The past year has been pretty wild for Code Orange. The Pittsburgh metalcore act went from being a fan-favorite act to getting high-critic acclaim in a sweeping moment. They went on tour with acts like Anthrax and Killswitch Engage. They were nominated for a Grammy. Though they’ve been consistent in their work ethic and music since forming in 2008, the members of Code Orange—singer and guitarist Reba Meyers, drummer Jami Morgan, bassist Joe Goldman, and guitarist Dominic Landolina—realized that big opportunities are within reach.
That bump in fame happened after Code Orange release their third LP and major label debut, Forever. The album sees all four members playing heavier than before without losing any of their flair for entertaining twists and briefly catchy turns. Over the course of 11 songs, the band solidified itself as a force to be reckoned with—and that extends to the live shows, too.
“What we want to do with our music is play into people’s psychological feelings and emotions,” says Morgan. “We try to do that in our live set by planning something that’s unexpected as it goes on. There’s a lot of different elements, highs and lows, not just some rah-rah music the whole time. Even on the record, that’s what we try to do. Now, more so than ever, we’re looking at it as a psychological horror experience instead of directly making types of music happen, [while staying in] the lens of hardcore and metal. I want the shows to feel extreme and scary, but not scary physically or for your safety. But it needs to feel like something. In metal right now, there’s so much shit that doesn’t feel like anything; it’s the same routine and it’s become numbing. So I like there to be an element of danger to our shows, and not in the sense of environment, to make it jarring.”
To peel back Code Orange’s tough posturing, we interviewed Jami Morgan for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Forever as the prompt, his answers dart between intense and casual—a preview into the onstage dynamics you can expect when Code Orange headlines the Paradise this Friday.
DIGBOSTON: If you had to do two of your current daily habits, one unhealthy and the other healthy, for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
MORGAN: Hm. I’m going to say, well, I train jujutsu pretty much every day. I would definitely do that forever. I like drinking coffee every day, so I would do that forever, too. I’ve been doing jujutsu for almost four years with Joe. We just got our other guitar player to do it. Our keyboardist used to train with us too, but he hurt his back pretty bad and got his arm ripped out, so he doesn’t anymore. He’s just really fragile, his bones and shit. He did it for a long time but doesn’t anymore. We try to do it on tour, but it’s hard because the van can’t fit mats. Sometimes we try to do it at gyms on tour, but otherwise we just do it when we’re home.
2) “Kill the Creator”
DIGBOSTON: To play off the phrase “kill your darlings,” what’s been the hardest habit, object, or thing you love that you had to ax from your life?
MORGAN: Probably to keep friends. There’s people I meet along the way doing this, you know? We’ve been doing this for years. We started when I was 17 or 18. We met people we thought we would be close to, but we had to cut them off.
DIGBOSTON: Which news story or cause do you believe isn’t getting enough attention?
MORGAN: I feel like people should know more about how many people here don’t have health care or don’t get access to health care. My dad works for the union, so I hear stories about people not being able to afford health care and not having wages they can afford anything on whatsoever. It’s not the people that act like the people they’re made out to be. They aren’t lazy. They’re 60-year-olds who have been working their whole lives. I don’t see much about that. Instead, you hear about stupid-ass shit like the space army that’s going to happen? It’s a big issue that I wish more people had sympathy for instead of that shit.
4) “Bleeding in the Blur”
DIGBOSTON: Who is your favorite British metal band?
MORGAN: British metal? I’m going British rock and I’m going Oasis.
DIGBOSTON: A lot of Americans seem to only know their singles. Are you the type of fan who’s into the full albums?
MORGAN: Hell no. Of course I like the records. Those first couple discs, at least, are unbelievable. There’s some fucking hits on the last few, too. I like the new Liam stuff a lot. Some of the newer Noel stuff is great too. The documentary that came out a year or two ago is great also. It was only a limited run in theaters for like one day, but me and Joe went to see it here. It was fucking amazing. It makes everyone like them. I think it was set up to make them look good, though, all charming and stuff. It’s easy for people to hate on them with all the shit they’ve said over the years, but that [documentary] was the good-guy turn.
5) “The Mud”
DIGBOSTON: When you get stuck in a negative thought or pattern of thinking, what do you tell yourself to pull yourself out of it?
MORGAN: You know, I’ve always been about that in a way. I have people in my life who have a rough time with that, with being stuck in a depressive cycle.When I was in high school and the beginning of college—well, I only went to college for two months, so that [laughs]—I used to write a lot more about those type of feelings and thoughts. I’ve had a lot of them and still do, those intrusive and depressive thoughts. I changed some of that by changing my writing style and thought process to become more self-affirmative and self-empowering. That changed my mental process in a lot of ways, and it’s changed all of our mental processes. Just trying to have self-confidence. There’s a group of us, so we’re lucky, and I sympathize for people who don’t, who are on their own. When you have five people around you that are there for you and really understand your nuances, it’s helpful. Even what I talked about before, the jujutsu and exercise has helped me a lot. I’m sure people have it way worse than I do, but seriously, I recommend that because it helped me so much. It helped my brain chemistry. It just clears stuff up. When I’m not doing that stuff, I find myself going into a negative territory mentally.
