Codename: Rocky | Piecing Together a Band One Member at a Time
FEBRUARY 6, 2020 | By Adrian Gonzalez
No matter who you are, we all have family that isn’t biologically related. Those friendships are formed and bonded through experience and growth towards a common goal. As the music Gods would have it, this band was formed out of 3 classic Southern California ska bands. In 1997 Members of “Low Pressure” members of “Channel Six” and a member of “The Grovers” joined forces to start a band called “Codename: Rocky.”
It was the perfect blend of Low Pressure’s jazzy sound and Channel Six’s ska-punk sound. In the beginning, members and singers would cycle in and out, until lead singer Daniel Torres decided he would handle the vocals and the guitar. Through hard work and practice, Dan finally managed to control the guitar and vocals. As the horn section grew, saxophone player Ivan Ibarra was trying out new horn players when Rich Iwason answered an ad in the “Penny Saver” with his pocket trumpet. Then Bill Adams was asked to play trombone, but admittedly, Bill was better at trumpet than he was at trombone; that’s when the CNR signature sound was formed. Songs are traditionally written by Drew (drums) and Matt AKA Mott (guitar), but it takes the entire team to get CNR functioning.
In 1999 Codename released their first album. It was 16-songs, full-length titled “No Time to Waste.” Highlights include the punk-ska classic “My Boss Sucks,” “Keyhole” and a cover of the Cure classic, “Just Like Heaven.” It’s been said by multiple members of CNR that it was pretty ambitious to make such a long album. In true Codename style everyone in the band had their input and at least had their ideas heard.
JUST LIKE HEAVEN off the album titled, No Time To Waste
Having too many ideas is a fortunate problem that CNR has continued to have. In 2002 they released “Infinity,” an 8-song full-length album. The guys thought making 8 songs was taking easy, so in 2016 CNR released a 14-song album titled “re: boot.” They were out to show that these rockers have no shortage of music to give us. The song “Noisemaker” is already a classic in the Orange County Music scene.
Noisemaker off the Album Titled re: boot
With a band like CNR that’s been around so long, and with so many members; there are bound to be difficulties and demands that will take some effort to address. From personal schedules, a multitude of songs to shift through, and making sure everyone has input on any new songs and albums; it take strategic planning. First and foremost the band members have to be able to sync their schedules and make sure everyone is on projects and shows. Pocket Trumpet player Rich works in the bay area and drives back down to Orange County, 1st for his wife and kids and 2nd for his jam sessions with CNR who he affectionately calls his “brothers.”
Rich says its tough to keep a routine such as this going, but adds, “It keeps me sane when I’m far from home.” As life and being an adult became more of a priority, Lead singer Dan had to reluctantly say goodbye to the band. Dan didn’t have a band meeting to announce his departure, but rather contacted each band member individually, giving them his personal reasons for leaving. He let them know that he still loved them and the band. He also made sure that each of them knew that he wanted the project to continue and develop without him as an active member. That’s where we meet current lead singer, Justin Picon.
Picon was the former guitarist and LEAD singer of “Eve of Destruction.” He was a long-time friend of CNR. Even though Picon admits it’s incredibly big shoes to fill when you’re replacing an already beloved singer and friend. Luckily, he wasn’t as intimidated as he should have been because of the relationship he had with the soon to be band-mates. Justin had known Bill since he was a young teenager, even helping with the merch table when the opportunity arose. Picon addresses himself as a big fan of CNR pointing out he has a tattoo of the band. The band made sure not to treat him as the “new guy” and validated his opinions and ideas. Even former singer Dan has expressed his joy in having Justin as the CNR singer.
Dan often writes or make suggestions keeping Justin’s key and range in mind. All of this has made Picon feel like he’s as much a part of this band as anyone; making him act like just himself and do what he does best has made it feel like it is his band too.
So what’s next for Codename: Rocky? The guys are working on new music and hopefully an album. At the 5th annual OSKArs not only did Codename win “Horniest HornSection,” but they treated the crowd to a to a brand new song titled “Cutting the Chemist.” A new song written by Justin and perfected by the whole band.
It’s an energetic rocking song that took everyone in the crowd by surprise and seemed to be welcomed. In the past each member of the band would bring pieces of what they thought could be a good song and then try to fit it in. Mott says “the band is better now at introducing more complete songs and ideas, it saves time and makes the creative process easier to handle.”
Trumpet player Bill says that there is enough content to create another full-length album and the band would be all for it if the songs are good. “If a song doesn’t make us bob our heads or make us want to rock out then usually it disappears” Bill went on to say “we have to be a fan of our songs, they have to be songs we want to hear.” If a song has become work or just not fun, then it’s been removed from set list and put aside.
One thing is certain, when you catch Codename at a show, they’ll electrify you. Today’s lineup in fuses their sonic vision with their signature sound. So you’ve heard the names, here’s the roster: Justin Picon (lead vocals), Matt Fitzgerald (bass), Drew Baker (drums), Bill Adams (trumpet), Rich Iwason (trumpet), Ivan Ibarra (sax), Phillip Lara (trombone), Matthew Montoya (guitar), and Drew Baker (drums). Their collective soul is blood piercing and awe inspiring.
As for now, the currently untitled Codename: Rocky project is slated for either mid-spring or the beginning of summer. In the mean time follow them on social media. CNR is always willing to do a show and those in the crowd may be treated to unreleased songs from their upcoming release. One thing we can be sure of is that Codename is a family, and they extend that family love to the crowd and all who listen to them. Like a family, they are willing to adjust and hear everyone out so they can function as one cohesive complete band.