2017 is going to start with a nuke-sized bang with the release of Code Orange’s third album, Forever. Their Roadrunner Records debut following two releases on Deathwish Inc., the album is monstrous in scope and style, layering this Pittsburgh quartet’s already vicious hardcore with noise, post-punk and industrial. Building off the darkness that permeated 2014’s bleakly triumphant I Am King, Forever wallows in its violence, loathing and solace. There’s much to be said on that, and thankfully, I had a chance discuss the album with drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan and vocalist/guitarist Reba Meyers. Catch it after the break.
Since releasing I Am King in 2014, the band’s exposure has grown considerably, to include touring with well-known bands like Deftones and playing last year’s Mayhem Festival. With that increased visibility, how has your approach as a constantly touring and working band evolved?
Jami: I think we have always had a good work ethic and will continue to grind as long as we feel fulfilled artistically and are growing in the way we want to grow. Those were awesome experiences we are extremely grateful to have and we would love to do more things like that, while balancing it with playing shows with contemporaries that we love. The approach is definitely a little different at a bigger show where no one knows who we are, but we try to approach it with the same confidence and poise. I think that stands out to people. I think we are very confident in what we are doing and are always working hard to get better. There’s a real thrill you get playing in front of a ton of new people.
Having released your first two albums on Deathwish Inc., how has working with a larger label like Roadrunner Records been different and how did this signing come about?
Jami: It has been great so far. They started coming around our shows a year or two ago. They have made a lot of classic records and we hope help usher in a new era of that.
Reba: We first met the Roadrunner guys when a few of them came out to our shows during our Kings Of War tour with Twitching Tongues back in the fall two years ago. We all love their hardcore/metal alumni of Sepultura, Type o Negative, Machine Head, Life of Agony…etc. and just felt that we’d be able to create a new path for ourselves using their built up resources and reputation from that era. They were always completely supportive with our needs of having complete creative control with our music, ideas and imagery. That was of primary importance to us, first and foremost. The main difference has been that they just have such a huge team helping us out, more than we’ve had in the past, and they will hopefully be able to put our name out to different worlds – because if they do, we are totally confident we’ll be able to impress the shit out of those new worlds.
What was the writing process like regarding Forever and where there any new approaches taken not present when writing prior material?
Jami: We worked very hard on this record with zero limitation. We had a very strong idea of what we wanted to get across and I think I Am King was a great jumping off point for that. We went a lot further down roads we have fiddled with in the past and tried to experiment while keeping it hard hitting and poignant.
Kurt Ballou alone produced your prior LPs, while Will Yip produced Adventures’ debut, Supersonic Home. What changes did Yip bring to Code Orange sound and how did his and Ballou’s respective methods complement and contrast each other in creating Forever?
Reba: Kurt and Will both come from two pretty different sonic and musical worlds which worked really well for us when doing Forever. We were able to pull from each of them in the ways they shine; for Kurt, the real raw heaviness and strength of the instrumentals, and for Will, the vocals and vocal performances, electronics, and tons of layering and experimentation. It was definitely tough mixing it all together, making it work, since Kurt and Will have very different processes, but we were psyched to be able to get the best of both worlds in the end. Will has always understood our band and helps us expand on our visions and goals. We only want to work with people who understand where we are going and what we want, and can add their strengths and ideas to our table, and if that is the case, we almost always stick with them. Kurt also totally knows that, and lets us take the reins and gives us support in the areas that he has tons of experience with, and that’s why we always work with him.
Your last album was surrounded by a dark and esoteric online campaign, what were the motives behind that and how has that approach carried over with exposing Forever?
Jami: We wanted to stand out and do something different that related to our interests and vibe. I feel those things are extremely important to the promotion of a record. It helped us create a groundswell. I think on this record we want to capitalize on the swell and build on it as much as we possibly can. Build on our sonics, our vibe, our imagery. There are many elements that make up what I like about a band. We want to keep growing those things.
The stories in the video are purposefully opaque, can you elaborate on the narrative thread that connects them? How does this also connect to the similar cover artwork for both albums?
