Christian rock group
Having scheduled no concerts after 2002, The Normals were poised to exhale, and by 2004 the band's five active members had dispersed across several cities in two countries. The group has nonetheless maintained a constant media presence on the Internet. A Christian pop/rock band, The Normals took their name from the members' hometown of Normal, Illinois, where Andrew Osenga, Mark Lockett, and Clayton Daily-Lafton first played together in grade school. The Normals grew from a simple home-based trio to a savvy and cosmopolitan quintet by 2002, at which time the members elected mutually to stop touring. After nearly five years of nonstop travel, they made the commitment to quit, in deference to family priorities rather than from a desire to break up the band.
Properly known as the Village of Morton, the band's hometown of Normal lies along Interstate 74 in Tazewell County, Illinois. Morton is recognizable to tourists by its landmark water tower, which peaks over the town. With large letters spelling "NORMAL" painted across the side, the tower has given the village its nickname. A quiet mid-western community located in central Illinois, Normal sits ten miles southeast of Peoria, and is hailed as the pumpkin capital of the world.
Founding member and songwriter Osenga was the lead vocalist and spokesperson for the group. He composed for and toured with The Normals, and participated in their recording sessions on the Christian label ForeFront for five years, beginning at age 18. In one of the earliest iterations of the group, Osenga was heard with Steve Hindalong manning the drums, while Daily-Lafton performed on bass and Normals' cofounder Lockett contributed vocals and guitar.
Pianist Cason Cooley was originally associated with The Normals as a road manager and sound technician. A one-time college chum of Osenga, Cooley eventually contributed his performance skills to the group. Under the direction of producer Malcolm Burn, the band's first album offered a collection of early recordings, remastered and fine-tuned for release on compact disc. Better Than This, compiled at Burn's home studio in Louisiana, was released on ForeFront in 1998. Five musicians went into the original production as The Normals, but only Lockett and Osenga survived the rigors of the studio and remained with the group by the end of the project. More importantly, the sessions marked the beginning of the band's existence as The Normals. The album spawned the number one single "Everything," and the group was honored with two Dove Award nominations.
Beneficial to the band's success was the launch of a promotional tour, which ultimately blurred into a rambling four-year road trip. Drummer Mike Taquino joined the band, and Cooley added keyboards as the band took to the road, surviving an inaugural year of incessant traveling and intensive performance schedules. Over the next two years the band traveled a roundabout route, from its home base of Nashville and back to New Orleans. During this time individual members gained performance know-how, ultimately surviving the exhausting itinerary and emerging with a new stage presence.
With fame in the offing and fortune on the horizon, a disheartening setback in 1999 gave the band members pause. Virtually all of their gear was lost in a burglary. Thieves stole the band's van and everything inside, along with the personal property of the group's new bassist, B.J. Aberle—also a childhood a friend of Osenga from their Illinois hometown. Fans and merchants scrambled to assist The Normals in replacing the equipment, and the misfortune of the burglary brought the group to a new awareness of their talent. The five musicians quickly learned let go of their attachment to customized instruments and personal gear, and learned instead to concentrate on making music, regardless of the equipment at hand. Versatility and the ability to ad lib characterized this dynamic phase of The Normals' career.
In 2000 The Normals accompanied WaterDeep on the Everyone's Beautiful tour, and that year Lockett established a web design business called Creative Sites Media, in order to provide affordable Internet exposure for the group. In 2001 the group joined the Caedmon's Call Long Line of Leavers tour, which featured Sandra McCracken as the opening act. On this outing the group made a final stop at Texas A&M University, performing before an audience of nearly 4,000 fans. A streaming video of the concert was published on the Internet.
The group set out on an acoustic tour of California in the spring of 2002, beginning in Azusa and with the express purpose of promoting their 2002 album, A Place Where You Belong, recorded at Burn's northern home studio in Kingston, New York. In March of 2002, following the release of this third album, the group opened for MercyMe at Wayland Baptist University in Texas. After these final concerts the band members bid mutual au revoirs to one another and ended the first phase of The Normals' performance career.
With The Normals' activity on the wane, Osenga got married in August of 2002 and settled in Nashville, converting his entire home into a makeshift recording studio for taping sessions—even using the bathroom as a sound booth. There he produced a solo debut album, called Photographs. A highly versatile musician, Osenga plays piano and harmonica but is considered to be most proficient on electric guitar. His solo recording included a potpourri of cameos by his colleagues, including Matthew Perryman Jones and Billy Cerveny, along with members of The Normals. Osenga's parents are heard in the background mix on one of the tracks. During this time, Osenga joined with Caedmon's Call on tour, joining the band as a guitarist and on background vocals. Osenga was quick to publicize his good fortunes in an Internet-published diary that revealed both the trials and triumphs of his artistic pursuit.
In 2003 Osenga teamed up with Cooley to co-produce Chris Mason's Crowded Spaces. Lockett, who was also heard in performance on this production, settled in Columbia, Tennessee, where he remained at the helm of Creative Sites Media. During The Normals' slack time Cooley performed with Bill Malonee and the Trophy Wives. By 2004 he had released three CDs and was also associated with Ten Shekel Shirt, Katy Bowser, Matthew Perryman Jones, and Steve Camp. Aligned with Matthew Smith as the Nashville-based Indelible Grace, Cooley also visited schools and church groups as part of the Christian music movement.
In another project with Osenga, in February of 2004 Cooley was heard on the RE:NEWAL release, which featured a host of Christian artists, all members of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. As the year drew to a close, Cooley was reportedly based in Puerto Rico, working as one-half of a country duo on tour to army bases worldwide. Lockett was married and still in Columbia, teaching at a local church youth program, leading a band, and starting a family. Osenga released a new solo effort that year and spent time in Lucknow, India, and Ecuador.
Aberle returned to Morton to work at a studio design firm in Peoria. Taquino moved to Alabama to work as a peace officer. Members of The Normals have acknowledged the possibility of a return to touring and recording as The Normals at some point in the future.
For the Record . . .
Members include B.J. Aberle , bass and vocals; Cason Cooley , piano, keyboards, vocals; Clayton Daily-Lafton , bass; Steve Hindalong , drums; Mark Andrew Lockett (married; one child), guitar and vocals; Andrew Osenga (born c. 1980, married Alison, August 2002), vocals and songwriter; Mike Taquino , drums and percussion.
Signed to ForeFront Records, April 1998; released debut album Better Than This, 1998; released albums in 2000 and 2002; toured extensively, 1998-2002.
Addresses: Publisher—The Loving Company, 7051 Hwy 70 South, PMB-188, Nashville, TN 37221, fax: 615-662-4581. Publicist—Creative Sites Media, phone: (931) 388-1020, website: http://www.creativesitesmedia.com/normals.
Better Than This, ForeFront, 1998.
Coming to Life, ForeFront, 2000.
A Place Where You Belong, ForeFront, 2002.
"Andrew Osenga—Bio," Andrew Osenga, http://www.andrewosenga.com/bio.php (October 13, 2004).
"A Journey Toward Coming to Life," Family Christian Stores, http://www.familychristian.com/music/interviews/normals_coming.to.life.asp (October 13, 2004).
"The Normals," MegaMusic Store, http://www.jamsline.com/b_normals.htm (October 13, 2004).
"The Normals," MusicWeb, http://www.cmusicweb.com/folk/normals/interview.shtml (October 13, 2004).
"A Place Where You Belong," The Normals, http://www.creativesitesmedia.com/normals (October 11, 2004).
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