuff, for sure.
My latest thing that I’ve been saying is: Support music you love by purchasing it. Don’t steal, don’t take records. If you love a band, keep them going, keep them on the road, and keep them making music.
by Jesse Richman
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