Josh Scogin has become a staple of the underground. He’s been the vocalist of two extremely successful and well-known bands, Norma Jean and The Chariot. His new band, ’68, has taken the scene by storm, releasing an EP in 2013 and their first album on this day last year Luckily, I had the chance to talk to Josh about ’68, his influences, Warped Tour, and the possibility of him finally wearing shorts at a show:
Your vocals are recognizable to the point where current musicians are being compared to you. Who do you personally find influence from and have they changed throughout your years in the music industry?
Well, the original influences, the original reason I got into music and stuff had little to do with the vocal stylings or anything. The people that inspired me to be in music were more performance-based folks; James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis, all those cats sort of got me into it because the performance aspect of everything. Of course the punk rock world musically is where we sort of […] the earlier bands sort of went in that direction.
As far as vocals, I like a lot of vocals, but I don’t know that they would be classified as influencing in the sense that I don’t believe I sound like any of them or anything. One of my favorite vocalists is Chino Moreno of the Deftones, but obviously I don’t sound anything like him, but everything he can do with his vocal range, when he decides to sing, when he decides to scream, those little things are very interesting to me.
Yeah, I can’t really think of anything sound-wise or sonically that pushed me where I wanted to go other than the passion of the performance-based musicians; live, they’d almost be hollering or yelling or whatever, even though they’re playing way different music, it’s still a very passionate thing. So those are where I sort of got my influences to begin originally and of course, as bands come out and they sound really good, I’m influenced by a lot of people, I think, but it would be hard to pinpoint. It’s not like I heard one guy and was like, “Ooh, I wanna do this one thing that he does,” y’know?”
On the same topic of influences, Michael McClellan is from Becoming The Archetype, right?
Uhm, he played in that band for a couple of tours. There was really no affiliation with them as far as like, he was the drummer for that band or anything like that. I don’t know how that really got out (laughs); I guess ‘cause that was the biggest thing he had done. He was just more in local bands and did studio work with me and stuff. But yes, he was technically in the band for a minute, but I think he did maybe two tours or something like that.
I was going to say, how is it like for him, switching from the very technical, busy death-metal rhythms to this more stripped-down, raw mix of jazz and punk?
His style and the thing that he enjoys is more of what we’re doing, which is funny that people think of him […] I don’t know where it originally started from, ‘cause I never mentioned he was in Becoming The Archetype because it was such a short period, but the funny thing is that he played with that band, because he’s definitely more, not even musically, but just drums, he more vibes with The Killers, The Strokes. Y’know, he’s very into that sort of world, so that fact that he was with Becoming The Archetype is pretty hilarious for people who really know him, and for people who don’t really know him, they may have heard that he came from that band first, which is quite contrary to the type of person he is (laughs), so him playing for me makes way more sense than him playing for Becoming The Archetype if you knew him.
What’s the dynamic between the two of you as opposed to a four- and five-person band?
Well, it’s great because there’s pros and cons to everything. The last several years of The Chariot, we never had setlists or anything like that; we just kind of vibed off each other, and a lot of nights, it went really well, but you know, there’s nights where with four or five people, you’re not necessarily gonna be on the same page, and I think with just two people, we never have setlists or anything with ’68, it’s a lot easier to vibe and a lot easier, just with a catch of an eye, you extend a part or you shorten a part or whatever.
Like I said, there’s pros and cons to everything. The con is that there’s just two of us, so we’re loading everything on the stage, we’re loading everything off the stage, when we’re driving across America, there’s only two people to do all this stuff. Obviously, we could hire a crew someday in our lives, but right now, it’s just us two, so it’s nice. It’s quite nice, and for me personally, I wanted something; when I decided ’68 was just gonna be just two people, the idea was, “How can I take something that I’m so familiar with,” which is touring, and I still enjoy touring, “but how can I take it and sort of flip it upside down, make it new? How can I take something I’m familiar with and make it new?” And when I thought about just being a two-piece and the pros and cons that would come from that, that’s when I felt like everything clicked on what it was gonna look like and what it was gonna be like and what it was gonna sound like. Just the adventure of, “What is that gonna feel like just being two guys?” Yeah, that’s when everything started to click for me.
You guys are currently on the Road To Warped Tour, right? Has that been helping you get ready for Warped, and how has the mini-tour been?
