The last thing any band ever wants to do is cancel an upcoming tour—especially when they’ve got a new album to promote, as Code Orange do. However, the growing concerns over the ongoing spread of the coronavirus have led many bands to either nix or postpone their tour dates, and the majority of the world’s biggest annual festivals have also been shelved.
On March 17, four days after the release of Underneath, the melodically malevolent record Code Orange spent years writing and recording, the Pittsburgh metal prodigies—whose spring tour was set to kick off this week—made the tough but sage decision to forgo playing live shows until all of the pandemic panic subsides.
Speaking to SPIN, Code Orange drummer and vocalist Jami Morgan says that all of the band’s members are taking the scrapping of their tour remarkably well—even after gearing up for it mentally for months. That’s because Code Orange managed to make the best of a bad situation.
“Yeah, it was shitty timing—but we had worked so long on this show, on the visuals for it, and we are so proud of this album, we had to turn it around and into something positive,” he explains.
With the venue already booked and the equipment already rented for their long-planned March 14 record-release show, Code Orange decided they would still play, but without a live audience. Instead, the band’s entire impassioned set from Pittsburgh’s Roxian Theatre was streamed live for free on Twitch, with over 13,000 hardcore fans logging on to experience every second. Now, the footage from the show is available on YouTube, where it has been watched more than 84,000 times.
“We were the first band to live stream anything—period,” boasts Morgan, referencing the burgeoning wave of musicians who’ve taken to social media, playing intimate at-home concerts for their quarantined followers. “This was going to be a huge show for us, but that’s life. Other people are going through way worse shit. I think this will be good for us in the long run.”
According to Morgan, Code Orange has sold a ton of merchandise following their live-streamed concert through the online store they launched last year. Ever since, they’ve been busy shipping out copies of Underneath, the limited-edition T-shirts the band designed for the online concert, and DVDs of the entire March 14 concert—which they’ve sold out of.
“This is a horrible thing, and I think our music is directly relatable to these times because it focuses on this overcrowded, noisy world that we keep burrowing ourselves deeper into,” Morgan says, before encouraging other groups to come up with new ways to reach their audience while coronavirus is on everyone’s mind. “No one knows when things will be back to normal, but we’ve got some ideas for live-streaming stuff we want to do, including conversations around the album’s art. Everyone is just trying to figure out what to do, and we got out ahead of it, which was good.”
Morgan says Code Orange will reschedule its nixed tour dates—it’s just a question of when.
“We worked on Underneath for years, and we are focused on this record, so once we can get out there … listen, this isn’t a pass-over record. This is an important record, and the response has been amazing,” he says. “We’ve just got to bide our time for now.”