It’s a cold spring evening in Flint, Michigan on the night of April 4th, 2014, as fans eagerly wait outside the Flint Local 432 – a beloved DIY-punk venue in the area – anxiously anticipating doors to open for tonight’s show. Not only are the show’s attendees excited to warm themselves under the soft glow of the venue’s houselights, but they’re even more excited for the glorious return of hometown heroes Chiodos on the band’s Roots & Routes tour. Given the show’s sold out status, as well as the number of fans flooding in with vintage Chiodos band merch on their backs, the band is practically guaranteed an incredible show. This makes the job of opener ‘68 all the more interesting.
Fresh off the release of their debut EP Midnight, vocalist/guitarist Josh Scogin began the new project soon after the decade-long journey he took as the vocalist for hardcore act The Chariot came to an end last November. After rallying the likes of drummer Michael McClellan to assist him, the pair spent the winter hammering out the details and constructing the blueprint over what would eventually become ’68. Taking an equal mixture of rock, hardcore and blues, Scogin and McClellan fiercely come together to create the sonic blast of adrenaline many Chariot fans naturally expected, while still being able to give the new material its own unique dash of reality.
Substream recently caught up with Scogin to discuss touring with Chiodos, The Chariot’s break-up and the finite details over how ’68 was conceived.
Substream Magazine: Right now, ’68 is direct support for Chiodos on the Roots & Routes tour, but once Devil’s Dance starts, you’ll be the first band on the bill. As a new project, how do you go about creating an atmosphere that engages new fans?
Josh Scogin: It’s nothing that we really plan out or anything. Every show feels a little bit different, which is something I definitely learned and kind of honed in on with The Chariot. Every show’s just so different that you don’t need to go in with this broad brushstroke of “Here’s what we’re going to do.” Being the first band throws in a whole set of variables your way – sometimes doors open late, sometimes there are very few people. All of this is fine with us, but you kind of play with it as it comes. Everything’s a little different, but we just try to feel it, and switch things up depending on how we’re feeling that night.
SM: I want to talk about The Chariot a little bit. When exactly did you and the rest of the band realize that it wasn’t something you wanted to pursue anymore?
JS: One day, we all went to sleep carrying on with The Chariot, and then the next day, we woke up and decided not to. It was literally a one night thing. Some things had happened in our individual lives that were very positive things, and the more we chit-chatted about it, while discussing our future record, the more we said, “Maybe [One Wing] is the best record to wrap it up on.” I’m a big fan of that record, especially in the way that it technically ends with the lyrics, the words – everything about it just felt really good. Not only that, but we had a good year [preceding it] – we’d be struggling to get on Warped Tour forever and we finally did, and we did Soundwave earlier that year in Australia with the biggest bands in the world. As individuals, we each had a thing we were all excited about pursuing, whether it was college, a different path, a different band. It all just started and let us go with our gut instinct with what the right thing to do was, so we went with it. We discussed it as a group, went to bed that night and thought, “This might be it.” We already had a tour booked that we hadn’t announced yet, so we decided to make it our farewell tour, which was pretty unrealistic. The fact that we were all still friends, still had something going on afterwards and were all in such a great spot in our lives afterwards – it just made sense. It was really nice to have that closure and to have people be able to say “thank you,” because so many bands never get to do that.
SM: The setup for the band right now is just you and your drummer Michael [McClellan]. When did the talks between you two start about forming ’68?
JS: Well, The Chariot and I had talked about ending it midway through Warped Tour, but nobody knew about it at that point. I called the guy who produced all of our records, Matt Goldman, the next day and I told him that I wanted to book studio time for December. He said, “Oh sweet, you guys are making another Chariot record,” and then we let him in on the secret, knowing he wouldn’t try to spill the beans or anything. I basically told him that The Chariot was calling it a night and he asked me what the studio time was for, telling him, “Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve got some things in the works, but I know if I have the studio time already booked, I’ll have to be ready by then.” When I got home from Warped Tour, I started really focusing on what the next step would be and what it’d look like, again, just going with my gut. This time, I felt the music was a little more specific to where I’m at, as opposed to the Chariot, which we started ten years ago when I was a different person. I still love it, and I felt like we’ve been able to evolve, but with ’68, it’s exactly where I’m at right now. I was just going to write all of the stuff and record it with Goldman actually playing drums, but the more we actually talked about it, we said we probably should have the drummer involved and invested in it as well. I knew Michael from his older brother, who works at the studio, and I’ve had him come in and play with some solo artists that I’ve worked with and produced. I just sat him down at a Chipotle one day, talked to him about everything he had planned and everything just kind of lined up. From then, we just started writing and made it happen.
SM: What was the type of mindset you wanted to go into with this new project?
JS: Very open-minded. At one point in my life, I had decided that whatever I pursued next didn’t want to become The Chariot, Jr. There’s a version of almost every song we’ve done that involves no screaming. At the same time though, I want this to be who I am, so there was a version where I essentially swung back and forth from the pendulum from extremely heavy to mellow, all-singing. Now I think I’ve found a really happy medium where I enjoy being able to play this kind of aggressive music that sort of resembles The Chariot, but also enjoy something you can kind of bob your head to without taking a hard left turn in a live setting. Honestly, a lot of the songs I wrote I would wake up and just right two-three hours immediately, making it a very impulsive/open-minded environment where the songs were able to develop themselves. I think when rock and roll starts to get over-thought, I feel like it loses some of its characteristics.
