When I first heard of Code Orange Kids, I was blown away by the power and vitality of their music. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they combine the energy of hardcore with intelligent songwriting, finding a balance between raw power, emotional authenticity and well-crafted song structures. After signing to Deathwish Inc. and releasing the successful and praiseworthy split with Full of Hell as released in April, 2012 has continued to be a banner year for the young band as they tour Europe and record an album with Kurt Ballou of Converge at his famous God City Studios. With Code Orange Kids‘ star very much in ascent, Natalie Zed sat down with vocalist and guitarist Reba Meyers.
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How did you first fall in love with heavy music? How did you get introduced to the genre, and then begin playing it?
I first started getting into punk when I was in middle school. Our drummer Jami and I played music together sometimes, and always talked about music, looking for new bands to get into. In high school we all started Code Orange Kids, which began as just a straight up punk band, but our tastes grew in a bit of a heavier direction. Over the years we eventually started going to more shows at places like Pittsburgh’s DIY venue Mr. Roboto Project. Everyone there was super supportive of us and our band, even though we were seriously terrible, and because of them we kept on playing shows and watching more new bands. That’s basically what introduced me to a lot of new music and is a big part of how Code Orange Kids have turned into what we are now.
What is the origin story of Code Orange Kids? Tell me your collective superhero (or supervillain?) back story.
Jami and I had been playing music together for a while beforehand, but Code Orange Kids really started in the beginning of high school when we met Eric. We didn’t sound much at all like we do now, but we all hung out all the time and got into new music together. We were fortunate to all be on the same page in that we wanted to tour and continue doing the band as much as possible. So we started touring and changing our sound a lot during out last year of high school, and made the collective decision to push it as far as we could.
I first became aware of you guys when I heard the excellent split you did with Full of Hell. Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing and recording that record? What was it like to work with those guys?
Thanks! We started writing the split a bit after we moved to Philadelphia for a while. Those few months were pretty different for all of us and I think some of those emotions definitely came through in the split songs. We were all going through transitions and experiencing new things, so it was good timing that we started working on the split then. It gave us a chance to put part of ourselves into something and a place to channel all of the aggression and other feelings that were coming up at the time.
Overall it was great being able to work with Full Of Hell. They have a lot of similar musical ideas to ours and we have always connected with them really well. I feel like both sides of the split were intertwined in an interesting way, and when listening to their side transition into ours, it all fits really well together. They’re great guys and an amazing band, and since we’re all close friends, working with them was a blast. We recorded with our friend Kevin Bernstein up in Baltimore, and it was the first time we had recorded anywhere besides our hometown in our friend’s basement, so that in itself was great since it allowed us to branch out a bit. Plus Kevin did a sick job, so it all worked out super well.
Code Orange Kids. Photo by Tanner Douglass.
You recently signed to Deathwish Inc. Has the process of getting such a strong response from labels so early on in your careers been entirely awesome or sometimes overwhelming?
Well, I personally don’t have much else that I really care about besides the band, so having a positive response from anyone about something that I put my all into is always entirely awesome. The thought that the little musical ideas we created ended up leading such an amazing label like Deathwish to reach out to us is amazing and hard to wrap my head around. So maybe it can be a bit overwhelming at times, but all four of us communicate well, which helps take away most of the stress when making important decisions.
You’ve just recorded a full-length with Kurt Ballou. What was it like having such an incredible environment for your first real studio experience? How did it change the record?
We were pretty nervous going into it, but Kurt was super cool and very easy to work with, which made the whole experience go very smoothly. Kurt caught on super quick to the musical ideas we had and helped us tremendously when it came down to finding the sounds we were aiming for, and that shaped the record. Also, having so much diverse equipment and so many options available to us with the full studio made it a lot easier for us to expand the record in the way that we wanted. I think that because of those options and the fact we had longer than a couple of days to record, the record ended up having a lot more diversity in sounds and tones than our previous stuff.
You are always sure to list Kimi as a member of the band for being responsible for your art. How is Kimi responsible for shaping Code Orange Kids?
It’s hard for me to really put in words how Kimi has shaped Code Orange Kids, but basically, as far as the art goes she has helped so much with creating the image, the visual aspect of the band, and helping that image mature. She is always there to connect the art to the music and make the whole package feel complete. As our music grew, her art grew right with it in a direction that continues to work perfectly with us. She is just a great friend of ours and has always supported our band to the death, and having her devoting so much time to our art is an extremely fortunate thing.
You are an incredibly young band. Do you ever find your youth makes some things particularly challenging?
For the most part, being young only helps us in that we are all so eager to get on the road and to write new music. It’s so easy to be creative at this point in our lives, since we’re changing so often and experiencing so many new things. We’re all still feeling a lot of intense emotions and need an outlet for them, so writing comes very honestly and naturally. We haven’t reached the point where we just want to relax, although I guess I don’t know for sure if we ever will.
For me, it can be a bit challenging being young in that I find myself dwelling over the thought that I’m not taking advantage of the opportunities that I have now, and that I might not have them later on. I know that I have to make sacrifices in order to do what I want to do most, which is Code Orange Kids, so in the end it doesn’t really matter. There are challenges that you are going to face when you are working to be a full-time touring band no matter what age you are, and ours may be different since we’re young, but the challenges will always be there. Hopefully we’ll at least learn how to work around them and past them now and it’ll maybe be a bit less stressful later on.
As a girl in a hardcore band, are you ever treated differently from your band mates, or feel your band is marketed differently because you are a woman? How do you respond to that?
There is so much to say about this topic that it’s difficult to sum it up, but as far as my band mates go, they have always treated me the same and continue to support me. Being a woman doesn’t affect anything between us in any real way, and I know that if I ever genuinely felt like I was being treated differently that I could bring it up to them and we would work it out. We have our discrepancies over little things regarding gender or whatever, but in the end none of it really matters since I know that overall we are definitely all on the same page.
It’s hard to tell how exactly we are marketed, or if we are marketed differently because I am a woman, but it honestly doesn’t really matter to me. The more attention that is drawn to the whole “being a woman in a hardcore band” thing, the more frustrated I get. I don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to worry about it because it really doesn’t matter. I just want to write music and tour and enjoy this while it lasts.
You are very active on Tumblr, which both enables you to stay really connected to your fans, but also means you have to deal with the grosser parts of the internet on a very regular basis. Is this ever challenging?
Tumblr is just something we all do for fun and to try and stay connected with people who care about or listen our band. There are some gross parts to this that come up pretty often, but none of it really matters or has ever actually offended me to the point that I felt upset about it for more than a minute.
What advice would you give to other young women who want to make metal or hardcore a career?
Don’t overthink being a woman in a scene dominated by men. It really doesn’t matter. Just work hard and be as good at what you do as you can, and it will work out just fine. There will always be points in your career that you feel attacked, demeaned, or disregarded because you are a woman, but it’s so worth it to just ignore and overcome all of that.
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Code Orange Kids are a hardcore punk band from Pittsburgh, PA. The band consists of Jami (drums, vocals), Reba (guitar, vocals), Eric (guitar, vocals), and Joe (bass). Current releases of theirs include “Cycles” 7inch (Mayfly Records) and a split 7″ with Full Of Hell, released on Topshelf Records. They are currently signed to Deathwish Inc with an new LP coming in fall 2012. Music can be downloaded from their Bandcamp. Be sure to visit their Facebook page.
Natalie Zina Walschots writes. Her base of diabolical operations is located in Toronto, ON. Her interests include poetry, heavy metal, comic books, video games, gastroporn, sadomasochism, feminism, and supervillainry. www.nataliezed.ca