- 17 Sep 15
Achieving creative autonomy thanks to their loyal, patient fanbase, Codes are back with long-awaited second album Aaltars and are very much doing things on their own terms. words Craig Fitzpatrick
It feels like an age ago, and it is in terms of the music industry. Back in 2009, cerebral Dublin outfit Codes turned up at the offices of EMI armed with the guts of their debut album and looking for the backing to complete what would become Trees Dream In Algebra. When you consider that it also became a Choice-nominated record, earning critical plaudits and pushing the band on to massive arena shows with the likes of Keane, the label certainly made the right choice not to turn them away. Six years on, however, singer Daragh Anderson is adamant they would have had no such luck with finally-here follow-up Aaltars.
“There were no labels that were going to back the kind of record we wanted to make,” he says from his London abode, where the band have been based for much of this decade.
“I think there’s only three songs on the entirety of Aaltars that have common time. Everything else has been done to purposely be different.”
Not that Trees... was your run-of-the-mill indie.
It was the sound of a band with big ideas, that also had the attributes to match their more radio- friendly, arena-filling contemporaries. But Aaltars adds further complexity and has an altogether heavier approach. Truly, both in terms of rhythmic approach and production time, they’re marching to their own beat.
“Not enough people do stuff like that. It hasn’t been explored enough, I feel. When I write I think of what takes me out of my comfort zone. And this does.”
If you’ve been wondering what’s taken Codes so bloody long to bring us their dispatches from beyond the comfort zone, well, the simple fact is that life got in the way. Financial realities kicked in and there have been a couple of unavoidable but amicable line-up changes.
Health issues meant drummer and founding member Paul Reilly left in the summer of 2012, while replacement time-keeper Niall Woods, who bangs the drums on Aaltars, has recently moved back to Ireland to raise his young family. “We did reach a crossroads and went ‘are we going to do this again? How many times are we go to have to teach someone these songs?’”
Throughout it all, guitarist/keyboardist Raymond Hodge, bassist Eoin Stephens and Anderson stuck to their guns and their vision of what Aaltars could be.
“If you’re not going to remotely challenge convention,” questions Daragh, “what’s the point?”
To ensure that vision was untainted by the demands of an industry craving radio bait – “we don’t want to be a commercial machine” – they turned to their supporters and went the crowd-funding route.
“I give Ray full credit it for it. The way Ray said it to me was: ‘it seems like people genuinely want to hear something from us. So maybe they’ll be willing to pay for it ahead of time and we’ll get it sooner to them by doing that, and be able to make what we wanted to make.'Totally Ray's idea. 'Not enough people care' - that's what I thought."
So the frontman is Codes' eternal pessimist?
“Oh, always! I was just absolutely bloody blown away. It’s quite a humbling thing when enough people go: ‘We really want to hear what you’ve got to say next.’ Plus it meant it wasn’t like it’s coming out and there’s no real demand for it. Like a Brian McFadden record or something: ‘Nobody asked for this!’ At least a couple of thousand of people asked for it.”
What they’ll be getting is an LP that sounds primed and ready to blast into outer space, its lyrics dealing with longing and loss, with a central theme examining, cryptically, the things we place great stock in just to get through life.
“False worship,” Anderson notes when the topic of the title comes up (partially picked because Aaltars is eminently googleable). “Not at all in a religious way, because we’re all incredibly atheist. London’s been a huge influence – when you’re geographically separated from everybody you know, you see how even technology can be one of these things where people throw their emotional investment into it.”
Of course, as is often the case with the crowd- funding route, Aaltars isn’t all the fans will be getting. Have they followed through with their ‘Codes Dine With Me’ offer yet?
“Not yet, but we’re looking forward to going down to Cork and cooking dinner for somebody, and hopefully playing some music in their house if the neighbours don’t complain too much. ‘PIN CODES’ was another option and we’ve had to have a couple of embarrassing times in recent months, because we’re terrible bowlers!”
Is he better in the kitchen?
“I’ll leave that to someone more qualified.”
Better stick to the music then. After so long away, it’s all we ask.