Yes, with August Burns Red. It’s been great. We just got back from Europe last week, so for us, well, they were telling me they had about three months off, so for them, these shows are very helpful, y’know, just getting through the, “Oh, this doesn’t work, or this works, this set,” but for us, we had been on tour since March, I think, or February, something like that, so we’re good to go (laughs). But it’s still nice, you know, I’d rather play a show than have a day off any day. We’re from the East Coast, we’re from Atlanta, so driving all the way to the West Coast to start Warped Tour, it’s much better playing shows out there, so it’s definitely awesome to be on this tour.
As we all know, you almost never wear shorts. How do you think you’ll be able to do that when it’s going to be well over 100 degrees?
Well, I’m not gonna say that I’m not gonna wear shorts, but I will say, in The Chariot, when we played Warped Tour, I never wore shorts. But people change and people evolve and I have shorts with me on tour, I’ll just say that, but who knows if my legs will ever see the daylight. I don’t know, I’m still praying about it (laughs).
How would you describe ’68’s set to, say, a young kid who’s never heard of you and is just casually strolling past the stage as you guys are playing?
That’s a hard question because we don’t have a setlist; it’s all very spontaneous and impulsive, so it’s hard to really pinpoint exactly what to expect, but as cliché as it is, the unexpected can be expected. It’s definitely not the same show every night. Since we’re on tour with August Burns Red, our sets are predominately heavier, we’re doing the predominately heavier songs from the album, very little of the singing songs, but every night it could change. Every day is different, every crowd is different, every venue’s different, so we try not to have anything set in stone, able to pull from anywhere. Having said that, it’ll probably be energetic, it’ll probably be really loud, and hopefully fun (laughs).
I’ve always pictured ’68 as a living, breathing art installation, especially with your music video for “Track 5.” What have your thought processes been for this more artistic, experimental side of the band?
I think you kind of nailed it, y’know. The living and breathing part of it is definitely something I’ve thought about. With ’68, I like […] I don’t want people to know, y’know what I mean? Like, as an artist, I don’t ever want someone to be like, “Oh yeah, cool, I know exactly what they’re about to do,” and it’ll be correct. I like the element of surprise, and the reason everything we do is so spontaneous and so impulsive is because that makes it a treat for us as well.
Day in and day out, if you’re playing the same set over and over and over, it can get really easy to phone it in and just go through the motions, and for me, I still enjoy playing shows live, I still enjoy the beauty and the struggle. If I break a string, that’s half the band out right then and there, so you have to kind of on a whim kick into another part where the drummer can just kind of make up this drum beat while I change a string or maybe I hit the delay pedal and just let it get real feedback-y and noisy or whatever. There’s always a way and that’s the stuff that keeps it interesting, even for myself, and I feel like that resonates with any audience, where it’s not mathematical and it’s not completely so formulaic that you suck the human element out of it. I like human error, I like knowing and feeling that it was played by humans and sometimes things happen.
The fact that you referred to it as living and breathing, I kind of agree with that, I feel like there’s times where it is an animal all on its own, if you come see us one night at a show, and even see us the very next night, it can be night and day different. As an entity of ’68, I feel like it’s sort of this living, breathing thing that sometimes kind of has a life of its own, and I’m just along for the ride sometimes. It’s a great ride, but it keeps things interesting, it keep me on my toes, and I love that part of it.
For a lot of musicians, their “after band” bands, the thing they do on the side, or what they consider their side project only last for an album, but you guys are just getting started and you’re just picking up speed. What does the future look like for ’68 and what can we expect from you guys?
Well we’re booked pretty much for the rest of this year. We’ve been on tour the majority of this entire year. Like I said, we just got back from Europe and we’re on this Warped Tour now, and well, that’s all I can mention right now, but we’re touring heavily and this is obviously my main thing now, my main project. With any and all of my art, I try to give it my all, so with this, there’s talk about it, nothing official, but there’s talk about possibly recording a new record either in December or January, maybe seeing that come out next year.
There’s all sorts of things up in the air, y’know? I don’t know what next year looks like or anything, but I hope it involves a lot of touring and a lot of shows, ‘cause ultimately, that’s what I’m here to do, that’s what I love to do is play the live show. So yeah, we’ll stay busy. I’m not very good at twiddling my thumbs, so if we’re ever not busy, that’s when you know (laughs), that’s when I’m starting to worry. So as long as we stay busy, everything will be fine and as of now, that’s what it looks like it’s gonna be for a while.
’68 are currently on the Warped Tour in its entirety this summer. You can catch them on July 10 at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ, July 11 at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY, and July 19 at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. For more information, visit facebook.com/theyare68.