Code Orange (Jami Morgan)
Some bands feel like they’ve achieved everything after releasing a few albums, whereas others feel like they’ve still got their whole career ahead of them. For drummer and vocalist Jami Morgan, Code Orange sits in the grey in-between area.
It’s been a surreal few years for the Pittsburgh outfit who started jamming as kids and quickly rose to international success. The drastic leap from local house shows to touring nationally with Deftones has no doubt been a change of pace, but Code Orange have risen to the occasion every single time. Now they continue to strive for more with the release of their third studio album Forever.
Ahead of the album’s release this week, Jami took some time out to talk to us about the process of writing Forever, connecting with fans, and what keeps the band consistently driven.
Forever is coming out soon. How long have you been working on it for?
A couple of years – we probably started around the time of the last album coming out. We worked on it for a long time. Our guitar player Shade spent a couple years learning a lot of instruments for it, like synths and computer programs. We’ve put a lot of effort into it.
It’s interesting that you’re using synths and computer programs when you’re creating music in a heavy, guitar-based genre. Do you take much influence from other styles of music?
100 percent! Even bands that used to be on Roadrunner [Records], like Type O Negative and Fear Factory, they incorporated that kind of stuff. Godflesh incorporated electronics in heavy music and of course there’s Nine Inch Nails. There’s always been the incorporation of electronics into dark music for the past 20 or 25 years. I feel like we have our own take on it, which is influenced by a lot of that but it’s also influenced by, like you said, other kinds of music – the production on hip hop records, film scores and soundscapes.
Do you ever worry about what people are going to think of your music, or do you just write for yourselves and leave it at that?
Those thoughts always go through every human’s mind no matter what they say, but at the end of the day I’m not worried. Do I think about it? 100 percent. Am I worried about it? No. Instead, what kept me up at night was thinking we were going to make a record that I was going to put on my headphones and I wasn’t going to believe it. So I believe in this shit 100% and I’m going to bang on everybody’s door until they get it too, and if they don’t that’s on them, but I’m going to try my best.
I feel like that stance you and the band have of backing yourselves from the start has really championed your success. Now you have a large group of people who connect with your music so intensely. How does it feel in live shows when you have a bunch of sweaty kids in a room reacting so strongly to these things that you’re feeling?
I think I feel it even more when I actually talk to people, just because I’ve seen a lot of bands play a lot of shows and there’s been a lot of bands who have played one show one year where everyone’s gone crazy, and then the next year nobody gives a shit. So it means a lot to me when I talk to the kids and see the ones who really do understand it and it does connect with them – that’s what I value the most. I feel that we’ve very grateful to be kids from Pittsburgh that have started to get our own little following going. I think that following is going to grow and I’m excited to see how it all plays out.
What is it about the hardcore scene that makes it so cathartic for people?
It’s the most poignant type of music. It’s very to the point, it gets done quickly and you can release all that shit that you have and that everyone has, which people don’t get to release. I think it probably stops a lot of people from doing a lot of bad things. I will support the hardcore scene until the day I die and I’m lucky to go anywhere [because of] it.
You’ve been making music together since you were 14, how do you manage to stay on the same page?
We don’t stay on the same page! We fight all the damn time, but we’re on the same page on what the band is, and we don’t fight about what we know is good or not because we know what’s good most of the time. We fight over the process because the process is tough. Being in a family, that’s also kind of a job, that’s also your favourite thing to do and your passion, its very blurred lines. But we’re grateful to be able to do what we’re doing.
We can’t believe how much we’ve been able to accomplish from being kids in Pittsburgh who were barely able to get on opening shows in Pittsburgh, much less a big hardcore show, much less a hardcore festival, much less playing with Deftones on tour! So there’s that aspect – we’re very hungry. We constantly need to be fed by new achievements, and when we’re not fed by new achievements, that’s when it’ll end.
What helps you keep that hunger over all the years? It obviously can’t be all smooth sailing.
We want it! We want it more than anyone wants it and everyone’s going to see that. The only way you get what you want is if you don’t just complain about it and you work your ass off, so we’re working our asses off to achieve any goals we have. The drive comes from the work, and vice versa.
So what can we expect from Forever?
I think you can expect a dark, painful, creative, chaotic but cathartic but dynamic record that is a hardcore record, but a new kind of hardcore record – at least to us. I don’t think you can ball it up into anything but ‘oh that’s Code Orange’. There’s influences coming from all over the place, some of the aforementioned artists, but we want to create our sound. People try and tell me all the time that there’s something wrong with that, that it’s arrogant or something. No that’s not arrogant – no one’s ever going to tell me that there’s something wrong with that. We want to create our sound and we want people to look back at our sound, and if that wasn’t our goal, to me, there’s no reason to exist.
Well, why wouldn’t you want to keep getting better?
People stop wanting to get better when they realise the work that it takes. Everyone wants to be this or that but the work is the part that sucks and people don’t want to swallow that. I have a lot of respect for people like you who are working hard doing your job, and I have a lot of respect for bands, but I feel like we have our own take and if I’m not showing that to people then I’m doing it wrong. There’s a lot of other bands who like to let their music speak for themselves but that just isn’t me. We don’t think we’re better than anyone else, we just think we have our own thing to bring. The fact that everyone wants to stop people from feeling good about what they’re doing is the sickest culture we live in now.
What do you hope Forever will add to the hardcore scene?
I don’t know what it’s going to add to the scene but I’m happy that it’s going to add to the continuing legacy that we want to build. When I put on our records and look at our shirts and videos, I want to feel like we’ve put out what’s been stewing in my head this whole time. That’s my goal, I think this continues that.
Forever is Code Orange’s Roadrunner Records debut, set to be released January 13. Pre-order the album via the band’s website here.