Monday, 28 September 2015 12:40

Norma Jean Brings Anniversary Tour To GR

Written by  Robert Hartley
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Norma Jean Norma Jean COURTESY PHOTO

Norma Jean wsg. ‘68, Sleepwave, the Ongoing Concept, Belle Haven
The Stache (Grand Rapids)
Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015
$18 advance, $20 day of show
Doors 6:30 p.m.

If you’ve kept yourself updated in the realm of alternative music, then you’re aware that a lot of bands are going on 10-year anniversary tours lately. Norma Jean is amongst that crop.

Hailing from Douglasville, Ga., the band put out its second record, O’God, the Aftermath, 10 years ago in 2005. It is the first to feature vocalist Cory Brandan Putman following the band’s 2002 debut Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child with Josh Scogin on vocals.

Before the band could even tour for the debut album, Scogin left Norma Jean to garner success with the Chariot and currently serves as half of ’68. As Putman entered the band at such an infantile state, he not only had to prove to the other members what he could do but where they could go.

O’God the Aftermath is a scathing reminder of the path the band took forward. While aggressive vocals and searing guitars are certainly benchmark for Norma Jean’s current style of metalcore, those elements stand at their highest on O’God.

The album took off, too. It was re-released in 2006 with artwork that contended for the best record packaging of the year, running against artists such as Emery and Relient K at the 37th GMA Dove Awards and Ani DiFranco at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards. The re-release also featured a bonus song, “ShaunLuu,” which was featured on the soundtrack of the TV series Masters of Horror. The album earned the band coverage on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. The band even released a barbecue sauce based on the album.

Putman spoke with Revue to revisit O’God for its upcoming 10-year anniversary tour, to be played in full in Grand Rapids on Oct. 4.

So, O’God turned 10 years old this year. What has it been like for the band to revisit and relearn its material?

We already knew half the record just from songs that we’ve played throughout different tours, but then there’s another half of the record that I haven’t listened to in years. Some of these songs we haven’t ever played, so it’s definitely been cool to revisit and hear that record, which to us seems so adolescent, you know? (laughs)

The band confirmed on Facebook that “ShaunLuu” would be a part of the tour’s set, but what about the secret instrumental song that can only be accessed by rewinding past the first song of O’God?

That’s just feedback and the drum beat to “Murderotica” in like, half-time. It’s kind of like an intro to “Murderotica.” When we were writing and recording the record, Nirvana had come out with a DVD box set. We were in the studio when it came out and we all went and got it and watched it that night. That intro is just like the menu screen [of the DVD] - just the band making noise and a constant drum beat. We thought it was so cool that it inspired us to do it on the record, and then we ended up making it a secret track.

The tour’s going to be really interesting with ‘68 as support.  What was it like joining Norma Jean and creating O’God after Josh Scogin left?

It was cool. We were all friends, so it wasn’t weird at all. It was a perfect fit because we were already super close, we all had similar tastes in music and we were fans of each other’s bands. It just made sense.

Given the various songs picked up by TV and then the packaging award nominations, it seems like O’God gained a lot more traction than the band expected. What was it like finding that kind of success at that point in the band?

It was awesome. Josh left before Bless the Martyr even came out, so I was the one that toured that record. The band was already gaining traction throughout that time, but when O’God came out, it had been about three years since Norma Jean had released anything. I think everyone was really anticipating a record finally coming out. We spent way too long taking time off before we released anything, so it was really great to see the band explode right in front of us. It almost seemed like it was overnight.

I understand you guys saw a pleasant spike in album sales between O’God and Bless the Martyr. What do you think fans liked so much about O’God?

I don’t know. It’s such a weird thing to focus on because we live in a time where every year’s record sales gradually decline anyway. ...At the time, I didn’t even know anything or care about record sales. I was just having fun being in a band. Over the course of doing this, it’s something that I’ve picked up on a little bit more...but none of us really cared at all. It was just cool to be able to put out a record that people enjoyed and the music was getting out there. Immediately seeing people come and sing along to the songs as soon as the record came out was a cool feeling. Everything else that came along with that was really what we were excited about.

All of the song titles are portmanteaux that tie in with the album’s art and lyrics. What was it like creating the non-musical aspects of the album?

We spent a long time on it. Up until we had to have everything finalized, way after the studio and mastering, we were still working on making sure the song titles and the order of songs were right. The order of songs is always a thing on every record that takes way longer than you think it’s going to...But that was a really fun record because of the made-up words...We were in Seattle the whole time in this extended stay hotel. It was really cramped in there, and there was this table that we all sat at and we all wrote lyrics together. We all made song titles together and thought of artwork ideas and it was just a lot of fun being there. There are definitely great memories making O’God, the Aftermath.

What are the chances we’ll see O’God the barbecue sauce make a return?

Really slim (laughs). We did that with a company that will re-label for you. They sent us a bunch of samples and we just picked our favorite one. It was like a sweeter barbecue taste, and we just rolled with that. It was just a one-time thing with the release of the record.

What do you like most about O’God?

It was my first record with the band, so I can’t ever forget that. Coming into the band, we started writing immediately, so that put some pressure on me to bring something to the table...We were already friends, but as musicians, we hadn’t really ever worked together, so we had to make sure that we had that chemistry. You’re working with this new group of guys that are all excited to be there, coming from bands that maybe weren’t as excited or driven for that matter, so it was exciting to be in it. And here we are 10 years later still doing it.

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