It started with a break up and finished with a four piece – yet somehow they’re still alive. The Chicago loud mouths that make up The Code Kids are bringing in some raw Midwestern flavor, even if only one of them is from the area. With a sloppy, stripped down, garage-alternative sound, similar to that of The Replacements, Dramarama & Hüsker Dü, The Code Kids are creating highly accessible music that’s still hip enough to chalk up at the water cooler on boring Tuesdays.
The four just finished their first out-of-town tour, where they visited sacred Midwestern hot spots like Madison, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee. Things have been wild and there’s no indication of slowing down, either. Currently, the band is prepping a follow up to last year’s debut EP, We Sell It Back To You When You Beg, which will include live favorites “Moving Walkways”, Short Circuitry”, and “How Very.” With the slushy winter out of the way, the band's looking ahead to brighter days, literally and metaphorically speaking.
Lead Guitar: Jay Ziegler
Vocals/Rhythm: Mike Roffman
Bass Guitar: Kyle Masterson
Drums: Brad Cooper
We Sell It Back To You When You Beg EP
On Hold Since 1983 EP - Coming May 2009
Listen: The Code Kids
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The Code Kids bill themselves as strong, proud, and one-fourth Jewish, an anomalous description that...The Code Kids bill themselves as strong, proud, and one-fourth Jewish, an anomalous description that somehow seems fitting after listening to songs that fuse fast-paced alternative rock with offbeat lyrics proclaiming, among other things, “I don’t want to be Joseph McCarthy/But I wanted to be Andrew McCarthy.” The recently formed garage band from Chicago features Consequence of Sound’s very own Michael Roffman (vocals and rhythm guitar) and Jay Ziegler (lead guitar), as well as fellow locals Kyle Masterson (bass guitar) and Brad Cooper (drums).
Last week The Code Kids completed recording of their debut EP, We Sell It Back To You When You Beg , three anthemic tracks of “twenty-something angst.” The band sounds surprisingly tight for only having played together a few months. The songs play fast but feature the hooks and melodies within the mayhem that set apart good songwriters from their less serious counterparts, and Roffman’s vocals have just enough roughness and edge to prevent the band from sounding like too many of its contemporaries. It’s too early to tell what The Code Kids’ particular “angst” might be, but the quartet sounds great getting it off their collective chest.
The Code Kids currently have We Sell It Back To You When You Beg available for streaming and purchase on the band’s MySpace, with the intention of making their debut physically available in the near future at a release party and show. Keep checking their site for details and developments.
The Code Kids
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In my 18 months as a "music blogger," I have heard, seen, and even met many great up-and-coming band...In my 18 months as a "music blogger," I have heard, seen, and even met many great up-and-coming bands. Whether at a CMJ showcase or in the line for a porta-potty in the media area at Lollapalooza, I've been able to go beyond the traditional listening-only relationship most fans have with their favorite bands, and actually shoot the shit hold intellectual discussions with everyone from Okkervil River's Will Sheff to a few partially intoxicated members of the Black Lips. Because of this, I wouldn't give up my day-to-day title of blogger for anything, even during the must stressful or tedious of days.
But when it comes to having "friends" in a band, it's a completely different story. Sure the aforementioned meetings are great, but they have their downsides as well -- I doubt Sheff remembers our 10 minute conversation, which is more than I can assume for the Black Lips. Actually, I'm not even sure if they were actually conscious during our interview -- and as a result, it'd probably be a bit inappropriate for me to go around town calling these musicians my friends. In fact, never during my short-lived blogging career, let alone entire life, have I actually known a friend in a band.
Wesellitback That was until last Friday when Michael Roffman, Jay Ziegler, Kyle Masterson, and Brad Cooper, aka the Code Kids, hit the studio for the very first time. 10 hours after the Chicago natives turned out the lights, plugged in the amps, and embarked on a day-long session of recording, they completed their debut EP, We Sell It Back to You When You Beg.
Now a word of warning. Just because two of the four members making up the Code Kids are staff members of my main writing outfit doesn't mean I'm going to deem their debut effort the best thing since sliced bread, Kanye West, or whatever else floats your boat. No, because well, the four-piece group isn't without its flaws. The song-writing is raw, while the musicality at times feels a bit coarse, almost forced.
