Music

Norma Jean recall being the last band to play London’s Barfly

“I think the most uncomfortable thing is literally digging up past things – but Norma Jean have always written about real lives”

We’re in Camden, North London, on the phone to Cory Brandon, frontman in Atlanta’s metalcore veterans Norma Jean. The band have a strong connection with this area – being the last band to ever play legendary venue The Barfly.

During their headline set at this year’s Camden Rocks festival, the news that they were the swansong act was helpfully imparted to the crowd from the venue’s outgoing management – with the instruction to do whatever they liked; from then on, Cory says, “a riot ensued. People rushed the stage… literally tearing the walls down and the air conditioning, it was insane.”

The band’s gig at The Barfly was part of a 45-date European tour – including three dates at Slam Dunk (“it was amazing, it was like being on tour for three days”) – and went about giving us reminder of their brilliant live show energy, as well as getting us pumped for their forthcoming seventh album, Polar Similar, which is out this month.

The new album feels like an exercise in therapy. The track Everything Louder than Everything Else deals with abusive relationships, while A Thousand Years A Minute addresses self-harm, and Reaction is about the search to reach victims. And certainly, it helped Cory open up new wounds, “I think the most uncomfortable thing is literally digging up past things – but Norma Jean have always wrote about our real lives.”

But then, you wouldn’t really expect anything else from an album recorded at the same studios as where Nirvana recorded In Utero.

Here’s the key details for Polar Similar

  • They recorded the album in the middle of the woods – Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota to be exact – and to be as isolated as possible
  • These are the same studios as Nirvana’s In Utero – and there’s definitely a grungy feel to the album – especially on single 1, 000, 000 Watts
  • During recording, they watched The Shining hundreds of times. Continuing a tradition started on 2006’s Redeemer, where the band watched American Movie throughout the recording, every day the band walked from the cabin to the backyard studio, turned on Stanley Kubrick’s isolation-themed thriller and watched it on loop
  • The new album is produced by legendary producer Ross Robinson, who’s back working with the band for the first time since 2008’s The Anti Mother

Polar Similar is out on 9 September. You can follow the band on Twitter here.

 

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