Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Norman Rockwell

normanrockwellshootIt was a mere three months after Norman Rockwell formed that the Falls Church-based band was in the studio working on its first album. Things just clicked in this folk-rocking quartet, and so the band pushed ahead in recording its debut release.

“We were pretty blown away and surprised with ourselves, and how good we sound together,” band member Ben Hirsch explained. “It felt right to go in and start recording.”

With some songs that singer Joshua Johnston wrote before the band got together and some original arrangements made with fellow band members Hirsch, Sean Meyers and Nathan Read, the band had enough material to get started. The four had day jobs and bills to pay, and knew that it would be tough financing the album themselves, but they were spurred on by the support of friends and family to make that big investment in this budding project.

“We want to get it done, and right now money is not an issue,” Hirsch said, reflecting on the decision the band made last summer to forge ahead. “This is just really important; it’s really important that we do this.”

They got most of the recording done at The Bastille Studio in Arlington by August 2011, but the mixing and mastering that followed was slow-going because money was tight.

Thanks to a collaborative funding platform and the support a growing local fan base, the group was able to clear the final hurdle.

Their fundraising drive on Indiegogo brought in not only money, but also well wishes from dozens who with their donations earned perks like signed CDs, stickers, and even private performances by the band.

The campaign launched in September of this year, and within a month’s time the group collected $5,000 and finished the album now more than a year in the making. Norman Rockwell will be celebrating the release of its debut album Fare Thee Well on Saturday at Jammin’ Java.

Hirsch hopes having an album in hand will make more opportunities for the band by giving them both a source of revenue and a product that can reach beyond the limits of the gigs they play.

“We didn’t really have much to show all this time when we played shows,” Hirsch said. “We didn’t have CDs to sell, we didn’t have anything.”

The record, a 10-track collection of songs with lyrics both aching and uplifting set to Americana sounds, will sound familiar to fans, as many of its tracks have been thoroughly road tested on stages across Washington D.C. and the band’s native Northern Virginia. Hirsch is most pleased with how the group was able to blend an eclectic mix of styles and harness the sounds of a range of instruments in making an album he hopes will appeal to a broader audience.

Even longtime fans of the band might find some surprises in the way the group experiments on Fare Thee Well (like a jazz-heavy improv romp recorded as a hidden track on the album).

Hirsch said the band is looking forward to a follow-up release. It’s not for a lack of new material that they haven’t started the recording process again. They have enough, Hirsch said, but must face the same struggle that stalled their first album.

“We definitely want to go ahead and make that happen within our means, but we’re day-job people and it’s hard to do both,” Hirsch said. “We have to earn a living and pay our bills on top of that.”

• For more information about Norman Rockwell, visit