Sam King and Ceschi Ramos – Codefendants ‘We’re Living A Dream’

Wall Of Sound caught up with brand new genre-bending rap/punk/“Crimewave” Codefendants frontmen Sam King and Ceschi Ramos last week for a breezy and inspiring chat from two career musicians who have finally hit their stride in both creativity and overdue recognition (and to find out if they’re gonna tour Australia ASAP, obviously).

With new album This Is Crime Wave scoring rave reviews in the underground, maybe now is the time to jump on board and take a peek…

I’m absolutely enraptured by the new album. It’s fucking awesome. So thank you for it! 

Both: Thank you!

Where do you guys find yourselves today?

Ceschi: We’re in Austin, TX, right now, about to play our first shows on this NOFX farewell tour.

Yeah, I was talking to Mike about that extensively. I spoke to him twice in the last year. He was pumped up for the tour and had all these great ideas that hadn’t really formed yet into what the shows are now, but he was far more excited about the Codefendants’ impending release. You’ve definitely lit a creative spark in that man for sure. I can’t imagine working with someone of that kind of esteem.

Sam: Ah, he’s a family now, man. We all live together too, together. Yeah, it can be challenging (laughs). We’re all like brothers at this point. All we do is just talk shit to each other.

Yeah, man, share house living back in the day was the best. It has its challenges like others leaving dishes in the sink and shit is annoying. But a good share house is a family too. 

Sam: Yeah, that’s nice. Doesn’t happen at Mike’s though because he has maids (laughs).

What’s life been like since the release? I know you guys are inveterate musicians, but your world must have turned a corner somewhat since it came out. 

Ceschi: Since it came out we’ve just been on tour, so the days of lounging around the pool are over now.

Sam: Yeah, so now we’re on one hotel room and a king size bed living together. 

Let the cuddles begin!

Ceschi: Right (laughs). It’s been great just to see… you know, we started this record in March 2021 and just two years later we have people singing along to every song. It’s just wild. We’re just watching grow before our eyes. I was a solo act for 20 years. So like, to be back in the band situation is a really fun thing. 

Sam: Somebody just sent us a picture. We just got our first Codependents tattoo!

It’s a solid logo for people to go and get a little patch of quite easily.

Ceschi: We made it simple so people could stencil it all over the place eventually, for sure.

All of us in this chat are in our late 30s or 40s. I’m certainly a musician who’s never found a lot of financial success through it, but we keep doing the shows because we love it. Could you both have foreseen that later in life you’d have suddenly have this thing burst out of nowhere. Was the hope always there?

Sam: This is completely unexpected. Yeah, game changer. We’re just doing what we always did. We were both working musicians already. Like we could stay in our comfortable bubble. The underground forever. I mean, Get Dead (Sam’s former band) was done. 

Ceschi:  Really Get Dead made an incredible album. That’s actually that’s something that I feel I should talk about more. (2020 Get Dead Album) Dancing With The Curse is the reason this happened because I was so inspired by that record. It made me feel like I was listening to something that would’ve been one of the greatest records I’ve ever listened to when I was 13 or 14, you know what I mean? It made me want to reach out to Sam as well and he’s a person that just gets shit done. He makes art all the time, whether it’s the visual or making a beat or fuckin’ writing something, I’m kind of the same way. That’s why all this happened so naturally.

Sam: I smoke way more weed though (both laugh).

Well, you’re a man after my own heart, and I can’t help but think the two things are often creatively linked.

Sam: I’ve made songs without the weed and I’ve made some with the weed. I can tell you which one is better! 

This is a very emotionally open album. Very, very honest about mistakes in life and mental health. Was that like a goal starting out or did you guys just sort of bring that out of each other?

Ceschi:  Yeah, I think just our friendship. Getting to know each other. We got talking a lot to learn about each other’s lives and what we were going through at that time.

Sam: We’d just come out of pandemic lockdown. There’s so much that was pent up. We had a burst of energy when we met up.

Ceschi:  Talking honestly about weird shit we’d been through was so fucking awesome.

I’m always happy when I hear that. I feel like I’ve been doing it for so long and being a musician… after a while you start having your doubts, and stuff. It’s a very self-serving thing, so making art that actually – even on a small scale –  even on a small scale that helps people get through some minor or major shit, get feedback and know you’ve helped someone is really amazing. It’s what it’s all about.

Sam: Makes me feel good. Like, at least all the shift that we’ve been working on and making music since I was like 13. So you know that’s it’s an honour to get at from people and to be able to know we’re on the right course.

Ceschi:  There was writing on the record that I never wanted to put out. And I know Sam feels the same way some of it where it’s like I never expected people to like the demo, so just therapeutically made it. Then it just stuck, and they got used. That was what the people were hearing. It so it’s like now it’s out there, even if the topics were uncomfortable. 

You gotta just swallow your pride and be like, well, it’s working! 

Sam: Over the years those have always been the songs that have meant the most to people though.

(At this point in the interview, the boys become distracted by Sam’s colourful new pedicure and how the shadow of his toes looks a bit like a dick. It was hilarious, but impossible to adequately transcribe).

You guys got to record with the mother fuckin’ DOC (NWA). I think I’d faint when he came into the studio and wanted to record music together.

Ceschi:  He’s a big dude. He’s just a presence, but like also physically big.

Sam: Man, yeah. Like you can feel it, you can feel it in your bones when you’re trying to say something funny and it’s not funny like ughhhhhhhh.

Ceschi:  Yeah but so much fuckin’ fun during the video shoot where we did our first, like, private party with him and he stayed until they shut the place down. Rolling around laughing, he’s a great person. And then to be making music… he let us be blessed enough to be the ones that he came out of retirement for. Now he’s gonna perform for the first time since he did “Kill All The White Man” with NOFX last year. He got on stage and did that, now he’s going to be coming out doing our set in a couple of days.

Sam: Yeah, we need people to know it’s not like some just email club, because in hip hop you can do that a lot, right? You can send… some band just gets like e-mail. But this guy is actually our homie, a fellow Codefendant. You know what I mean? He’s there. We’re gonna do more of them. You know he even stopped by the house on the way to the Super Bowl with Dr. Dre!

You guys also have created something that he was willing to like collaborate on. He even mentions it in his verse. It’s like you guys inspired the un-retirement.

Ceschi:  I feel like it gave him… I don’t want to speak for the guy, but I feel like I gave him some confidence because there’s something about the energy of that song that feels open, like we’re kind of just talking shit. You know, I was for sure. So he just he just got open in the right space, that’s maybe where it started from.

You’re not major label career guys with that standard like trajectory of tour, album, sell shirts, repeat cycle. I’m always looking for advice from people who have done it like you with DIY ethics and no huge marketing machine but still wind up with one of rap’s greatest ever on an album long after people usually think a band hits it big.

Ceschi:  I always use this story of this kid asking me about starting a band when we’re doing a meet and she says her dad says there’s already so many bands that it’s saturated. How will you ever break through? I said I think you have to look at it like if you just keep doing what you’re doing and you and you’re making honest music, people that love music will find it. Yeah, today a million bands started, but in a year that million will be under 500,000, and in five years, that some group will be less and less, and so on.

To young folks I always say consistency. And you also have to live it. You know, you have to live your art. You have to. You can’t be making it a fucking hobby if you really want it like that. Because you treated it like a fuckin’ hobby! And yeah, we dropped everything for this shit. Yeah, you know what I mean? I haven’t had a regular job since 2006. 

Sam: I don’t remember what I fuckin’ did I? I did but it. Sell drugs, whatever the fuck.

And Cheschi inspired me to live the art too. When I met Cheschi, I was still a painter, and when the lockdown happened with COVID my work doubled. It didn’t go down because all these people were sitting at home trying to DIY. I’d go to a house with a half painted kitchen all the time. And then we come back and he’s like, “You can be half a fuckin’ painter or half a musician, or I can just pick one.” And my old boss really supported with that too. He’s like, “you know how many old bitter 60 year old painters there are? Painting’s not going anywhere. It will always be here.” Now for the last two and a half years I’ve just been doing art and I’m tired and my fuckin’ bank account right now is overdrawn 500 bucks. But I don’t want to go back.

I know that we got a show, so I’ll get some catering in for couple of days! Been one of the least comfortable time in my entire life financially. But what’s actually happening? Was it ever going to? We’re like living a dream. Not many people can say that. 

And, also I’d like to point out that this is a fucking dream. That was put together by a teenage mind, you know? All these musicians shit it’s like… it’s really hard to start reconciling these choices. This this is no different than any other fuckin’ job out there. It can become a grind. You have to be good at what you have to do. It’s a very uncertain thing and takes a certain type of person. It’ll take up most of your life and ruin a lot of relationships. I feel like 90% of people that try it aren’t cut out for it including my own brother who’s a fantastic jazz drummer. He had the whole world ahead of him as a drummer and he was like this is shit I’m not cut out for. He recognised that and did the whole wife and kids thing instead.

Yeah, man, my bank got overdrawn 1500 bucks getting my band’s first ever LP printed last week. Turned up and I forgot that we owed half the bill. I feel you.

Sam: It’s all part of it. Like, why? Why else would you do it? You know, that’s it. You just wanna fucking have a good time. 

Ceschi: I can tell you what it’s definitely not for the money, no. 

It’s crazy. There’s certain things that are so much easier doing it DIY. I ran a small record label called Fake Four for 15 years and DIY can be a lot easier than having a lot of hands in the pie. A big team’s great, but you might go to a show with a big team and sell thousands of merchandise but not see a cent at the end of the night because you pay a big team out of your own pocket. There’s pros and cons.

Sam: I still got a fuckin’ pedicure. We must be fine.

We’re out of time and I forgot to ask if you’re touring Australia soon!

Ceschi:  Yes, next year we’re coming, and big ups to Wolfpack.

If you guys aren’t familiar with them? Check out their fucking awesome band (many impersonations of an Australian accent hilariously follow).

Thanks for chatting, fellas. Good luck with the show.

Both: Alright, thank you for this. Really appreciate it.

Interview by Todd Gingell @toddgingell

This Is Crime Wave is out now! Grab your copy here.

Codefendants – This Is Crime Wave tracklisting

1. Def Cons
2. Abscessed (feat. Get Dead and Onry Ozzborn)
3. Fast Ones (feat. The DOC)
4. Suicide by Pigs
5. Disaster Scenes (feat. Stacey Dee)
6. Prison Camp
7. Suckers
8. Brutiful
9. Sell Me Youth
10. Coda-fendantsT