But in some respects, this is also what makes the Code Kids so appealing. With a Replacements-like feel, the EP's three tracks exude energy and offer a sound so tight that its almost unfathomable to imagine when considering this group has been in existence for mere weeks. Nobody Knows This Is Somewhere blends the punk styles of early Dropkick Murphys and Bouncing Souls with rock fury and AC/DC-approved guitar solos, while Andrew McCarthy is a toe-tapper thanks to catchy hooks and fun lyrics. That tightness remains in full effect on the pop-punk ballad Good For You. Clocking in at just over four minutes, the EP's final track sees each of the Code Kids shine brilliantly in his own right -- Roffman's words flow perfectly among guitar riffs, bass rhythms, and passionate drumming that would impress even the most veteran of bands -- yet in the end, the tune's success is the result of no one individual member, but the band as a whole.
Like any young band, the Code Kids have a long road ahead before they can even start to raise eyebrows in the ever-growing, every-man-for-himself music industry. But with a one-of-a-kind intensity and a sound so tenacious that others can only dream of, these Chicago kids are certainly well on their way. And let's just say, for the sake of having some friends in a band, I'm rooting for them. Plus, We Sell It Back To You When You Beg is a pretty solid alternative while waiting for Kanye to leak.
Q&A: The Code Kids
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Armed with a Paul Westerberg obsession and a desire to create straight-ahead, heartfelt rock and rol...Armed with a Paul Westerberg obsession and a desire to create straight-ahead, heartfelt rock and roll in true Midwestern fashion, Chicago garage/alternative four-piece The Code Kids are the kind of indie band you can't help but champion. One listen to the energetic crunch of their barroom rock will get you cheering them on, and another will have you shouting along.
Last year the band released their debut EP, We Sell It Back to You When You Beg, and they've been gathering listeners through regular gigs ever since. As they get set to play Ronny's this Thursday, April 9 and to record their next EP in next month, singer and guitarist Mike Roffman took some time out to fill us in on the band's inspiration, history and plans for the future.
When and how did The Code Kids come together?
I left Tallahassee, FL and moved to Chicago in 2007 to work on my Masters in Writing at DePaul. I had been in a few bands back in Florida, one of them being The Pax Romana with Jay [Ziegler], and I wasn’t exactly ready to stop doing that. So, I started tracking songs on my MacBook and e-mailing some of the guitar parts and melodies to Jay, who was still in Tallahassee finishing up his Bachelor’s degree. He would write some lead over them and shoot back the finished results and we’d have these rough demos. In fact, that’s how “Nobody Knows This Is Somewhere” came to be. Once he finally decided to make the move to Chicago, I started looking for potential band mates. Kyle [Masterson] was one of my friends from class here at DePaul, and he was interested in playing bass in just about anything that had to do with rock. So, we started tracking songs, too. While living in my apartment, Jay found Brad [Cooper], our drummer, through MySpace and things, well, they just clicked. About three of the seven demos came to fruition in like an hour. It was great. The band name itself came from the idea that we’re all NES junkies, especially Brad and Kyle, and we remember these idiot kids who’d sell us fake codes in middle school – something we called “code kids.” It just seemed like a good fit.
Coming from Florida, what about Chicago and its music scene appealed to you?
Musically, the city is insatiable. You can’t go wrong. It’s obvious music was meant to be here. Chess Records, Smashing Pumpkins, Alkaline Trio, Wesley Willis, Wilco…those are some good things to live for, right? Well, maybe not the Pumpkins anymore, but you get the idea. In all honesty, the Midwest is appealing for one reason: the music has always seemed endearing and honest.
How do you describe The Code Kids sound to people unfamiliar with the band?
We’re big fans of that Minneapolis sound. I’m obsessed with Paul Westerberg and The Replacements. We all are, but I get a little sick in the head about it. I mean, was it really necessary to buy the guy’s signature First Act guitar? [laughs] There’s just something about his music that seems real to me. It’s a little different than the connection kids get with Nirvana or The Beatles or even Led Zeppelin. Their music just speaks volumes about life to me, and I think a lot of Minneapolis bands do that. The Hold Steady, Hüsker Dü and even Soul Asylum – a lot of these guys just focus more on the reality of things, and that’s appealing and that’s something we go for. I don’t care about the similarities drawn, either. The music that we make speaks to me the same way these bands’ songs do, and that means the world to me. It’s why I feel the need to keep writing. We just might have a little more shredding on top, thanks to Jay.
