There’s a lyric on “Def Cons”, the opening track of This Is Crime Wave, that sums up everything
at the heart of Codefendants. ‘Survival isn’t pretty,’ sings Sam King, ‘it’s flesh hanging off of
fangs’. That’s exactly what these ten songs are – the flesh and the fangs in one fucked up
package, a chewed down-to-the bone look at life between the cracks. Both King, who can
normally be found fronting Bay Area punk rockers Get Dead, and Julio Francisco Ramos – better
known as hip-hop artist Ceschi – have both spent time in jail. They’ve seen, lived and
experienced a side of life that most people don’t. Codefendants – alongside accomplice NOFX
lynchpin Michael ‘Fat Mike’ Burkett – is their attempt to portray that with authenticity and
“There was a sign written on the studio door,” says Burkett, “that said ‘Sing your truth.’ I think
that says it all.”
“And we’re not singing lyrics or making videos of things that people necessarily like,” says
Burkett, “but it’s our truth.”
“It is our truth,” confirms Ceschi, “and it’s what we’ve seen. Pop music for most people is a way
to escape into a realm of fantasy that makes you feel happy, but what we’re doing is presenting
our truth and our lives. I feel with our lyrics, Sam and I are kind of speaking to the youth and
presenting our wisdom. Like, if you’re going to break to the fucking law and go down the paths
we did – we wish we had been sort of coached a little better and had elders like ourselves to
guide us through it.”
And so, what you get with these 10 songs that the band have termed ‘crime wave’ – a mix
mainly of punk and hip-hop, but which also incorporates other sounds and influences – is a trip
to the dark center of their lives, their worlds, their pasts. It’s bleak as hell – flesh hanging off of
fangs, remember? – both lyrically and musically, all broken homes and broken hearts within a
broken system. Here, you see, the systemic and the personal collide, the latter exposed as a
direct product of the former, inextricable and ineluctable parts of the same whole, a snake
eating its own tail forever. “Abscessed”, for example, which features three other members of
Get Dead as well as Onry Ozzborn of Dark Time Sunshine, is haunted by personal trauma
existing in the context of the current dystopia we find ourselves in 2022, “Fast Ones” – which
features legendary rapper The D.O.C. – throws shade at “punk rock posers” while also detailing
the brutal reality of the life that Ceschi and King have both experienced. Elsewhere, “Suckers” is
a slow, groove-laden warning that serves as the kind of advice Ceschi says he wishes he’d had
access to as a kid, while the almost cheery-sounding “Prison Camp” lays out the morality of
prison code while also deriding the system that props it up. Because these songs don’t stop just
at personal experience – they tie everything together, drawing lines between the prison-

industrial complex, systemic racism and American capitalism, as well as the correlation
between punk and hip-hop, two sounds that were created on the fringes by necessity and then
co-opted by the mainstream.
“As far as our philosophy as a band,” explains Ceschi, “a lot of what we talk about is how
arbitrary laws can be – how sometimes people who are breaking the law could be doing good.
Right now, politically, we see that directly with someone having an abortion, which is federally
illegal. That’s a perfect example of what we believe in – that sometimes committing the crime is
the moral thing to do. It’s all about the fluidity of morality.”
“For example,” adds Burkett, “drug dealers are entrepreneurial salesmen who aren’t
committing a crime. It’s a victimless crime. But the more that freedom gets taken away from us,
the more everyone’s criminals.”
“There are entire neighborhoods of the United States that are made of felons such as myself,”
says Ceschi, “and we’re stuck with fewer possibilities for traditional work. I got out of prison at
one point and couldn’t even apply to drive Uber or Lyft because they red flagged me right away.
So we get stuck in these cycles that are created systemically, and a lot of it is based on class.
When your entire neighborhood is 70% felons, that’s systemic, and created to hold people
down and to keep people within a class.”
It’s no wonder these songs are so dark. Others include “Suicide By Pigs” – a vantablackly
humorous track that’s both a commentary on police brutality and about the breakup of King’s
marriage – and “Disaster Scenes”, which features Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s Stacey Dee. It traces the
direct relationship between systemic issues and personal trauma. diving deep into Dee’s
harrowing past while simultaneously asserting the damaging, widespread consequences of the
US government’s war on drugs. “Brutiful” is a self-aware examination of personal and universal
accountability and the general shittiness of human beings, while “Sell Me Youth” almost –
almost – contains a sense of hope within urgent insistence to not conform to what the world
expects from you. It all comes to a head with “Coda-fendants” – a melancholy rumination on
mortality set within the backdrop of the opiate crisis and which sees the band lament ‘we are all
we have until it’s all we had – goodbye.’ It’s a genuinely shocking, soul-stirring end to a record
that, true to the band’s intentions, pulls no punches and never shies away from the truth. As
King sings on “Suicide By Pigs”: ‘Nothing sucks out the joy of life quite like truth.’
“I think the reason it’s a dark record,” King says, “is because we’re being brutally honest. If we
were being 100% brutally honest and things in the world were fucking great, then that would
mean we’d be singing way more positive stuff. But to be brutally honest is to say that this
fucking world is a dark place. That’s the sad truth. You’re not going to piss on my face and tell
me it’s raining. This place is dark and it’s fucked up. Between me and Ceschi and Mike,

everyone involved in the record – Stacey Dee and the fucking DOC and Onry – people have seen
some dark shit, so that’s how it comes out. It’s a tragedy, but that’s just how it is.”
The fact that that’s just how it is means every label Codefendants approached to put out the
record – despite the previous successes of all their other bands – said no. So, in true punk and
hip-hop fashion, the band are going it alone instead on their own terms. They announced
themselves with a demo cassette you had to buy with cash in the mail, they’ve been working on
a series of videos with activist art collective INDECLINE, and want to take full control of how the
project is presented live.
“Instead of doing the traditional thing and going on the road,” says King, “we want to stay in
our own lane and rent spaces to have full control of the environment. We’d rather rent out an
office that’s for lease in, like, downtown San Francisco or L.A. for a month and curate shows
every weekend.”
Once again, it all comes down to the only thing that matters – authenticity.
“We started this,” continues King, “so we can have music that had a pop feel to it that was
going to be accessible, but also drop the really fucking raw shit, so that we can get into a
position where we can punch some of the people that are doing it badly in the face at a festival
we get put on. We want to put some kind of grace back into both of these genres that got
taken, and make it hard for these motherfuckers to make money off it. If you let these fools run
amok with this bullshit, it’s just going to snowball into worse and worse. A lot of the people that
listen to our bands use music to get them through their fucking day, to get them through hard
shit and not put a bullet in their fucking mouth, and the more real shit people put out, the more
the output of the fucking wack shit goes way down.”
Brace yourself. There’s a crime wave coming. It’s not pretty, but it’s essential, important and
very, very necessary.