"This Was It": Normal Park Reflects on Its Decade-in-the-Making Debut Album
“So we’ll take process over outcome,” Jordan Mosley sings—or rather yells— on the sixth track, “settle,” from Normal Park’s this was it.
Mosley is the lead vocalist of an Ypsilanti fuzz-rock band of three high school friends who have been making music together for over a decade. Mosley is joined by drummer McKinnon Main and guitarist Anthony (Tony) Scott. Last October, the group finally finished the process and seized an outcome: its debut album, this was it.
Nestled midway through the album is one of the group’s favorite and most important tracks, “settle.” Like any great Midwest emo song, it begins on the porch. You can practically smell the American Spirits when you tune in.
“‘Cause staying in is much like going out / at least when we still had the choice / but since we don’t we can just make it easier to / settle the mind behind these red-laced bedroom eyes,” the chorus rings.
Although it may sound like an ode to quarantine, “settle” raises questions about fate, the promise of temporary relief, and what the future holds. It starts with a dance on the porch, teetering between going out and staying in, and by the end, you’re invited inside.
“It was kind of a lynchpin where it seemed to connect all the songs around it,” Scott said. “But it also felt like a real step forward lyrically for us. To step out of our comfort zone instrumentally was also a driving factor, and we really felt like we had something at that point.”
this was it is a two-household kid. Main and Scott live together, only about a mile away from Mosley. Right between their residences is the band’s practice space, which is located in the basement of a disheveled house that doubled as a “quarantine” office space for Main’s dad during the pandemic.
It was here where this was it saw its start and at Wyandotte’s Eureka Records where it was recorded. With help from Tyler Floyd and Daniel Zasadny, the 10 songs were polished, as much as Midwest emo can be.
“When we were done conceptualizing it and began the recording process, we realized we have a new space, new resources, and a lot of material to work with,” Mosley said. “We thought we should start considering it as an actual thing—not just a concept. Then the whole world shut down, and we had nothing else going on. No more excuses.”
Normal Park wasn’t sure how much truly went into making a record. The band understood the skeleton. The members had been writing and playing together for years, but when it came down to the nitty gritty details of forming and producing it, the band realized it only knew about two-thirds of the process. Normal Park even shifted its approach to songwriting.
“I don’t want to diminish their meaning because this was the first time we really took a stab at the lyrics being intentional,” Main said.
The lyricism of this was it reflects a full understanding of how to weave the personal with the abstract, though. Tracks like the title, “cold jam,” capture a sense of exhaustion with winters, both literal and spiritual, even when we know they’re coming.
It begins by noting the curtains freezing and ends with an introspective invitation, “Can’t help but wonder if / if we’ll only know happiness when we’ve lost it.”
“When I think about the meaning of the album, first and foremost, I think about how it felt like the first time that we really tried to figure out every step of the process that goes into writing, recording, editing, refining, polishing, and mixing,” Main said. “Every single check mark along the way.”
this was it is a definitive moment for Normal Park. It’s a testament to the band's determination, its ability to create meaningful music, and an homage to each member's high school self. There’s no better place to listen to Normal Park than in Michigan. Perhaps on a porch with a cigarette in hand.
Alexandra Hall is a Hillsdale College student and the writer and editor of Rocka Magazine.
Normal Park will perform February 25 with Moonwreckers, Cosmic Sans, and West of Windsor at Corktown Tavern, 1716 Michigan Ave. in Detroit. The band also will perform March 10 with FinalBossFight! at Ziggy’s, 206 W. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti.