Code Orange Comes Home
Longtime friends Jami Morgan, Reba Meyers, Joe Goldman, Eric Balderose, and Dominic Landolina are the five young Pittsburghers who make up the genre-bending metalcore band Code Orange. If 2018 proves to be anything like 2017, get ready to see them all over the damn place. Last year, the quintet made an orange-tinged splash on the cover of Revolver Magazine. They earned the coveted #1 on Rolling Stone’s 20 Best Metal Albums of 2017 list. Their brutal, heavy-hitting song "Forever" was crowned Best Metal Song of 2017 by Loudwire. They infamously became the first band ever to perform on WWE’s NXT Takeover. SiriusXM's wildly popular Liquid Metal station played them nonstop following the January '17 release of their album "Forever", which subsequently launched them to #1 on The Devil's Dozen Countdown by the end of the year. The impressive list goes on, including colossal Code Orange video billboards prominently displayed in Times motherfucking Square. But the biggest news came in November when the nominees for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards were announced. The mainstream music industry had taken note, and Code Orange was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Metal Performance category, making them the first rock band from Pittsburgh to ever be nominated for a Grammy. There is no denying it, Code Orange had an incredible year and are certainly a ferocious force to be reckoned with. But, where did they come from? And what do their lives look like on a day when they aren't touring, recording, writing, practicing, or attending the Grammy Awards? I sat down with the tenacious group on a dreary Sunday in Pittsburgh to find out more.
Code Orange (formerly Code Orange Kids) was born at Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School downtown in 2008, with most of the members growing up in the Squirrel Hill and Greenfield area. These days, Morgan, Goldman, and Landolina live in a comfortable shared house in Squirrel Hill, which serves as a home base of sorts for the band. I met them there for an afternoon interview, where they lounged among two big, squishy couches and a chair nestled tightly around a giant flatscreen. Some pops of color jumped out to brighten the living room, including the framed artwork for a recent Pittsburgh CityPaper cover featuring an illustration of Code Orange determinedly reaching for a Grammy Award in a frenzied sea of people. A bookshelf filled almost entirely with VHS tapes lined one wall, "Don't judge me," whispered guitarist Dom Landolina when he spied me eyeing the collection. "This is kind of like our meeting spot," said bassist Joe Goldman. Outspoken drummer and vocalist Jami Morgan added, "There are a lot of good restaurants here, we like the small-town-big-city vibe. We wanted to live near Murray and Forbes. We just kinda walk up there, there's good food and a grocery store and everything." Mineo’s Pizza House (where Landolina used to work), Aiello’s, Napoli, and Bull River Taco are among some of their favorite dining destinations in Squirrel Hill. "We pretty much like all the restaurants on Murray Ave.," Goldman said matter-of-factly. "They know us by name at Napoli," laughed guitarist/vocalist Reba Meyers. Meyers currently resides in nearby Braddock, and Balderose lives in the North Side area. The group also has space in Mt. Oliver where they practice, convene, and prepare for tours.
Since its inception, Code Orange has played shows at venues all over Pittsburgh; from the small DIY music venue Mr. Roboto Project, to opening for heavy metal giants Gojira at the North Shore’s 2,400 capacity Stage AE last May. "Now, we usually play the mid-range-kinda clubs. We played Rex [Theater] last time–this time we're playing Mr. Smalls–for, like, our headline shows," said Morgan, as the five reminisced about the various shows they've played in their home town over the years. "We used to like to play Altar Bar when it was open, a bunch of us used to work there. My friend used to hire us to load-in for bands and shit. So, we used to like to play there because we knew everybody." They also give big credit to Manny Theiner, the owner of now-defunct Garfield Artworks, who booked many shows for them in Pittsburgh in the band’s early days. But even after performing at nearly every venue in town (not to mention hundreds of venues around the world), they say they would be excited to see a music venue come to their quaint Squirrel Hill neighborhood. "It would be more of like a hardcore kinda thing, but I would love to open something here down the road some day," entertained Morgan. They have toured with and opened for many high profile names in the rock, metal, and punk world; including Deftones, Meshuggah, System of a Down, Antiflag, Hatebreed, and Gojira. When asked who their bucket-list band to tour with or support might be, Morgan said "We wanna do the big ones that make sense, like Slipknot. Nine Inch Nails is one of our favorite bands, we'd love to do that one. Slipknot because I feel like we could really get those fans. They have the energy that would really vibe with our crazy energy." He added whole heartedly, "But we wanna be that next band. At the same time though, we're not going to sacrifice our creative. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, then we're still going to make records we like." On June 1, 2018, Code Orange will be headlining a highly-anticipated show at Mr. Smalls in Millvale, making it their first hometown show in over a year. Be there or be square, fools.
"NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS, I FEEL 100% THAT WE ARE GOING TO MAKE A REALLY BIG IMPACT ON THIS KIND OF MUSIC."
- JAMI MORGAN OF CODE ORANGE
When recalling their recent trip to the Grammys, it was not met without some disappointment. While they did indeed attend the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, Mastodon–not Code Orange–ended up taking home the prize for Best Metal Performance this year. "It's good that Mastodon won, but they should have won five years ago when it would have changed something for them. They deserve it though, they're an important band," said Morgan pragmatically. Deadpan, he adds, "But we're gonna win one, it's gonna happen. We need to win one, so we're gonna win one. You have to envision it over and over again to make it happen. Visualization is really important. No matter what anyone says, I feel 100% that we are going to make a really big impact on this kind of music."
With all their incredible world-wide success, it is quite surprising to learn that Code Orange is not being played (or even mentioned) on the local radio stations in Pittsburgh. 'The radio stations here need to play us real bad, it's ridiculous honestly," Morgan said bluntly. "Pittsburgh has influenced us a lot, we grew up here and learned everything here. Not being played on the radio is the difference between us headlining Mr. Smalls vs. Stage AE. We would be able to sell double the amount of tickets for our shows here if they just played us once in a while. It’s really important and would really help us a lot." I was shocked by this. How can such an significant band not be getting played on its local radio stations? What's the reasoning there? We are The City of Champions, after all, and Code Orange should truly be recognized as one of our finest examples of that title. 105.9 The X, if you're reading this, you are in the unique and powerful position of being able to decide whether one of Pittsburgh's most important bands gets its much-deserved airtime in our city and surrounding area. Think about that for a moment, and please act accordingly.
As winter makes its slow and muddy transition into spring, Code Orange has some rare downtime to focus on writing new songs, practicing, prepping for their next tour, and spending precious time at home. In April, they will hit the road again for a tour overseas, beginning in the UK. They may not have taken home the Grammy this time around, but you can be sure that Code Orange is here to stay. They possess the hunger, energy, confidence, and raw talent to take the world by storm. Pittsburgh is lucky to have them.