Pleasant Valley Flood by The Normal Living | INTERVIEW
Author: Thommy Delaney
Northern New Jersey band, The Normal Living, has been rocking together for a long time. The band's signature sound is rooted in heartland indie rock and roll seasoned with guitar-driven songs, intricate piano parts, pop-rock vocals, and sophisticated powerful drum parts. Their new EP, "Pleasant Valley Flood," which is their 4th original release, will be released on September 22! This EP, much like their previous releases, contains themes of Americana songwriting that everyone can connect to and love for years to come! Let's have a conversation with the band and find out more about them and their new EP!
Hey, The Normal Living! Congrats on your upcoming EP, "Pleasant Valley Flood," which will be released on September 22nd! Where did the name of your band come from?
The band name actually came from an inside joke between Jon and Liza about not wanting to wash dirty dishes. When we were first starting out, it was just the two of us and we didn't have a band name so people would call us "Sonny and Cher." In order to put an end to that we needed to come up with a band name so we made the joke about dishes be the band name.
Upon listening to this EP, it seems that you have different influences when it comes to songwriting. Who were some artists that you grew up listening to that inspired the tracks on this release?
Liza: I was 1 year old when MTV launched (lol), and I basically grew up with it on TV during large swaths of the day. That was, of course, when it was still just a playlist of videos 24/7. The music I gravitated towards in the 80s MTV era was rock and pop with distinctive vocals and harmonies, like Springsteen, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Pat Benetar, The Pretenders, Heart, Cyndi Lauper, and Madonna. As a teen, Alanis Morisette was really important to me as a young woman who wrote rock songs.
The first song on the EP is called "Hurricane," which is a swirling rock song about picking up the pieces in the aftermath of a storm. What inspired the theme and lyrics of the track?
Liza: "Hurricane" was one of those songs that spilled out of me really fast. The inspiration was a real-life story of someone I knew-who I was close to at one point but then drifted away from- who kept having devastating things happen to her in her life, one after the other, and she kept having to pick up the pieces and start over. She survived storm after storm-including the real storm of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. After that storm hit, like so many other times before in her life, she had to leave everything behind and start over yet again. Still, the character in Hurricane is an unreliable narrator-in her mind, everything that goes wrong in her life is something else's fault. In the end, it's kind of a song about what happens when you let a storm, or your circumstances-or even God-dictate your fate. Do you let yourself get swept away? Do you try to wrestle back some control? What if you can't? What if you fail? So it's sort of about that push and pull between succumbing to what might be a tragic fate vs having agency over your life.
The second song,"Change," is by far my favorite song out of the three tracks. It's described as an uplifting approach of introspection in the face of a life-altering decision. It also features shifting time signatures which really adds to the theme of the track. What is the message that you want people to take from the lyrics of this song?
Amy: The message of "Change" is that we can find peace within ourselves, rather than in our circumstances. When things are shifting around us, what grounds us in the knowledge that we will be okay? This song suggests that creating some space to pay attention to our inner voice and the things that make us feel alive is a good place to start answering that question. This is where we find the strength to take a leap of faith rather than staying in a situation just because it's easier than leaving. My hope is that this song will empower folks who are facing big decisions and encourage folks who are experiencing unsettling life changes.
The last track on the EP is "Pleasant Valley Flood," which tells the story of a woman looking back on her life, pondering the events, twists, turns, thoughts, emotions, and watershed moments that brought her where she is today. Along with fantastic lyrics, the guitars, harmonies, and folksy vocals make this song incredibly catchy. Where did the inspiration for the lyrics come from?
Jon: At first, it started as an attempt to capture the current events of the last 25 years into a song. The initial versions were sort of a "We Didn't Start the Fire" sequel (almost like Fall Out Boy!) where I talked about specific events, people, places and things. After a while, I scrapped that approach and thought about telling a story of a person who lived through all of the big events of my adult life and describing what that would look like. I feel like that second approach worked a lot better and made for a better song and character.
Do you have any shows coming up in the future?
We actually don't have any official shows planned at the moment. We hope to be back there later this year.
Are there any plans to release a new album after the EP is released? If you do, will the vibe be in a similar vein as your upcoming EP?
We do have a group of songs in the vein of the Flood songs on Pleasant Valley Flood that we would like to release in the future. We also have another batch of songs that address different themes and are rooted in different places. We are in the process of sorting through the songs and trying different things. We really like the EP format for our releases so hopefully we can start working on the next one very soon.
Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Liza: Our approach to TNL is to just continue being creators who write songs and make records, in whatever form that takes at a particular moment in our lives. So hopefully that means putting out some new songs when we can, and playing shows when we can; no matter what, we just want to keep putting pen to paper and telling these stories in the way we know how, through songwriting. I have never known a time in my life when I wasn't writing songs, and I will always be singing, til the day I die. I think all of us in TNL approach our music in that same way. It never seems like enough at the time we're doing it, but it accumulates slowly but surely! Now, looking back to when we started in 2009, 14 years ago, it's cool to see our discography slowly building. If you take a look back at our early stuff, we hope you start to hear the larger story that we're telling through our music-Less Radio is all about the movement of young adulthood, trying to find your place, with the analogy of trying to find a place as an artist in an ever-changing music industry landscape. Signals is more focused on participating in a community, or a relationship, once you've sort of become more solid in your own identity. In Say It Out Loud, there's another progression for our characters-it's like, once you've committed to this community, what are you going to say? How are you going to contribute, and find a voice? Pleasant Valley Flood is the next progression too-you've been through something, and now you have to be introspective. Learn from it. Grow from it. Maybe change, maybe reflect.
The seven members of TNL belong to what has been called the "Oregon Trail Generation." They watched MTV rise from its infancy, and then lamented its ultimate transformation. As children of the 80s and 90s, they witnessed first-hand the rise of personal computers, the invention of the Internet, and the emergence of a global community. As adults, they also bore witness to the global cultural shifts that happened after 9/11, and then faced the financial crisis of 2008 as they were beginning to build their careers, families, and livelihoods. In the modern age of music, TNL straddles the divide between analogue and digital in their minds, hearts, and bodies. And their songs are also about straddling a line between youth and adulthood; they write about becoming an adult in the modern age, navigating waters that stretch into an ever-expanding universe.
Sonically, TNL is a unique blend of guitar-driven songs, layered with intricate piano, pop-rock vocals, and powerful yet sophisticated drums. It's American heartland rock for the modern era, for Gen Xers who miss guitars in Top 40 music, who identify with the familiar echoes of 1960s girl groups, and who seek out today's rootsy indie-rock.
For their 2020 release, Say It Out Loud, TNL paired up with producer Chris Badami, who harnessed the growing rock sound of TNL like never before. Strong songwriting paired with Badami's gift for capturing the heart of a band's authentic sound resulted in 6 fresh, high-energy songs. The EP featured the lead single "How It All Went Down," a powerful, up-tempo rock song driving guitars, a powerful rhythm section, crisp vocals and harmonies, and lush piano. It touches on themes of loss, motherhood, and storytelling, working towards a cathartic emotional ending.
Now, TNL & Badami have joined forces again for their latest EP, Pleasant Valley Flood, due out September 22, 2023. Pleasant Valley Flood builds on the sound established in Say It Out Loud, celebrating the intersection of lush heartland rock sounds with storytelling songs. PVF explores themes of change, the passage of time, and the impacts of catastrophe on the story of our lives. With Pleasant Valley Flood, TNL looks to help carry on the story of American songwriting in the millennial age.
About the Author: Thommy Delaney is a Senior Music Business Major at New
Jersey City University. He is also the lead guitarist and a vocalist in the Bayonne
Indie pop-rock band BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with
generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Looking for something new to listen to? Be sure
to follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj on social media and stream their music on