Code Orange may be making national and international headlines with its work, but the members still keep their roots in Pittsburgh, the city that raised them.
When Code Orange was founded in 2008, it was a scrappy local punk band composed of teens hungry to create music and turn heads. Now it’s 2017, and Code Orange is signed to a major label, Roadrunner Records, and about to release Forever, one of the most anticipated metalcore albums in recent history.
Drummer Jami Morgan and guitarist Reba Meyers have been friends since sixth grade, and hooked up with bassist Joe Goldman and guitarist Eric Balderose in the ninth.
The band members’ shared geography and growth together are key to their still-developing sound. Although CO’s sound could be casually classified as metalcore or hardcore, Morgan urges fans to listen closer and hear the influences from Pittsburgh’s noise, rock and punk scenes.
“There are so many scenes in Pittsburgh. It’s totally different from what’s going on in DIY scenes across the country,” Morgan says, “Purely out of ignorance from living here, we just thought we could combine all those genres, that it was normal. It wasn’t until we were touring that we realized it was something different that caught people’s attention.”
It’s the presence of genre-bending nightmarish soundscapes and chilling electronics that make the three singles from Forever stand out from traditional metalcore. It’s a departure from past releases, and it’s a direction that is almost unheard of in the genre that Code Orange primarily occupies.
“I’m an aggressive person, and for this record I wanted to find new colors to paint that with. The electronics and noise are different to tools to do that,” explains Morgan.
Aggression threaded its way through every part of the creative process, and that’s evident on the record. The band members ground through grueling writing sessions, even fighting like only a family can.
“With the drive that we feel, there’s a lot of frustration [during the writing process.] Me and Joe [Goldman] have gotten into fist fights during the process, but it’s all love. We just want to be great so fucking bad,” says Morgan.
While other bands who utilize effects and electronics rely upon sound technicians in a live venue, Code Orange is emulate the record’s sound in concert by adapting older tracks to fit the new lineup and even adding a fifth member, childhood friend and guitarist Dominic Landolina. As a nod to the city that it loves so much, the band will unveil its new live setup and sound on Fri., Jan. 13, at the Rex Theatre.
Guitarist Balderose will continue playing guitar, but he will also be handling the electronics and keyboards. He will create noise compositions to fill the time in between opening acts Incendiary, Wisdom in Chains, Eternal Sleep, Enemy Mind and Drawing Last Breath.
It may seem as if many good things have just happened to come Code Orange’s way, but Morgan attributes the band’s rise to the amount of hustling the band has done since its inception.
“I was 14 when we booked our first show,” Morgan says. “We used to go on tours we booked ourselves during winter breaks in high school.”
Since then, the band has embarked upon 20 full U.S. tours; released six splits and EPs in addition to two studio albums; and earned the support of metalcore veterans like Converge. I Am King, released in 2014, was met with critical acclaim and a surge in followers of mainstream hardcore.
But it’s clear that Code Orange is more than just a hype band. “When you’re not the cool kids in hardcore, and we aren’t, you have to go out and get it. Nothing has been handed to us,” says Morgan.
CO’s hunger and energy has earned them success, but with success comes strange interpersonal conflicts.
“When you try to do things, some people don’t like that. The same people who used to support you and show up to every show turn on you,” says Morgan. “It used to really bother me, but you become numb to it. We have friends and supporters who always have our backs.”
If anything, it seems like the frustration caused by waning friendships further added aggression and fire to an already heavy sound, an aural composition that wordlessly screams, “Fuck you, we’ll take what’s ours.”
Although Code Orange seems like all hard work and no play, Morgan assures that the band does have fun together.
Not only do Goldman and Morgan share a house, but they also spend three nights a week practicing their passion for martial arts at True Believer Jiu Jitsu x Basico in Lawrenceville.
“We just got our blue belts, and I’m really proud of it,” says Morgan, “I’m always encouraging other people to come out and try it.”
The band members also share a passion for another kind of athleticism, albeit a goofy one: professional wrestling.
In addition to attending multiple Wrestlemanias, Morgan attends all the WWE events that come through Pittsburgh. When asked if a wrestling tag-team version of Code Orange would be heel (bad guys) or babyface (good guys), Morgan had mixed feelings.
“I think we’d be heels to some people, babyfaces to others. In my eyes, we’re babyfaces, but sometimes you gotta be a heel, you know?” says Morgan. “Our intro music would be ‘My World’ [off I Am King]. The fact that no one has used it as an intro is crazy to me.”
Morgan expressed an interest in aligning the two passions for Code Orange.
“We’d love to get involved in the wrestling world in some way. Maybe you’ll hear one of our songs during a pay-per-view.”