Lurched over his drum kit, Chris Raines paused to capture what was about to begin. Huddled around the studio, the five members of Norma Jean began jamming with their honorary sixth, and a brief sense of awe passed through the room. Mere fans prior, they were now co-creators with Chino Moreno from the Deftones.
“It’s one of those things where you sit down to practice and write, and then it’s Chino there,” gushed Raines. “That kind of thing is like ‘Wow.’”
The two-day session with Moreno challenged the band to push boundaries never crossed—perhaps contributing, in part, to their most diverse and critically acclaimed album to date.
In its first week of sales, The Anti-Mother soared to number 29 on the Billboard Top 200, number two on the Christian chart and number four on the Hard Music chart.
“I think I learned, especially on this record, that less is more,” Raines explained. “Playing with Chino, I saw that he really digs that. There were a lot of times I was laid back and played a beat really hard, but with a groove, and he’d get really stoked on it.”
Raines likened it to one of his favorite bands, Motley Crue. “Tommy Lee never did anything that was like, ‘Woah, that’s insane,’ but it was all so perfect. I went in with that mentality, knowing I could add stuff later to the live show.”
And headlining the cross-country Solid State Records tour, which began earlier this month, is allowing Norma Jean’s beat keeper to do just that. The group spent the weeks leading up to the tour fine-tuning their set, and remembering how to play songs from The Anti-Mother.
The album continues to drift away from Norma Jean’s (and their earlier incarnation, Luti-Kriss’) previous releases. Moving from pure and utter chaos, they’ve added more structure and uncovered elements that were hidden under the bowel-shaking intensity from the past.
“I personally think a good band never really finds their sound,’ Raines said. “If I was a Norma Jean fan and bought the same record every time, it would be boring.”
And that attitude shows in his character.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Raines’ desire to continually rearrange parts only increases with time. He says if he had the chance to re-record parts on The Anti-Mother he’d go back and make those changes– it will never be perfect in his eyes, but Raines says he’s definitely proud of it.
But there are those fans who long for the way things were.
“Any band that’s done more than two records will hear that the first one is better,” he said laughing. “We always hear kids asking why we don’t play super heavy stuff, but we just do what we want. And there’s always this extreme fan base that never strays, which is really awesome.”
Not only does the quintet thrive off of their fans’ support, but also from growing in their faith together as a group. Raines explains that on tour, accountability between them is a crucial aspect in keeping them grounded.
“We take time out of our day to pray together,” he said. “For instance, if we sit down to have a meeting for anything – from an upcoming tour to what happened on stage that day – we incorporate prayer to find out God’s will in it.”
From the title of the new album, to the accompanying artwork showcasing a beehive within a human heart, it’s evident the group is weary about stepping into something without the knowledge that it’s God’s will for them.
Raines explains that The Anti-Mother stems from the idea that certain things within us may seem good and well-intentioned, but deception lurks closely behind it.
“It’s not a concept record at all,” he cautioned. “It’s that idea of will, and being strong. The Anti-Mother is this perfect, nurturing thing. And then there’s that evilness and downside to it.” Perhaps a discouraging thought at first, but the album unravels both the birth and death of the Anti-Mother.
However, sometimes the hopeful sentiments that stem from their faith gets lost on those intent to hold on to their moral magnifying glass.
“We constantly hear people saying we’re not Christian anymore, because we don’t talk from stage and maybe our lyrics are so dark you can’t see anything in them,” Raines said, with a hint of frustration in his voice. “But (our faith) is really important to us. We don’t feel it’s our place to speak from the stage. But we are really tight, and we spend a lot of time together talking about that stuff.”
One topic of conversation that they’re holding off on now is their future. Norma Jean’s latest chart crasher completes their contract with Solid State, opening up potential options and attractive suitors. But the lure of a lucrative offer is far from their thoughts.
“Right now our main concern is this record,” asserted Raines. “If we were talking about that stuff now that’d be all we cared about, and the record would be lost. We want to promote this record, give it some touring and get as many people as we can to hear it and then go from there.”