As far as torch-bearers for the next generation of metal bands go, you’d be hard-pressed to pass on the flame to anyone but Pittsburgh metallic hardcore outfit Code Orange. From the age of fifteen, the act have been focused on grinding away, with not even a global pandemic stopping them in their relentless pursuit of excellence and world-building.
“We don’t know what the next six months have in store as far as performances go”, a breathless but excited Jami Morgan notes when we take ten to discuss the band’s groundbreaking release Underneath. “We’re doing a whole bunch of videos, we’re gonna do commentary, we’re trying to put new merch up in time for these opportunities…we’re just rushing around and grinding day by day still.”
Jami describes himself as the “ideas man”, adding that “the band let me be that so I just throw stuff out and they figure out stuff. I can’t stop. I had a list of ideas today going on my computer called ‘quarantine ideas’…we’re working on art for a DVD that we decided to do today…that’s just how we do it.”
Chatting to Jami, the frontman of an outfit on the brink of changing the scene forever, is an intense experience – almost as intense as the music his band releases. Code Orange’s celebrated third LP Forever saw their extreme take on hardcore crash out of the underground and into the broader music consciousness. The following years saw them propelled onto the biggest festival stages worldwide, earning them slots performing for WWE events, on late-night TV and getting their merch repped by pop stars around the world.
However, despite the endless opportunities now landing at their feet, Code Orange’s dedication to the craft of creation was such that they opted to drop off a bill supporting Slipknot to focus on finishing off what would become Underneath.
“Mix 25 was when we got to the point when we had to turn it in to our label for the release date – that was the point when it was done for us”, says Jami. “Artists that are like that – sometimes it’s because they’re not prepared – but we’re prepared, we just don’t stop refining the entire time. Sometimes we see some people rushing because they haven’t done what they need to do.”
Like all other Code Orange releases, Underneath is conceptually deep, continuing the idea of the inner monster of humanity growing in an increasingly digital world – as above, so below. “It’s a continuation of the story that we’ve been telling”, explains Jami, noting that even the cover art reflects the narrative.
“It’s the inner monster that was scarred from I Am King, burned on Forever and has had to build up and protect itself. It’s like this monster trapped in this glass shell of perception and technology, which reflects this world that we live in now – I try to reflect that with everything, be it the samples, the lyrics, the riffs – everything. It rewards people who have listened to us in the past – there’s a lot of connections here to the last records, people just have to find them.”
It’s clear that the art comes first for Code Orange, and the allures of the industry – no matter how enticing – won’t be enough to send them off course. “Nobody tells us what to do about shit” Jami exclaims. “I’m not worried about that…we’ve been touring since we were fifteen, we’re not worried about anything imaginary – we focus on real life and where we’re at right now.”
It’s a lovely sentiment for a band that has achieved so much success, but Code Orange aren’t stopping there, with Jami aiming his arrows much higher than where they’re at right now.
“Forever did a lot for us…but there’s so much bigger this thing can get. It’s just scratching the surface. If we never get to where wanna be, at least we wrote some fucking great records, we never tried to make the songs different for anybody, nobody told us to write Bleeding In the Blur – when we turned that song in people were like ‘are you sure that you want to have this song on this album?’ That’s not what the execs wanted, but we just do what we want – that’s it!”
There’s nothing more metal than that attitude indeed, as Jami affirms the attitude the band have always embodied. “We don’t give a fuck dude – we just make the music that we wanna hear. We never expect everyone to like it. I hope more people like it, I think that we did a great job.”
Jami has every right to stand behind the work the band have created. Underneath has been met with almost universal acclaim, with Metal Hammer giving it a rare 10/10 review and the Guardian labelling it as a “thrill.” Having said that, to Jami and Co., it’s just another step on what hopefully is a long and expansive road.
“We would love to score films, we would love to work on a video game soundtrack – we just have to make sure that everything we do comes from a place of artistic integrity,” says Jami on the band’s more outlandish ambitions.
“Stuff never comes to us – that’s very very rare. Hopefully it’ll start now that we’re getting a bit more popular, but generally we have to find it and make it happen.”