by Mark Geil
The Normals is one of those bands that will earn you cool points if referenced in casual conversation. Formed in 1998 and named after Normal, Illinois, the Forefront Records band was an influential standout at a time when Christian music was trying to find its way. Their lyrics were grounded in an honest understanding of world-tested faith that few others in the genre professed. Their music stood out, too. As a proper five-piece on their second and third albums, the band rocked, jangled, and hooked listeners with sounds that made “alternative” feel like a completely inadequate label.
And then, just like that, the band was no more. 2001’s A Place Where You Belong unexpectedly became the band’s final album. Its members moved beyond their college years, got married, and faced greater responsibilities. The Normals—as influential as they’d been—was not successful enough to sustain the lives of its members moving forward.
Nearly twenty years later, we decided to track down The Normals in our first entry asking Where Are They Now? Five different paths, with their speed bumps and intersections, have brought the band members to solid places. Their journeys have merged and diverged, both in geography and vocation, but the guys remain friends, communicate often, and reflect fondly on their time in the band.
Andrew has moved on to multiple musical endeavors since The Normals, including a stint in Caedmon’s Call and a successful solo career. He’s played guitar on tour for Steven Curtis Chapman, Andrew Peterson, and Jars of Clay. His songs have been recorded by Chris Tomlin, J.J. Heller, Jason Gray, and Jonny Diaz, and he’s produced albums for a slate of noteworthy artists. He’s also settled into a “day job,” as much as that’s possible in the music industry, working as Director of A&R at Integrity Music.
His solo albums, like his recent project The Painted Desert and legendary concept album Leonard the Lonely Astronaut, reflect Andrew’s growth through The Normals days and serve as a fascinating continuation of those musical threads.
Post-Normals, BJ took a staff engineering position at Playground Recording in Nashville, where he continued to work alongside artists as a musician, engineer and producer. In 2004, he took a job for The Iona Group as the Director of Audio. There he was able to create and produce the audio experiences for some of Chicago’s iconic exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry and Adler Planetarium.
BJ also teaches a sound design class for interactive media at Bradley University. And he hasn’t hung up the bass guitar, playing for the worship team at his church in Peoria. He and his wife Vickie have been married for 17 years and have three daughters.
While the band was writing and recording its final record, Mark spent his evenings learning application and web development to provide media and internet support for their live shows. While touring that record, he began working on websites and applications for other bands.
Shortly after The Normals, Mark established his development company, Creative Sites Media.
Mark and his wife Dawn stayed in the Nashville area until they had their first child. Two weeks after birth, they made their way back “home” to Normal, Ilinois, where both he and Dawn had grown up. They operate the business together, which now serves an international slate of clients.
Mark is also on the board of GOYA Ministries, an organization devoted to making an impact in the slums of Nairobi.
Newly married in July 2017, Mike resides near Birmingham, Alabama. Mike has worked in law enforcement since 2002, at various times as patrol officer, SWAT operator, trainer, and now Patrol Sergeant. Busy with work and family, he rarely has the time to play drums these days.
As Mike reflects on his journey, he counts himself blessed. Though some of the pitfalls along the way have been devastating, he’s learned lessons and says, “I now live a great life that I don’t deserve and I have a family I couldn’t have ever dreamed of.”
After his stint with The Normals, Cason moved back to Kansas for a year to study history at Wichita State. All the while, he felt the tug toward his “first love,” record production. He moved back to Nashville in 2004 and grew to be a sought-after producer and songwriter. Since then, he has produced albums and singles for artists like Ingrid Michaelson, Katie Herzig, Ben Rector, Mat Kearney, Sixpence None the Richer and most recently American Authors. He currently lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Katie and their three sons.
Looking back, Mark Lockett sums up well what it’s like to leave a band, move on to another vocation, but never forget what The Normals meant to a generation of listeners and to five bandmates:
“I ache for the creative writing and music production,” says Lockett. “I miss the late nights in the studio contributing to build beautiful sounds. I miss the days when time wasn’t a precious commodity, and when we had as much as we needed to work on two bars of a song. I miss using a cigarette lighter outlet to power three amplifiers so we could rock out at a rest stop. I miss being dirt poor and loving every second of it. I miss feeling fearless. I miss the rush of setting up for a show and performing to an audience of 10, and giving them everything we had to share a moment.
“That said though, life is so sweet, and in retrospect I would do just about everything the same if I had to do it again—just about. There was that one incident with pyrotechnics and that poor girl’s hair catching on fire. But it was a different time. That was okay.”