6) “The New Reality”
DIGBOSTON: In the current era of US politics, what’s a positive and a negative of our everyday lives?
MORGAN: Politically, it’s definitely all negative, it seems. I don’t even like to think about it because it makes me sick. But then if you don’t think about it, it appears on your doorstep, or on your neighbor’s doorstep. It’s almost becoming cliche to say, but the way our minds are because of how fast the technology is—how quickly things are thrown in your fucking face, and then just completely forgotten—has created a totally different mental pattern than I remember having or my parents having. Like I said, it feels cliche to say, but it’s important to note. Whether it’s music or any medium of entertainment, you need a break from these horrific stories. Yesterday, that rapper XXXTentacion was murdered. Then there was a rapper murdered here the other day, here in Pittsburgh too, called Jimmy Wopo. He was kind of a popular rapper. I don’t know the whole spiel with them, but you feel it. You feel how people forget everything so quickly. It’s already going to be forgotten, and nobody will care in two hours. Nobody cares about anything anymore. Anything you do, someone else can do in two seconds. It’s impossible to stay in your lane. If you’re using this platform to educate yourself, you never know what’s real and what’s not real. It fucks with your mind. We get a lot of positive communication, of course, but there’s still so much negativity. The shit people says is dark. It goes deep. We’re not even a fucking big band. I can’t even imagine what artists who are big go through.
DIGBOSTON: Which movie or TV show spy device do you wish you could use in real life?
MORGAN: Hm. I don’t fucking know. Maybe a little radar to see if someone is a damn spy. That’s what that song is about. Sitting there, drinking in all of your shit, and then they fucking go and tell everyone who will listen. So I need a little flasher thing that Will Smith [in Men in Black] has that I can flash on people’s eyes so they don’t remember anything. People are spying too much. I need one of those—have a conversation with one of these dudes, realize I shouldn’t have said some of these things, and then flash them with the pen thing. The last shit we need is more secret cameras.
DIGBOSTON: What is the ugliest personality trait a person can have?
MORGAN: Disloyalty. Being a friend to all. I’ve almost written about that ad nauseam. I need to stop writing about it. We have a song on our last record [that goes] “Friend to all, loyal to none.” Everyone is friends with everyone but disloyal assholes. Because everyone is just searching for an identity, which I do understand and sympathize with, but it’s a fucking nightmare. That’s what people are like now.
9) “No One Is Untouchable”
DIGBOSTON: When was the last time you felt invincible?
MORGAN: I probably feel that way too much. Sometimes on stage, sometimes talking to people like you, it can hit you like a wave. I wouldn’t say “invincible” ever because my brain is always wondering what bad things could happen, but you do have to have some level of confidence in yourself. Otherwise you will get chewed up and spit out. It’s easy to get in a cycle of beating yourself up too much. If you believe in yourself, then others will. It’s that simple. I’ve seen it myself, and it’s really weird, but it’s true. I never feel untouchable, especially being involved in martial arts because you know how many people can truly fuck you up by putting you in a situation where there is nothing you can physically do about it.
10) “Hurt Goes On”
DIGBOSTON: Are there any trivial grudges you still hold despite them taking place years back?
MORGAN: Fuck yeah. Oh fuck yeah. I’ve got like nine million. We have a fucking list. I can’t let go. I want to let go, but the hate just brews. If it didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be doing this music. It would’ve taken my talents and moved them elsewhere to another place where it would be easier to get by in life. I try to process it so that’s not a danger to me, of course. But we all hold onto it. If I didn’t feel frustration or anger, I couldn’t do what we do every day. Music is a good outlet for that, to put it through a lens that doesn’t just let it out to the whole world. It’s an artistic lens that’s constantly growing and developing, turning grudges or hate into something that can be positive. What’s that Adam Sandler movie with the—oh wait, Billy Madison—the one with a list that says “people to kill.” We’ve got a people to kill list up in the practice spot and we’re crossing that shit off.
DIGBOSTON: Which profession would you want to work in if you weren’t already a musician?
MORGAN: I have no other way. Ever since I can remember, which sounds cliche, I 100 percent knew I would make it in this situation and my friends would as well. I didn’t see another road. I literally can’t, even now, thinking as hard as a possible. The thing is, I don’t want to be a musician either. I don’t like playing music or playing drums in someone else’s band. I want to do this: being creative, playing with friends, making things. We’ve done it all. Me and the band design every single thing we’ve done, whether it’s art, merch, records, anything. That’s what this is about. Learning songs is the worst fucking part of the whole thing. Being a performer and having [outlets] is what I see myself doing. It’s a tunnel to me, and we’re slowly inching forward. We don’t have those overnight jumps [in fame]. This year has been the closest thing we’ve had to that, but even then we’re still inching, inching, inching forward. Thankfully we started young, so we don’t picture it going any other way.
CODE ORANGE, WICCA PHASE SPRINGS ETERNAL, TWITCHING TONGUES, VEIN, TRAIL OF LIES. FRI 6.22. PARADISE ROCK CLUB, 967 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 6PM/ALL AGES/$17. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM