Code Orange’s Jami Morgan shares the intricacies of ‘The Above’, working with Billy Corgan and more

By Meg Barton

“Life is about building yourself to be able to push through the things that are hard,” says Code Orange’s Jami Morgan.

With the release of their newest album, titled The Above, frontman of Pittsburgh-based metalcore band Code Orange, Jami Morgan sat down with Soundsphere’s very own Dom Smith to discuss the creative process, working with Billy Corgan and the importance of self.

The Above is the fifth album from Code Orange and was released towards the end of last month. Produced by Jami Morgan and Eric “Shade” Balderose, the album is self-produced in its entirety and their first album released on the Blue Grape Music record label. When discussing the themes that arise upon listening to the album, it can be interpreted that Morgan has struggled with fame and the infatuation that society has with the search for success and happiness. Morgan comments, “I think that the whole album in a way struggles with those things because those things are my life. I think that the album is about trying to find a light of inner-self while simultaneously plummeting towards a light of outer-acceptance, of hopeful adoration and hopeful success.”

Continuing on Jami Morgan says, “I’m not trying to be profound here or anything, but we live in a society that, because of the way technology has evolved especially, continuously focuses on the importance of numbers, of vapid friendships that are not real and adoration. So I think the journey that our band is on, is very parallel with the journey I’m on, which is very parallel with what as a society we consume and how we develop.”

One of the more important aspects of Code Orange’s identity is the focus on visuals, and this release is no exception. The cover art of The Above features a mask which isn’t uncommon and has become part of Code Orange’s aesthetic. Speaking on the importance of visuals, Morgan notes, “It’s very important but as I’ve gotten more tools under my belt, as well have as a group, it’s developed and taken over more of my mind space. But I try to really equally distribute like the music is the most important thing to most of the audience. But I love visuals. Visuals to me are so important in reflecting on things that are really difficult sometimes to verbalise or difficult to express through a song where sometimes things are hard to understand. Lyrics can help, but I think visuals make things click for people because that’s what they do for me.” He follows this by saying,” I think the meaning of the visuals has definitely changed over the years especially recently, but for me, it’s about doing something that on the outer layer looks and feels cool, you know like it’s something you would want to see, but for me, everything has to mean something, there has to be a reason for it to exist. And, like the mask to me, it’s like a mask of sanity. That’s its representation, it’s the face that you often hide behind to cover up what’s really underneath.”

Reflecting on the lessons learnt while recording The Above, Morgan elaborates, “I’m trying to learn about the importance of self and not in the sense of caring about yourself over others. I don’t believe in that at all actually, but more about being able to live with yourself and who you are. Maybe that’s just a shield that I’ve been building because I’m very used to feeling a kind of disappointment from things, but it reflected itself on the record in a lot of ways. It’s like trying to build that sense of inner peace and on the record the way I see it is someone kind of burrowing towards this artificial light of adoration and acceptance and want while simultaneously trying to find the light of inner peace and self and protection all throughout being antagonised and taken off the path by this parasitic brain worm. And I found that heavy music and hard music could be represented by that and the horror elements of the album, thematically could be represented by the hard elements musically and I thought that was a cool way to interweave our musical style and have it make sense with the journey of the album.”

One of the leading singles off this album, titled Take Shape, features Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. Thinking back to this experience Jami Morgan exclaims, “I was psyched on it, it was awesome. I mean obviously, he is one of the greatest of all time and I was actually listening to the Machina album a lot when making this record because I just liked how it’s got a dark outer layer but it has a poppy sensibility. It’s experimental and I think it’s super underrated.” Recalling the recording process of the track, Morgan recalls how Corgan left his mark on the song, “He totally helped spruce it up, totally helped with that little guitar melody and helped to add dynamics to it. When he was just humming and scatting over it, it clicked in me to almost have this narration, this external voice to come into play. It plays almost like a narration voice in a sense.”

One of the prevailing themes of The Above is the idea of working toward an acceptance of self and finding inner peace and this intention is realised in the final line of the album as Jami Morgan explains, “The last line of the album says it all, acceptance is a faraway place but I’ll keep beating it in if I’m still breathing. And I think that’s about as close as you’re going to get in reality.”

Words: Meg Barton / Interview: Dom Smith

Listen to, and watch the full interview below: