Codeine is an American indie rock band formed in 1989 in New York City. They released two full-length albums—Frigid Stars LP in 1990 and The White Birch in 1994.[1] Although the group broke up in 1994 shortly after the release of The White Birch, their subdued and melancholic style helped pioneer the then-nascent slowcore subgenre of indie rock.[2][3][4][5] Codeine has since reunited on two occasions: the first for a handful of shows in 2012, and a second time for a series of shows in New York and Los Angeles in 2023.[6][7]


Codeine was formed by members Stephen Immerwahr (vocal, bass), Chris Brokaw (drums), and John Engle (guitar).[8][9] Codeine pioneered the indie rock subgenre slowcore,[8][10] but with a more experimental attitude than other bands in the genre, such as Low, Idaho and Red House Painters. The band's original tone, marked by slow tempos, Immerwahr's nasal vocals, and Engle's ringing Telecaster, stayed consistent during their career.

Codeine released their first album Frigid Stars LP on the German label Glitterhouse in August 1990. The album was released on Sub Pop early the following year.[9]

The Barely Real EP was released in November 1992.[1] Immerwahr rejected several of the songs after the recording session. Some of these songs would be re-recorded for the final album. The song "W." is a solo performance on piano by David Grubbs (of Bastro, Squirrel Bait and Gastr del Sol). A somewhat different full-band version of the song appears on Codeine's next album, now titled "Wird".

Brokaw left the band after the release of Barely Real to play full-time with his other band Come, and after Josh Madell of Antietam replaced him temporarily for a US tour, he was replaced permanently by Rex drummer Doug Scharin.[8]

Codeine's final release was the full-length album The White Birch, released in May 1994.[9] David Grubbs also participated on the album. After this release, the band broke up. Doug Scharin continued in Rex and June of 44, and later as the band leader of HiM.[8] Following the demise of Come, original drummer Chris Brokaw became a solo artist and itinerant musician, including playing drums for The New Year and playing guitar with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and with Christina Rosenvinge.[9]


In February 2012, Codeine announced it would perform on the request of Mogwai at All Tomorrow's Parties' sister event, I'll Be Your Mirror on 26 May 2012 in London, United Kingdom at Alexandra Palace, along with other shows, to commemorate a comprehensive reissue of their recordings by The Numero Group in June 2012.[11][12] Codeine's final reunion show was at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on 15 July 2012.[13]

In September 2022, the band released Dessau, an album of 8 songs recorded at Harold Dessau Recording in 1992 that was originally intended to appear on their second album, but was scrapped due to production conflicts. Chris Brokaw would leave the band shortly after the album was shelved. Two songs from these sessions would be re-recorded and released on Barely Real, others re-recorded for The White Birch; four songs from the Dessau sessions were first released on their 2012 compilation When I See the Sun.[14]

Codeine's first show in 11 years took place in New York's Union Pool on February 11, 2023, prior to playing the Numero Group's 20th anniversary festival in Los Angeles on February 18 and 19.[6]



Extended plays


  • Castle/Losida Slide Codeine/Surgery split 7-inch (1990, Glitterhouse)[15]
  • Valmead/Pea Bitch Magnet/Codeine split 7-inch and 12-inch (1990, The Communion Label)
  • Pickup Song 7-inch (1990, Glitterhouse)
  • D 7-inch (1990, Glitterhouse, Sub Pop)
  • A L'Ombre De Nous (In Our Shadow)/Produkt Bastro/Codeine split 7-inch (1991, Sub Pop, Glitterhouse)
  • Realize/Broken Hearted Wine 7-inch (1992, Sub Pop)
  • Sassy Codeine/Velocity Girl/Beat Happening/Sebadoh split 7-inch (1992, Sub Pop)
  • Ides/Working Holiday Codeine/The Coctails split 7-inch (1993, Simple Machines)
  • Tom/Something New 7-inch (1993, Sub Pop)


  • A Means to an End (1995), Virgin Records
  • When I See the Sun (2012), The Numero Group


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (2000). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Nineties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 91. ISBN 0-7535-0427-8.
  2. ^ Weingarten, Christopher (21 February 2012). "Slowcore Pioneers Codeine Announce Reunion Tour". Spin. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  3. ^ Parish, Matt (June 28, 2012). "'90s slow-core pioneers Codeine return". Boston Globe. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  4. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Codeine Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  5. ^ "Codeine". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2023-03-10.
  6. ^ a b Pearis, Bill (3 January 2023). "Codeine & The Hated playing East Coast shows before Numero Group anniversary festival". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved 2023-01-04.
  7. ^ "Codeine, The Hated, Ida, Chisel, & More Reuniting For Numero Group 20th Anniversary Festival". 30 September 2022. Retrieved 26 March 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d Mason, Stewart "Codeine Biography", AllMusic, Retrieved 26 June 2011
  9. ^ a b c d Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate,ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 679-680
  10. ^ Pareles, Jon (1 July 2012). "Grunge's Estranged, Desolate Cousins: Codeine, with Stephen Brodsky, at Bell House". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 21 July 2012
  11. ^ "The Numero Group". Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  12. ^ "Codeine Announce Reunion Tour". 21 February 2012.
  13. ^ "Codeine played Le Poisson Rouge (pics & setlist)". 18 July 2012.
  14. ^ a b "Codeine - Dessau". Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  15. ^ "". Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.

External links