Artist of the Month: In Codes

Photo by Stephan Villanueva

Photo by Stephan Villanueva

Meet our December Artist of the Month: In Codes! From Calgary, we first heard about the then-trio when guitarist Ryan Mumby first sent us an email a few months back. We gave their music a listen, watched them open for Die Mannequin in September and decided they were a band we wanted to hear more from.

Since then In Codes has lost a drummer and is using this winter to hunker down and work on their debut LP. We caught up with In Codes to talk about growing up in the Calgary music scene, the trials and tribulations of being a new band and what they have planned next.

Can you tell us about your involvement in the local music scene thus far?
Noel Napalm:
I would say as a band, so far, it’s not great but only because three out of the five shows we’ve played have been out of town. Not a lot of shows we’ve played have been local. As a band, our involvement in the music scene isn’t as great as we’d like it to be but as people, our involvement in the music scene is bigger than that.

You’ve been in other bands as well.
Noel:
Oh yeah, we were in the The Martyr Index previous to this, previous to this, I’ve been in Kilbourne, I’ve been in a lot of bands. I’ve been involved in the Calgary music scene close to 15 years. That, as people, is a lot greater than our band but it’s just because we haven’t had a chance to play locally too much yet.
Ryan Mumby: I would say, we have a lot of connections in the music scene here just because Noel works at The Ship & Anchor, I used to work there, it’s a hub for local musicians. We just hang out with a lot of people, we get out to shows when we can, make connections and it’s a good scene in regards to the people that are in it. We have connections there, we just haven’t played as much here. It’s also tough because you don’t want to over-play your city either. That’s something a lot of bands do too much, is just play in their hometown more than they should.

Like you said, you’ve played few shows but you have everything together, which a lot of people might not expect from a local band: professional looking website, music on all platforms, including Spotify, are on all social media, perform with in-ears, Even though you just released your debut EP, Stories, in August. Coming from other local bands, did you go into this band like, “we’re going to do this properly or not at all”?
Noel: What I was saying before, that I’ve been in so many bands, I’ve done it every which way. This is something I’ve chosen to try to make my career path. I try to take every band as professionally as I can but having the pitfalls of being in so many bands, literally over a dozen bands, in the time I’ve been a musician, you learn from those things. So, making this, I’m just wiser and older and I know, “these are the mistakes I’ve made before” and “these are the things that worked out”, and just compiling all the things that worked out and applying them to this project.
Ryan: I haven’t been in as many bands as Noel, the only serious band I was in before this was The Martyr Index but I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12 years old, I went to school for music production. I have a lot of experience in music, maybe not as much as in bands as Noel, but taking that experience with all the gear and knowledge and know-how and the business side of things…
Noel: He’s also very tech savvy. He’s a social media guy and that’s what a lot of things are about these days. The professional looking website, the Instagram and the work that goes on the social media end of things, he’s just good at. So that’s a bonus.

The website makes a journalist’s job a lot easier.
Noel: Yeah, exactly. That’s something that we pride ourselves on doing too, is making everybody that has to work with us, around us, their jobs easier. Whether it’s a sound guy at a venue or a journalist, having your stuff together makes people want to work with you more and it makes it easier for everybody as well.

You were a part of the Telus StoryHive Grant. Can you tell me a little bit about StoryHive, what it is and how you managed to get involved?
Ryan: We’re members of Alberta Music and they hold little seminars or they’ll bring different industry professionals in to hold meetings or seminars or conferences to promote the local scene and get knowledge out there, help it out. They brought the people who were involved in making StoryHive happen in for a little information session and we hadn’t heard about it much before, at least I didn’t know much about it from the standpoint of music videos. We had a week left to submit our stuff. Luckily for me, I used to work with a guy named Olaf Blomerus, who happens to be an amazing director. So I reached out to him, “Hey, there’s this StoryHive thing, we have a few days left to get it in, do you want to make it happen with us?” He perused it for a day or so, decided he was in and we had three days at that point to come up with an idea.
Noel: Come up with a concept, come up with a crew, write up budget, basically pitch a concept to the judges that were judging StoryHive.
Ryan: We pulled together somehow, we worked really hard, really, really, really hard for a few days.
Noel: That’s how we got it, we didn’t pull anything together, we worked very, very hard.
Ryan: After getting our pitch video together, there’s a lot of promotion involved in getting the community involved.
Noel: Lots of social media.
Ryan: Lots of social media push, we owe thanks to a lot of friends. Our friend Marie set up a voting station at her tattoo shop she works at, making everyone who came in vote for us there. We had a local artist friend of ours, Heather McLean, she offered a giveaway of a portrait of someone if they entered the contest. We had a lot of help from good friends of ours but we also pushed a lot ourselves and just were constantly on social media. That was part of what it was judged on, it was judged on social media, it was judged on votes, it was also judged on a judge panel as well. Luckily they liked what we had to offer and liked our hard work and we were awarded the money and we were able to shoot a great video. We got $10,000 for the grant but it looks like it was a lot more thanks to Olaf’s hard work and Brock Davis Mitchell, the Director of Photography, he also did a great job.

