Interview with vocalist/guitarist Josh Scogin | By Janelle Jones
Just officially announced in December 2013, ’68 is Josh Scogin’s latest project, and seems to be getting great reception so far. A departure from his previous bands Norma Jean and The Chariot, the music of ’68 provides a look at what Josh is up to at this point in his life. He’s currently working on a full-length, but people who haven’t checked it out yet can hear some tunes on the No Sleep Records re-release of the Midnight 7”.
How’d this all come together?
It was kind of a really fast-moving snowball. On Warped Tour in The Chariot, when we made it official we were gonna part ways just amongst ourselves, we hadn’t announced it publicly or anything, I was thinking about the next thing I wanted to do, what that would look like and everything. I had a few songs already written for what’s now known as ’68. When I just had any time to write something I’d just throw it in the pool of stuff just to refer back to. I love heavy music and I love all types of music but this music maybe more so defines what it is that I listen to and more closely represents who I am today. The Chariot obviously I started ten years ago and that’s exactly who I was at that point. As I grew up the music evolved and the lyrics and everything else evolved. But ultimately the more I thought about it the more I was into the idea of doing something that had a little bit more this kind of feel just because I always try to write from the heart and try to be true to who I am and so I felt like what a great way to do that by just taking a time stamp of where I am right now and starting a group that represents that more closely.
Is that kind of why you ended the previous band because you were feeling a different way, go in a different direction?
Not necessarily. They’re kinda two separate entities. The Chariot was The Chariot and we all parted ways in a very mutual idea. We’re all really good friends still. There’s no weirdness or hard feelings. But basically as four individuals who make up a band we each had a stepping stone that we were able to take. It’s very rare in a band scenario all the members would have something like that, whether it’s a really good career-like job they have an opportunity to do or college, whatever the case may be, we all had at that time. And so the more we talked about trying to fit all that in the same space in a very calm and friendly discussion we were like, what if we call it a night? We had the best year we’ve ever had as a band so it all kinda made sense in a very real and very natural way and all the stars sort of aligned. And then once that became official, that ended that. And then a very brand new thing started for me. So it wasn’t any kind of “I got this thing I wanna do,” where it worked really well for one person; everyone else was like I do have this thing I’d love to try to do. We went with the impulse that felt right.
It’s so weird that everyone had something else they wanted to do…
Yeah, I’ve been in bands for most of my life now and it’s definitely a rare occurrence to have that come about. It was very nice because all of us felt very at peace about it. I still love heavy music and especially live, there’s nothing more fun than doing what we did in The Chariot so it’s not like we were hitting the bottom as far as writing material or anything like that. We still had things we could’ve done.
This is just something you were working with on the side? Are you a person who’s always writing and you just had extra stuff?
Yes. [Laughs] I’m always writing and for every song that’s ever gotten released with my hands involved there’s probably 15 that you don’t hear. There’s plenty of things in my pool that have nothing to do with what genre I’m involved with. I’ve produced female solo artists and had to write songs for them so obviously two or three songs that never got used would be more in the vein of the Top 40 vibe or whatever. There’s always stuff lying around whether it’s anything that I ever intend on using or not. I never wanna throw it away forever. But like I said sometimes while writing for The Chariot and trying to write the albums I’d get something I really enjoyed but didn’t really fit the bill of The Chariot so I just put it off to the side. The more I thought of what I wanted to do with this next episode of my life, it’s like, this is the stuff I really enjoy right now. So I took a couple of the songs and made them up to date and where I am right now and I was able to come into the studio and record a couple songs which is what ended up on the 7”. I’m actually in the studio right now finishing up a full-length record that’ll hopefully come out sometime in the spring.
About the 7” you re-released, you did it on your own?
Pretty much. I had the help of Good Fight Records but basically the studio I recorded everything at was with Matt Goldman and all The Chariot records have been recorded here. He enjoys a lot of the work I do so I talked to him about recording two songs and when I showed him the songs he really enjoyed it. And anything he enjoys, once he’s on board, he’s all-the-way on board. I just came in, recorded those two songs in a couple days and put them out.
I heard it sold out in one day. [Laughs] How many did you press?!