Jami: I think it’s very important to have a strong artistic aesthetic. That’s something that I think about on every level, from every shirt we’ve ever done to every promo poster to every video to everything. I’m obsessed with all those aspects and we want to keep all our material strung together in that way from the last record on. We are following in the footsteps of a lot of our favorite bands in that respect. That’s something I really feel we didn’t have before I Am King. And not everyone is going to like it, but it’s important to me. I like to keep the narrative a little opaque. But if you watch closely you can piece it together and you might just catch some things that are hidden in there as well.
Forever combines the direct approach and absurd heaviness of I Am King with the daring outlandishness of Love is Love / Return to Dust all while retaining its own sense of overwhelming gloom. As your newest work, how do you feel it compares with your back catalog?
Jami: I think that I Am King was re-setting the table and re-establishing ourselves and I think on this record we were able to take it a lot farther the way we have in the past but with a much more focused approach. I am very proud of that. I feel it is our best record by a longshot. It’s our most focused, most diverse, heaviest, darkest and most dynamic release.
While at its center, Forever feels like a metalcore record, the album weaves stark influences throughout that include industrial elements ranging from Nine Inch Nails to Godflesh, bleak synthpop akin to Depeche Mode and even alternative rock. In breaking away from formula, what inspired the marriage of these influences with your sound? What other artists influenced you here?
Jami: Those influences were definitely very prevalent among others, but I think our goal was to take nods from different artists that we like and try to mix it into something that sounds new in some kind of way. We don’t want to be a throwback or a carbon copy of anything or anybody. We are influenced by many forms of music and we definitely injected some new elements this time. But at the end of the day I want the record to sound like us, and the best us we can be. And “us” is something we can constantly redefine.
Code Orange’s past albums have been unique, strange and unyielding in their ferocity and intimacy, with Forever exemplifying these qualities in spades. With this progression in mind, how did the band set out in adding to what I Am King accomplished?
Jami: To me this album is our Empire Strikes Back. I wanted this album to represent the pain, blood, and tears we put into this band while being as dynamic as we possibly could, and as I’ve said – I Am King was getting a seat at the table – Forever is flipping it over. And when I put my headphones on and listen I think we accomplished that and no matter what happens because of that I can sleep at night.
Tonally and lyrically, Code Orange is in stark contrast to your other project, Adventures. Personally, how do these two projects serve individually as expressive outlets?
Reba: As you said, they are two very individual separate projects. It’s a whole other side of us. I wrote the majority of the lyrics along with Kimi (our keyboard player), and we also wrote a bulk of the songs’ foundations together, with a process a mindset that is extremely different than how Code Orange songs are written. Just because of that, tonally the songs are going to have a different feel. Also, we did the band during a time when we were experimenting in different musical worlds and were all just excited to write and play. We all love and listen to different realms of music, and as we were growing up we wanted to explore all those sorts of outlets, and Adventures was that and a learning process as well. Code Orange is and was always the heart of our group though, and we’re 100% above focused on that right now.
Going forward as artists, what directions do you see Code Orange going? Will the departure from hardcore heard on Forever continue?
Reba: There will absolutely not be any departure from hardcore. There is a clear mix of colors and genres in our music, and always has been, but hardcore is our culture and our realm. Hardcore isn’t a one dimensional genre, and our band is an expansion on many different facets of it. But overall it’s where we’re from and where we grew up, and our goal has never been to depart from that. We want to bring the outside world into it, let them see it, see that it’s more real here and in your face than the other fake contrived bands that are shoved down their throats.
What plans does Code Orange have for 2017 following Forever’s release, including tours? What plans are in line for your other projects?
Reba: Our main focus is Forever. Pushing it and getting it out there everywhere we can. We are touring starting January 17th around the US for our first Forever tour with Youth Code, a heavy electronic duo from LA, and then split up regional support from a real mixed group of bands, all very great individual, dark thematic bands. Nicole Dollanganger, Lifeless, Disgrace, and Gatecreeper.
Any parting words?
Jami: Thank you so much for the great questions and the consistent support. Outlets like this have done everything for us – this one in particular – so thank you very much.
Reba: Thank you!
Forever is set for a 1/13/17 release. Pre-orders are available here.