Are you hoping to be able to make more music videos, if you have the funds?
Noel: That’s something a professional band needs to do, let alone wants.
Ryan: It’s a great marketing tool.
Noel: It is a great marketing tool and that is something we will definitely be looking at into the near future with our future release of the LP. I’m sure we’ll be releasing a couple singles off that so we’ll try to figure out how to make that happen, whether it’s looking at a grant.
Ryan: That was a lovely thing to fall into but we have other things we need to work on as a band first. We need to fund our album, we need to fund promotion for the album, we need to fund a tour van and just get out there more. Those are things that are a little more important to us but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity of the Telus StoryHive Grant. It’s there, it’s money for a video, might as well go for it.
Noel: It just came so early on in our career that it’s great that we have it but we’re not in any rush to make another one because there’s other things we need right now, being a new band like grants to make our next record and a tour van to get out to more cities.
Ryan: We’re hoping when it does come time to release a new album, videos are a big promotional tool for new albums, for singles coming off of it. So hopefully, when it does come time to apply for grants for a new music video, we’ll have this resume of, “Hey, look, we know how to spend grant money, we made this great video with this $10,000 that we stretched to its limits”.
Noel: That’s another thing that looks great on a resume.
Ryan: When writing a grant, you can show that to whatever organization it might be, whether it’s StoryHive again or whether it’s something like MuchFACT, whatever we end up going with.
Noel: Whoever wants to give us money.
Ryan: We’re just gonna put it out there!

When going into the Stories EP, were you influenced by other music? Were there other bands or musicians that you wanted to emulate?
Noel: Oh my god, all the time, always and it never ends up working out that way.
Ryan: The Stories EP was an interesting thing because we actually first went into the studio to record it in 2014 in the spring and we hadn’t even finalized our lineup. We went into the studio looking to try to assemble our thoughts and figure what we were going to do. I don’t think we’d really got a hold on what we wanted our sound to be yet.
Noel: I think we got impatient because Ryan and I had started In Codes quite some time ago, over two years, maybe close to three, we were still in The Martyr Index when we were doing that. We’d just been writing for so long we just wanted it to be a thing already. We ended up rushing into the studio and not having fully developed as a band yet or finding our sound.
Ryan: It directed us more towards our sound, necessarily. It was helpful, it pushed us a little bit in the way we wanted to go but we left more inspired. We wanted to pursue more electronic elements and that type of thing.
Noel: After we recorded it, we had it for some time and we just sat on it, we didn’t release it right away. After Adam joined the band, the drummer, things started to change and we started writing more and practicing more and our sound got more to where it is now. Instead of releasing it as it was before, we went back into the studio and changed some stuff, to make it more of what we were trying to go for. After that was done, we added more of an electronic sound, then we decided it was ready for release. We could put that foot forward and say, “This is what we’re trying to do, this is where we’re headed with it”. As far as being inspired and emulating somebody, I’ve always tried to do that as a musician, it never ends up being as exactly what you want. When you work with different people and different minds and different artists, I’m definitely more electronic, dark, pop-y and Ryan really brings the rock because he’s more of a rock player. It’s a push and pull but it’s starting to change a bit now. We’re both getting more inspired by the sound we’re creating and the sound we can create and not just, “hey, this is the genre I like” and “this is the genre I like” and try to push them together, but actually trying to make our own genre. It’s slowly starting to come together and change and maybe be where it’s going to be for a while. Hopefully that’s going to work out, we’ll see when we start writing the record.

When Noel says she’s more into dark, electronic pop and Ryan’s more into rock, what artists are you referring to?
Noel: I’m huge on Phantogram. I have the biggest boner for those guys, I think they’re wonderful. I really like female-fronted, moody, dark, synth-based. Dear Rouge is a little more pop-y which fits my pop-y, playful side. That’s what I like now, Phantogram is huge for me, Dear Rouge is great, Chvrches. Anything like that, I’m really into. I’m also still really stuck in the ‘90s. I really like gothic new wave stuff like Interpol, The National, all those bands. I still have a really soft spot in my heart for bands like the Deftones, The Smashing Pumpkins and ‘90s alternative rock.
Ryan: I’m definitely into heavier, more rock music. I don’t know if it shows up necessarily, any kind of traceable influences in In Codes’ music but stuff like Refused, Incubus, heavier stuff like Protest The Hero. I’m all over the rock map from hardcore to metal to pop-rock. That’s the majority of the stuff I listen to but I listen to a lot of stuff Noel does to, maybe just not quite as frequently.