Last year you released your debut EP, We Sell It Back to You When You Beg. As the band’s recorded introduction to the world, what did you most hope to get across in these three songs?
The three songs, “Nobody Knows…”, “Andrew McCarthy”, and “Good For You”, were what we had ready at the time, which was back in November. We had some other tunes on the dashboard, but they just weren’t studio ready. Overall, the three songs do us justice. “Nobody Knows…” is about as real to the sound we want, while “Good For You” is a song that was written three years ago and has since transitioned to the rough alternative sound we enjoy. There’s a lo-fi feel to us, and “Andrew McCarthy” has that, what do they call it, “indie” sound. I’m a big fan of what’s available today and I tried writing something a little more modern and “McCarthy” nailed that in a sense. So, in a way, the three songs are a good indicator, but more so of things to come.
Tell us about your new EP coming in May. How does it compare to the debut, and why should people check it out?
We’re really psyched for the new EP. We’re just broke. Our recent traveling stint across the Midwest hit our pockets hard, and also cut into our studio time. So, we might be left with another three song EP, though I’m pushing for four. We feel this will open more doors for us. The songs this time around have more flavor, they’re catchier and they’re more interesting. One of the songs I can’t wait to record is “How Very.” It has this great little riff and the chorus is fun as hell to hum and there’s this odd reference to Christian Slater. I have this knack for writing about celebrities, because I feel writing about myself lacks a bridge. So, if I can relate these ideas and emotions to something that people might recognize or empathize with, which might be hard with Slater but we’ll see, then I feel there’s a connection. There’s a bit of that with the new songs here, though a more introspective tune like “Moving Walkways” or the somewhat tongue in cheek “Short Circuitry” veer off in a different direction. Simply put, they move and shake.
Favorite gig so far and why?
We had a great time in Chicago before the tour began. We went on the road with The Orphan Age, who were then called Hammerhead, and our kick off show was just a blast. I was a little blasted, but it made for an entertaining show I guess. On the road, Milwaukee was just amazing, and we met some great bands like The New Loud, who are just great people. Also, there was a good turnout despite the bummer weather.
What bands – local or beyond – would you most like to play with?
Locally, we’d love to play with The Roadless some more. They opened for us at the Cobra Lounge last month, and they have this killer garage rock sound. Blueblood is another band that I’ve spoken with, and of course, The Orphan Age is fun. Beyond, the wish list never ends. Of course, I’d love to open for Westerberg, but let’s be realistic. We’d have more of a chance at snagging an opening spot for The Hold Steady, and even that seems like a dream. Actually, we contacted The Toadies about getting a spot for their upcoming Metro gig, and I know Brad would have a heart attack if that happened, so we’ll see. As for the other guys, I know Kyle would probably flip out if he ever met Jack White or Jenny Lewis, and Jay, well, he’s similar to me, but he has this Bob Mould fetish.
What have you found to be the best part of being an indie band in Chicago so far? The most challenging?
The best part is that there are tons of places to play, and with an active scene in booking and promotions, there are plenty of bands and businesses to network with. The most challenging aspect is that there’s a lot of competition since the market is very active. It can be hard to convince people that your music is worth listening to any given night compared to all of the other bands playing around town the same evening.
What’s next for the band?
A little time off, actually. Not to relax, though. We’re going to be recording in May. Our Web site needs some changes. And, we’re working on an overall new approach to reaching out to people in the Chicagoland area. Hopefully some bigger shows with some good local bands as well. We have CMJ coming up in October, and that should bring some interesting things with it.
How can people find out more about The Code Kids?
Ronny's this Thursday, April 9.
Nobody Knows This Is Somewhere
It's Gonna Rain
I Ain't Calling
Kiki's At It Again
My Headache is Bigger Than Yours
Good For You
Anything, Anything (Dramarama cover)
Hey Sandy (Polaris cover)
Gut Feeling (Devo cover)
Wave of Mutilation (Pixies cover)
Take Me To The Hospital (Replacements cover)
Customer (Replacements cover)
Hell in High Water (Toadies cover)
Let's Go Down To The Woods (Screaming Blue Messiahs cover)
Breed (Nirvana cover)
New York City Cops (Strokes cover)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.