It was a rainy Saturday night in September and I almost stayed home but I couldn’t. It was the night of Derek Evry‘s CD release show and I knew I’d regret missing it if I didn’t go. So instead of a boring night home alone, I braved the eerily dark storm and headed on over to Iota in Arlington. Long story short – it was the best live show featuring local music that I’ve seen in 2012.
I got to the venue early and caught the other acts’ soundchecks. This included brief bursts of tunage from local folk-rockers The WeatherVanes and Americana folk-rockers Norman Rockwell. My interest was piqued since I’d never heard Norman Rockwell live before. They were a new blip on my local music radar at the time. I had listened to The WeatherVanes before but I’d only heard of Norman Rockwell recently after they shared the stage with some of my favorite local musicians, including the incomparable Ben Tufts.
Needless to say, it was love at first strum. Norman Rockwell is a Northern Virginia-based band and a name to know if you’re keeping an eye out for up-and-coming talent in the DC area. Not only can Joshua Johnston (Guitar/Harmonica/Vocals), Ben Hirsch (Guitar/Banjo/Mandolin/Violin/Vocals), Sean Meyers (Bass/Guitar/Vocals), and Nathan Read (Drums/Percussion/Vocals) all sing in beautiful four-part harmony with each other but they’re sound is refreshing in an almost nostalgic way. Norman Rockwell sounds as if Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and The Band all got together and said, “Let’s combine our powers for the greater musical good!”
The guys of Norman Rockwell took some time to do a Q&A with We Love DC in anticipation of their CD release show this Saturday at Jammin’ Java. Tickets are available online for $15 and the show starts at 8:00 p.m. Here’s what they had to say:
Rachel: How did you all meet and decide to form the band now known as Norman Rockwell?
Norman Rockwell: Josh and Ben met at various open mics in the greater Washington, DC area. Sean and Nathan have previously played in other bands together. We all met at The Soundry, an arts space/music venue where Sean ran his first open mic. The atmosphere was incredibly open and catered to any and all types of music. We then decided to join together to form Norman Rockwell.
R: Your name is quite unique. How did you choose it?
NR: We named the band after a feral cat that used to show up on Sean’s back porch. The old lady next door kept yelling at the cat calling it “Norman Rockwell”. This feral cat represents our collective consciousness and determination to survive within the music industry.
R: There’s a good amount of classic rock meets folk to your sound. Who would you say are your biggest influences both as individual band members and as a group?
NR: Josh- Hank Williams, Robert Johnson, Iron Maiden
Ben- Grateful Dead, James Taylor, Opeth
Nathan- The Police, Frank Sinatra, Phil Collins
Sean- Smashing Pumpkins, MOOP, Captain Geech and The Shrimp Shack Shooters
All- Bob Petty (Our Collective Idol)
R: Your live show, when compared to your recorded material, sounds as if they’re nearly one in the same (in a good way). What are the biggest differences you’ve encountered while transitioning between your live show and making your new album?
NR: We started to record the album early on as a band, over the course of a year, so the songs weren’t as developed as they are currently. Over the span of a year, we have tried to play those songs as accurately as they sound on the record. Due to time and variation in venues, the songs have sometimes been adapted to suite the room, or reflect where we were musically at that point.
R: This is your first full-length release together. Your fans had a big hand in this release what with helping you achieve your project goal via IndieGoGo. Talk a little bit about your experience with IndieGoGo and the laborious process of putting out an independent album. What was the hardest part and what are you most thankful for?
NR: The IndieGoGo experience helped us realize how many people were willing to come together to make this happen for us. The hardest part is actually asking your friends for money as opposed to just asking them to come to shows. We are so thankful for all of the support that we received in the end.
R: The independent music “industry” appears to be the route many musicians are taking these days. What do you feel are the benefits and hardships encountered as a result of this?
NR: The benefits of being an independent band lie in artistic freedom, and our direct relationship with the creative process and our direct relationship with our fans. In the grand scheme of things, the work is very hard but we stand behind our music and it’s something we enjoy doing.
R: What is your ultimate goal as a band?
NR: To write the best music we possibly can and hopefully make a living doing so.
R: If you could share a bill with any artist dead or alive who would it be and why?
NR: Bob Petty. He is our collective idol!
R: If you could tell the greater D.C. area why they should attend your record release party at Jammin’ Java on October 20 what would you tell them?
NR: This is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, help from our friends/family, and a journey in refining our sound. We are really excited and proud to release our debut album!
We have done everything within our means to make sure that our album release party will be totally super awesome sunshine fun time, filled with unicorns and moon sugar that span the greater universal truth that we believe can be found within our album.
Norman Rockwell’s CD release show is at Jammin’ Java on Saturday October 20 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15. The Family Plots and Jayme Salviati are also scheduled to perform. Doors open at 7:00 p.m.