By Erin Coulehan, Contributor, DC Music Live
Northern Virginia’s Norman Rockwell celebrated the release of their first album, Fair Thee Well, at Jammin Java on Saturday October 20. The four-member band got together in 2011, but their origin is anything but ordinary.
“Sean didn’t like me at first,” says singer Joshua Johnston of bassist Sean Meyers. The two became acquainted after multiple run-ins at various open mic nights in the area, and inevitably decided on collaborating after a mutual respect for the other’s talents had been established. Guitarist Ben Hirsch and drummer Nathan Read joined the duo, and collectively brought life to the songs Johnston had been working on.
“We started out practicing like four days a week, all day for two months, and were finally like ‘we need to strike while the iron’s hot – let’s go to the studio. So we went to the studio and tracked the entire record in six days’,” recalls drummer Nathan Read. The six days spent recording at The Bastille in Arlington with Eamonn Aiken solidified the bond the new band had been working on, highlighting their strengths as musicians, while revealing the amount of dedication required to successfully complete the task at hand, all in the span of less than a week.
After recovering from the exhausting six days spent recording, the rock-folk band returned to the studio to work on the album’s harmonies, and the band’s debut album was then mastered by local singer songwriter Derek Evry. The Bastille, set within Inner Ear Studios, appealed to the band because of its combination of both analog and digital recording tools, reputation, and regional charm.
The band’s album release at Jammin Java showcased the Americana sound that’s become as emblematic as the artist Norman Rockwell’s
prolific paintings and illustrations of the same vein: familiar, yet distinctive, insight into modern America.
Tracks like “Eve” reflect the not so uncommon story of a woman who effectively damns the world of a man lusting after she who is forbidden, an interesting song for a band whose album was created in six days before there was rest. Johnston’s lyrics and voice are at once earnest and poignant as the song questions, “What am I / What am I / What am I?” before deciding “I’m not your Adam / And I’m not your man.”
Lyrical journeys continue in songs like “Stateline” that reflect the precious memories that are cultivated during college years, but are only fully realized once the moments have passed and the journey’s course has changed entirely.
The festivities at Jammin Java ended in a celebration of how far the band has come, and anticipation of where it’s going.