SM: When you were coming up with the new material, is there anything you drew influence from that you particularly that you hadn’t with The Chariot?
JS: I’d say it’s all of the same influence, but just how we brought it to the table. With The Chariot, we’d go through a writing phase where I’d only pick three groups to listen to. Like on Wars & Rumors of Wars, I’d only listen to James Brown, Jesus Lizard and Arcade Fire. Something about that helps because you don’t want to listen to a lot of heavy stuff right before you go into writing it; you want to listen to music that broadens your horizons. When it came to 68, it was very much the same theme as far as music that was influencing me. Yet lyrically, near the end of The Chariot, we could write an album assuming [x] amount of people will check this out. With this, it was a very different mentality, not knowing how many people are going to be into the idea of me not making heavy music anymore. It’s a very wide open space I’m in right now, so lyrically we’ve taken a very hard left shift towards hoping it pans out and works.
SM: ’68 currently has a pair of songs out on Midnight, a 7” that released a couple of days ago (April 4th). As a first impression for listeners, what kind of an impact did you want to make right out of the gate?
JS: I don’t know if I thought too much about it. This goes with most stuff, but I like vintage, old sounding music. I always joke around that I was born in the wrong generation. With ’68, I either was hoping it would come out sounding like it was straight from the 1960s, or I wanted it to authentically feel like it came from the early ‘90s. I always wanted it to be very riff-rock sounding like Zeppelin, or I wanted it to feel like it came out of the grunge spurt of Seattle where it all took off. However, I feel like I connect with that type of sound more than the stuff that’s coming out these days; Obviously with all of the technologies and conveniences it’s fun to play with and entertain yourself. Hopefully I find myself falling somewhere between the mix of new and vintage. Even with the name of the band being ’68, I always get images of 1968 with it being such a good year, with a lot of people thinking for themselves and pushing their own boundaries.
SM: One of The Chariot’s largest calling cards was just how insane and powerful your live performances could be. With ’68, do you feel any type of pressure to live up to what those live shows were like?
JS: I definitely can envision people always comparing the two. It’s a new band – one man’s stuck behind a drum set and it’s just me up on stage – so there’s no way we could recreate, nor would I want to recreate what The Chariot did. The Chariot was its own entity and I would never even assume I could pull that off. I think if people liked The Chariot strictly based on the fact that we went H.A.M. on stage that they may or may not really get into this. But if they appreciated The Chariot for, hopefully, it being art, then I think there’s something here for the people to enjoy. I write lyrics on purpose to hopefully push and move me on stage. It’s not a boring live show at all, but at the same time, a lot of things you do in comparison to The Chariot would seem pretty boring – sort of like David & Goliath. [Laughs]. Hopefully people will see it for the new thing that it is, be happy The Chariot existed and be stoked for the new stuff.
SM: Right now, you’re touring with Chiodos through late May. After that, do you have any concrete touring plans?
JS: In June, we were talking about going to Australia, but I don’t know if that’s going to pan out now. We have a better offer that might be coming that I can’t talk about yet. Sometime in that period, however, we’re going to be releasing the record – which I don’t know what that looks like yet, as far as if we’re going to do some shows. Then in July, we’re talking about doing a Listener / ’68 / Homeless Gospel Choir tour called “The Boys of Summer.” We’ve been emailing back and forth about that now, and we’re good friends with both bands. When I first realized The Chariot was over, I actually tried to join [Listener]. [Laughs]. That’ll be one of the most fun tours. I love those dudes, and we just get along really well. Everything else is just kind of up in the air right now.
SM: When should fans start to hear your plans for a full length?
JS: Hopefully July. We’re still on the very brink of signing to a label – we’ve gotten a couple of different offers, but we haven’t inked anything yet. There’s one that I’m further down the path than others, but until it’s a done deal, I don’t want to assume anything. For now, I’m really hoping for that Boys of Summer tour will be the release for that, but we’ll have to see for now.
On May 15th, ’68 officially announced their signing to eOne Music / Good Fight Music, later revealing their debut full-length In Humor & Sadness will be released on July 8th of this year. Additionally, the band also announced their summer touring plans with Listener and Homeless Gospel Choir, which can be seen below.
2 – Kansas City, MO – Czar Bar
3 – St. Louis, MO – Plush
4 – Champagne, IL – Audio Feed
6 – Chicago, IL – Subterranean
8 – Grand Rapids, MI – Take Hold
9 – Fort Wayne, IN – Calhoun Street Bar
10 – Columbus, OH – Double Happiness
11 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Roboto Project
12 – Whitehall, PA – Planet Trog
13 – Atlantic City, NJ – The Boneyard
14 – Annapolish, MD – Knights of Columbus
15 – Roanoke, VA – TBD
16 – Columbia, SC – New Brookland Tavern
18 – Atlanta, GA – The Loft
19 – Nashville, TN – Rocketown
20 – Memphis, TN – The Abbey
21 – Little Rock, AR – TBD
22 – Dallas, TX – The Door
23 – Austin, TX – Red 7
24 – Oklahoma City, OK – TBD
25 – Springfield, MO – Randy Bacan Gallery
Check out ’68’s first single, “Track 1” below.