While the EP is only three songs, when I saw you open for Die Mannequin, you definitely played more than three. Do you have a lot more material you have ready to record?
Noel: Right now that’s a really hard thing because we are losing a drummer. When we wrote these songs and we had these songs and we played these songs live, they were a little bit more rock based because we had a live drummer and that’s how the songs were written.  Going forward as a two piece, which we’ve decided to do, things are going to have to change a bit, it’s going to lose a little bit of its rock and roll edge. The songs are still going to be great and still just as much energy…
Ryan: We’re going to have to go in and change the arrangement a little bit. The songs aren’t going to change, majorly the arrangement’s going to change the feel a little bit.
Noel: Those are just for the songs we have written so far. But when we go forward, writing music, we’re not going to be writing rock drums and using rock drums live, that’s not something we’re going to do. It’s not going to sound good, it’s not going to make sense. We do have more material, I don’t know how much of it’s going to stay, how much of it’s going to be re-arranged. We’re going to have to see what comes and stays and goes and whatnot but we have seven, eight songs.
Ryan: That are done and we have a couple more in the kiln.

Going forward as a two piece, will you still find a drummer to play shows with?
Noel: That’s something we’re going to keep our minds open to.
Ryan: I like the energy a live drummer adds. I’d like to be in a place where we go electronic, just us, and if we can have extra musicians to help bring that live energy up, that’s great.
Noel: That’s exactly what I was going to say. Because all the bands I was naming off to you, Dear Rouge calls themselves a two piece, Phantogram calls themselves a two piece, that’s how it is and that’s how it’s written but you go see their live shows and they’re playing with a live band. Does the sound change? Absolutely not. It’s just a matter of writing music that’s going to be easily translatable to still throw a live drummer in the mix and for it to do the same thing.
Ryan: A good song is a good song whether you’re playing it acoustically, whether you’re playing it as an electronic duo, whether you’re playing with a live band. That’ll just force us to focus on making sure we write really good songs…
Noel: I was talking more how it’s going to sound live, not necessarily how the songs are written and how they’re structured because we write pretty great songs, I think anyways. It’s just a matter of how it’s going to be conveyed in a live setting. What setup we’re going to go ahead and use, in terms of electronic drums, that’s a thing, because, like you were saying, we don’t want to be an iPod band. Gear is going to have to come into play too, to figure out what kind of setup we want to use to maximize our live awesomeness.
Ryan: Ideally, if we can, there’d be a couple extra musicians with us, playing our songs. A multi-instrumentalist and a drummer live would be ideal and nice but there’s lots of bands who can’t do that. The music scene these days, it’s not feasible to have that many people in your band.
Noel: It’s not a matter of not wanting to, it’s a matter of is it possible. If there was just a palette of musicians out there, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

Did you both grow up in Calgary?
Noel: I grew up in Cochrane.
Ryan: Calgary, Airdrie.
Noel: So Calgary and surrounding area. I’ve lived here my entire life.

What was the Alberta music scene like growing up?
Noel: I lived in Calgary until I was 19 but then I ended up joining a band called Kilbourne when I was 17 and they were one of the hardcore bands in the scene. That was when hardcore was huge in Calgary, 10 years ago. I ended up joining them and, Closet Monster, we opened up for them at a gig, we played some Warped Tour and all that kind of stuff.
Ryan: I totally saw her and didn’t even realize I saw her years ago.
Noel: Being that young and that being my first band that I was in in the city was awesome because it did show me a lot of the ins and outs of the music scene. Back then the all ages scene was huge. We were playing all ages shows every weekend with all the hardcore bands that were around. It was a nice way to start off my music career here. Then I moved here and did a lot of networking just from that band. It wasn’t until I moved here when I was 19 that I really knew anything about it but as a kid at home, living in Cochrane, I was listening to my Courtney Love with my headphones, playing drums and rocking out to AFI, that’s all I really knew about music. I didn’t know there was a local music scene until I was in it.
Ryan: I feel like I recognized early on music was a very difficult thing to get into when I was younger. I sat in my room playing guitar a lot, I did that. That’s why I went to school for audio production, like, “Yeah, there’s no jobs for musicians. I can’t make a living as a musician even though that’s what I want to do. Maybe I’ll just do something related to it”. I quickly realized that wasn’t quite where my heart was, my heart was in music and I wanted to do that. The opportunity popped up for me to try out for The Martyr Index and I haven’t looked back since.

