The Milwaukee-based, electro-funk duo of Steven Hawley and Sage Schwarm (a.k.a. Codebreaker) is one of those rare affiliations that reinforces how natural it is to make the jump from the sleazy disco of L.A.’s AVI Records to the proto-house works of artists like Gwen Guthrie while harnessing an original, infectious 21st century pop appeal. Although they scored a minor hit with their track Caller, the most recent release, Exiled!, exemplifies what it is about them that is so major.
Hawley’s pleasantly pop produced vocals run the gamut from vocoded musings to soulful convocations, toying with the groove just as they should.
One of the most significant elements in funk and disco, as well as the foundation of hip-hop, is the bass line. Schwarm’s bass bumps in such a way that makes it all work together: there’s a synergy between the bass and everything else that flutters around it, contributing to their trademark sound.
Live, the group is fleshed-out by Allison Westbrook and Dan Flynn, accomplished musicians in their own right. Allison keeps the low end locked with natural Gap Band-like presence. Dan comes from an intense jazz background. As a four-piece, all of the elements are there: a soulful electricity with staccato jabs aimed at the dance floor.
Hawley’s approach to crowd-interaction: jumping and shouting, alternating front man duties with mean synth hits & funky percussion breaks, corralling the audience like a revved-up tent revivalist preacher, casts out any doubt that Codebreaker is serious about having fun and funking shit up.
Having previously shared the stage with the likes of Hot Chip, Phoenix, Chromeo, Outhud, VHS Or Beta & Datarock (among others) the group has been taking its show on the road - most recently playing at clubs such as the Mezzanine in San Francisco and the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
--Cameron Octigan / XLR8R
"Unless you're so cutting edge it hurts, you probably haven't heard of Codebreaker yet -- and we're stressing the word "yet." Definitely one to watch: The sound recalls some crazy house party where Cameo is drinking with Prince, Phoenix is partying with Daft Punk and Bootsy Collins is jamming on the sofa. Fritz has already said the band's "Dream Lover" -- is "the best damn dance song" he's heard in ages, thanks to a rubbery bassline, jumpy guitars and synths that don't overwhelm the vocals.."
-The Washington Post
"Armed with killer basslines, wicked beats, and that sweet warm summer feeling you just can't get enough of."
"Their funky electronica is as infectious as their beautiful artwork."
"Agile melodies and smart composition. The way that makes all other try-too-hards swoon - wishing they could step up their music to such a sophisticated level. Daft Punk are in the audience. They quietly lead the applause from the back."
-Take Your Medicine Podcast
"It's like Nile Rodgers in his 'land of the good groove' meeting the polished electronics of Hysteria-era Cerrone. Either way, whatever frame of reference you may choose, these guys have put out some of the most original, exciting stuff that I've heard lately. If this doesn't get you up, you might need to get your boogie-senses checked."
"If George Duke's Brazilian Love Affair had been with Don Ray and they'd adopted a love child, this is what it would sound like."
"Modern electro-funk so endlessly danceable even Chromeo must be jealous."
-The Prettiest Pony