I think we did 1500. In eight or nine hours I think they all sold out. It was very nice to know people are interested. But then came the nervousness. While I’m writing I never care what if people like it or don’t like it, I just write what I wanna hear. But at the same time once it’s done I let it go and see if it has wings because at this point in my life if everybody was like nope this is terrible then I would go work at Subway I guess. [Laughs] Nothing against people that work at Subway, but that’s my job options at this point. Either do something that does well enough to be able to tour and pay the bills, it’s not like I’ve ever been a band that’s made enough money to last very long. It’s funny ‘cause I never really had that feeling come over me but once they sold out, they sold out before they were able to get to the people, so all the sudden I’m waiting for a day or two to see if people dig it. It was a very nice feeling to hear people have good comments [about it]. It kinda gave me a breath of fresh air to be able to go, okay, cool I’ll be able to hopefully do this for another 10 years. We’ll see.
That’s what I was wondering, if this was just, not a one-off, but if it was something you could see yourself doing for a while. So you can…
Oh yeah. If I have my way I’ll definitely be doing music with this project. Once I commit to something, I have a pretty addictive personality and I’m a very passionate person so it’s kinda hard not to pour everything into what I’m doing. I’d definitely love to be able to do four, five, six records. Who knows what the future holds but that’d be very nice.
Totally. Originally it was this cut-up picture of this Elvis montage. I’m a big fan of all-things vintage so we did this Elvis montage and then when they re-released it I told them I want it to look like a band from the ‘60s or I want it to look like a band from the ‘90s. So we threw a couple ideas around and I think Bleach is an amazing record and something for me personally that changed my worldview on how I saw music so we tried that idea out and it just seemed to fit really nicely with what I was doing. When something feels right it’s just right. I’m a pretty big fan of going with your gut instinct.
Is that how you are when you write too? Like you don’t go over and over it?
Yeah. I really trust my gut instinct. I feel sometimes you can overthink it─ especially rock ‘n’ roll and The Chariot punk-rock stuff, once you start overthinking sometimes I feel you miss the whole boat. The whole point is to be spontaneous. I think right away you know if it’s gonna work or not. With this full-length I’m doing, I wrote a lot of the songs and then would go in the studio and record it that day or the next day. And the drummer Michael almost every song he recorded he heard that morning for the first time. So it’s a very impulsive record, very sorta wing-it style, let’s try this, and there’s no time for looking back and being like, “was this idea better?” It’s just a one-way train.
About it selling out the first time, you think about it, maybe some people heard it’s Josh from The Chariot, and they were expecting that. But it’s not…!
I was fully aware that─ and I still am─ a lot of people who like The Chariot could very well not being into this. The only real similarity is my voice and on some of the ’68 stuff I’m singing more. I feel like people who like The Chariot for the music and for the idea that we tried our best to do new things and stuff that sounded new to us. If people liked that then I think they’ll like this. But if people liked The Chariot because we went ham onstage then they might not get this. Some people maybe didn’t dive into the songs very much and they didn’t see past the live show and I like to think The Chariot was more than a live show even though I enjoy the live show, I think it’s more than that. But at the same time I’m here to write what’s true for me. And as appreciative as I am to every single person who said a kind word, when you do 300 shows a year or somewhere around that you gotta really believe in what you’re doing. That’s why I don’t necessarily believe in writing music for what you think people might or might not like or writing music for what you think the label’s gonna be okay with or writing music for what you think critics are gonna be cool with or not. You just gotta write what’s true to you and I think everything else will follow in a healthy way. And there’ll be people who don’t like it obviously but I think it’s a lot healthier as an individual with a soul, it’s healthier for me instead of getting up every single night playing music I don’t believe in. That’s always been at the forefront of my thought process.
About the songs here, “Three Is A Crowd” and “Third Time Is A Charm,” is there a certain thing about the number three?
There was sort of a nervousness because─ and the record’s called “Midnight” which is sort of an homage to Cinderella who at midnight everything goes back to normal. [Laughs] I’d done Norma Jean and I’d done The Chariot and here I am attempting this third act of my life and as I said I’m aware this could all wrap up soon as far as if people aren’t into it they’re not into it. With the two song titles it kinda represented that thought process of continuing on in my head: “Three’s a charm,” oh, this is gonna be great or “three’s a crowd,” like we should’ve stuck with The Chariot. [Laughs] That’s a very realistic look at where my thoughts are right now. I feel very much like Cinderella and midnight hasn’t come yet. I expect at any moment it’ll start dinging and I’ll be like, “Man, it was a good ride.” At the end of the day you take every moment as it is and carry on and make the most of it and who knows what the future holds.