How do you think it’s fared since then? Has it improved or worsened from what you remember it being?
Noel: It’s very different. It’s very, very different. It’s not as supportive as it used to be. Back in the day, the people putting on the all ages shows, they’d go out of their way to pioneer a music scene and try to get things together. There isn’t anything like that here anymore, it’s just people getting booked at bars. The five best bands in Calgary are all playing a show in the same night. It’s not as supportive as it once was. I don’t think it’s cutthroat but that’s how it is, it’s not able to be very supportive.
Ryan: It seems like the all ages scene that was so great 10 years ago spurred all these awesome bands that are in the bar scene now. Everyone where we’re at right now came out of that and that’s why we have a really great bar scene. I feel like there’s no all ages scene anymore and I’m worried with what’s going to happen with that come five, 10 years. What’s going to happen to the music scene in Calgary? The all ages scene was crazy back then, there’d be 500 kids at the Multi every weekend to see bands and that was the thing to do on the weekend. Now it’s not very cool for kids and there’s not anywhere for them to do it, all the venues gave up on that.
Noel: I do find it kind of clique-y. Like the five biggest bands in Calgary right now, they’re going out to shows, but they’re going out to each other’s shows. They’re not trying to listen to any new bands, I find.
Ryan: It’s tough to say. It’s a very different atmosphere in the music scene right now. There’s a lot of ambiguity of what’s going to happen, where is it going to go. Some of that comes from the industry as a whole changing a lot, moving into the digital realm, people’s attention spans are shorter and it takes a lot to grab someone’s attention.
Noel: For example, this band I’m going to call [name redacted]. For a band like that that plays how many shows in Calgary a fucking year and the same people go to their shows over and over and over again. They’re not branching out. If we were playing a show that night and [name redacted] is playing a show that night. They’ve seen [name redacted] a 1,000 times, they’re gonna go see [name redacted]. It’s just a little bit clique-y. I don’t feel like it’s a “let’s get to know new music” kind of thing. It’s like “who’s been cool for the last three years and let’s follow that”, that’s my take.

Noel, mostly out of curiosity, I don’t want to single you out based on your gender, but what’s the Calgary music scene like for women? Is it a friendly environment or have you had to deal with your fair share of sexism?
Noel:
I don’t think I’ve reached enough success to really feel that yet. Being in the local Calgary scene, that’s not something that’s even an issue because I don’t think the local Calgary music scene has enough going on that it ever could be an issue. Get back to me in a couple years and I’ll answer.
Ryan: It’s interesting with general music scene stuff it’s like, “oh, this is a female fronted band”. I didn’t know that was a genre.
Noel: I do think it’s a little bit challenging because a lot of people assume you’re going to be shitty. The countless shows I’ve been at with pals and a girl gets up and starts playing, they’re like, “whoa, she’s actually good” and would they say that about the guys on stage? Absolutely not. It’s a man’s world, especially in music, especially harder music. I haven’t experienced anything directly but I don’t know how many people have said that about me when I’ve been on stage, I can’t hear it, but I’m sure it’s been said. With that being said, it does make it a little strange to walk out on a stage and wonder about that or not have that in the back of your mind. I just try to do what I do and I try to do it well, that’s all I really care about.

What’s next for In Codes? More music, more touring?
Ryan:
We’re going to take the winter to finish recording the songs we want to put on our full length. We’re going to re-arrange the tracks that we do have for live shows to be playable as a two piece.
Noel: We’re semi re-inventing right now. Losing a drummer at such an important time is never a good thing. The release of the music video, the release of the EP, just starting to get the ball rolling on playing shows and getting pretty great responses from the shows we have played. We’re taking a big hit there. I don’t know how long it’s gonna take, I hope not more than the winter, early spring, but we’re going to work hard and try not to lose that steam. When you release all these things and do all this stuff and people are starting to notice you, the last thing you want to do is drop off the map for a year. We need to get our shit together and make sure that doesn’t happen. We’re going to be spending the winter hauling ass and writing and figuring out how we’re going to play shows as a two piece and what that’s going to look like for us. As soon as the spring time hits and we think we’re ready, we’re going to start playing shows again.
Ryan: We have a rough road map of how we want the next year to look and we want to have a big release by the end of next year. Exactly how it’s going to happen, we’re going to play it by ear and make decisions as they come and just work hard at it.

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Mary

Mary McComish is a journalist, music junkie, vegetarian, feminist and social media queen. She received her print journalism diploma from Lethbridge (yes, where Marilyn Manson was punched in the face) College and, since then, has freelanced as both a journalist and a graphic designer.