NOFX. Pennywise. Less Than Jake. Circle Jerks. Sick of it All. All were all in attendance on Sept. 29 for the Orlando leg of the Final NOFX Tour. But one relatively newcomer to the scene set the standard early in the day: Codefendants.
Fat Wreck Chords launched the band in June 2022 with the single ‘Fast Ones.’ Fat Wreck Chords owner, NOFX frontman, and Codefendants band member “Fat” Mike Burkett prefaced the debut single by declaring “Get ready for the best aural sex of your life.”
He wasn’t wrong. And that same feeling translates to the live performance.
The LA-based group opened with the fourth track from their debut album This is Crimwave to an eager audience, many of whom began creating a circle pit and singing along to every word.
What immediately grabbed me was the authenticity of the group. Vocalist Sam King and guitarist/rapper Ceschi Ramos co-wrote a large swath of the lyrics on This is Crimewave, and the emotions felt during the writing process shine through onstage. They found a strong sense of solidarity with an audience as they communicated messages of inequity and corruption in the justice system, mental health, drug use, pipe dreams, and perseverance in the face of persecution.
The one in each song’s style is even more striking than the contrast between the appearance and performance of Codefendants. It’s impossible to pin down Codefendants’ sound. They seem to effortlessly switch from classic punk to electronica to hip-hop without missing a beat—pun intended. It’s this unique approach to their music that truly sets them apart.
Armchair Rockstar got Ceschi’s thoughts on the Codefendant’s genre-mixing style, working with Fat Mike, and more in an exclusive interview:
Armchair Rockstar: How did you all get together and decide to form the band?
Ceschi Ramos: We met in Oakland County Jail & made a bet during a game of Cee-Lo that Mike had to form & produce the greatest band of all time & include us in it if he lost….
Now, here we are.
AR: Was there a particular musical direction you wanted to pursue when you started jamming, or did your eclectic sound generate naturally?
CR: We honestly just wanted to fuck with/up the pop music world. I’m not sure if that will ever happen – but that was the intention. Hyperfocus on genre or lack of genre was never considered too much. If anything, we wanted to make something that we would have loved as teens in the mid-late 90s but with modern production.
AR: Being on Fat Wreck Chords and having a natural punk audience available to you right off the bat, what has the reception been like on more experimental tracks like ‘Fast Ones’ and ‘Bad Business’?
CR: Initially, it was hit or miss. A lot of long-time Fat Wreck supporters really hate on rap. Mike was once part of that group of rap haters, which is funny because he actually writes lyrics a lot like a good rapper would—clear, sharp, honest, clever, not afraid to be offensive, etc. A lot has changed since the beginning of this year, and most people have really given the record a chance. Our reception at NoFX has been particularly awesome with plenty of people coming up to us and saying stuff like “I didn’t like the recording, but now I get it”. All in all, most people aren’t dying on the rap-hate hill, they accept us, and some even love what we’re doing.
AR: Where does your electronic influence stem from? ‘Bad Business’, in particular, has heavy and bass influences.
CR: We grew up on electronic music, like any children of the 90s. I was always more subculturally linked to Warp records than Warped Tour….but Sam, in particular, has a lot of history with drum and bass, he used to rap at raves and shit with a lot of Bay Area heads back in the day. Sam was the one who made the original beat for that Bad Business song.
AR: How did you come up with the plot line for This is Crime Wave videos? The interweaving stories come together to create some of the most cohesive and high-production music videos I’ve seen.
CR: This was 90% Fat Mike’s writing work. We all sat with members of the art collective Indecline and hashed out some initial ideas….by the end, Mike took it and ran with it. There were times when Sam and I edited some of his ideas—but this was his concept overall.
AR: Your genre-blending style reminds me a bit of Transplants. Who are some of your main influences individually and as a band?
CR: I personally still haven’t listened to an entire Transplants album. Sam played their first album for me in the car once, and I dug it—but that is always funny to me when people bring them up because it couldn’t be further from an actual influence on me, personally.
Sublime was a much bigger influence on Codefendants than Transplants, for sure. I grew up on mostly hardcore punk/metal/crossover, which was tied in waves to the third wave ska scene, what I guess was called 90s alternative/indie/ grunge rock, underground and classic hip hop, reggae, electronic music along with the Latino, Beatles and folk influences of my childhood and later became a record digger because of sampling for beats which got me deeply into Jazz, Tropicalia and Psychedelic/Prog rock.
AR: Any announcements on new tracks or potentially a new album in the works?
CR: We have final mixes on a new 10-inch single, and it just went to test press.
An album is coming along, but we’re not rushing it…
AR: What is the dynamic like between each of you? Do you have a leader, a writer, a comedian, a quiet one? Who’s George, who’s Paul, who’s John?
CR: There really are no leaders in this band….we’re all friends who bring ideas to the table…some work….most don’t….it’s a collective process…
AR: What is your writing process when you go into the studio? Do you each work on tracks and bring them together into a cohesive song, or do you just start jamming?
CR: Every song is a bit different…
There have been nights when we just jam…and something comes out…like Suckers and Crime Wave were born that way….
Sometimes, Sam will bring a beat-/sample-based musical idea to the studio, and we write to it, expand, and flesh it out a lot like Bad Business….
Sometimes I’ll have a simple guitar-based song….then Mike comes in and adds parts/changes, chords/instrumentation like Sell Me Youth or Prison Camp…he really fleshes it out and makes it what it ends up being.
Sometimes it’s far more collaborative, and we all write elements. On Suicide By Pigs, Sam and I wrote line for line together.
AR: What is your relationship with The DOC? How did that collaboration come about?
CR: Mike met DOC through this manager friend of ours named Gary O. They just got along and kept texting regularly. When we did a demo of Fast Ones, Mike asked him to get on it. We flew to Dallas to record DOC’s parts & ended up having a funny night, which ended up with us getting kicked out of a club. Since then, DOC has played a handful of shows with us and is just an extremely cool, humble, talented cat.
AR: How easy is it to switch gears on stage from a song like Def Cons to a song like Fast Ones?
CR: Honestly, I look at the album as a single piece of music that flows purposefully front to back.
AR: Any more upcoming collaborations you can disclose?
CR: Our next single features 2MEX, who is a legendary rapper from the LA Underground scene since the earliest 90s [who was] part of the Good Life, Project Blowed, Shape Shifters family
AR: Let’s face it, Fat Mike is a legend. How has his inclusion in the project colored the direction of the music, the reach you guys have, and the audience you’re attracting?
CR: It has instantly put a lot more eyes on us, put us in front of the largest audiences of our lives. Sometimes, that’s a great thing, and sometimes that’s an annoying thing because people have built certain expectations or judgments of Mike. Overall, it’s a massive privilege to be able to work with him. Musically, his influence on the project has been fantastic…because he cares so much and puts real thought and time into making stuff better. He’s also a lot more vocal about marketing—which is something that Sam & I are not naturally loud about. Mike has opened doors for us that a 20-year DIY run in music never could. I’ll always be grateful for that.
For more information on the latest tour dates and announcements from Codefendants, check out codefendantslegalfund.com.