When ’68 frontman and guitarist Josh Scogin’s last band, The Chariot, abruptly broke up last year, many wondered what would become of its members. They didn’t have to wait that long to see what Scogin did, which was strip it down to just a two piece, re-emerging as ’68 with their debut album, In Humor and Sadness. Scogin and drummer Michael McLellan haven’t done much touring in the U.S. yet, which is why we’re excited they’ll be playing this coming Wednesday at our Metal Insider CMJ showcase at The Wick. We caught up with Scogin about adding guitar to his onstage repertoire, whether ’68 will remain a two-piece, and the importance of being a wordwide band.
You really haven’t played that many shows in America yet right?
We haven’t. We did one full US tour, and we did one southeast tour. Other than that, we’ve just done spot dates in America. We’ve done Europe; we’ve actually been all over, but as far as in the states, we’ve only done one. We’ve only done the west coast one time.
Is there a reason you haven’t toured more in the states yet?
Well, the first tour that we did was actually quite a long tour. It was about two months long, but it was mainly in the northeast and on the east coast. Like I said, we did go out to the west coast, but we hung out mainly in the east coast. Then right after that, we went on tour again, but it was a southeast run for maybe three weeks. After that, we went to Europe, and then we had about a month off just now, and here we are. We’ve kind of filled up our time; it wasn’t like we said no to any tours or anything. It’s just the way it worked out. We spent about a month and a half in Europe, and that adds together because we were still recording in January. We’ve been busy; it just hasn’t been a lot of the states’ stuff. Some of it was overseas, and we’ve already been to Russia and done a couple of things like that.
How important is being a worldwide band to you?
It’s very important to me. I love traveling anyway just as an individual, so I might as well do it, but also I’m a big believer in just remembering that we live on planet Earth and not planet America. I love experiencing other cultures, and even from somewhat of a business point of view, why not go to as many places as we can? If you have the opportunity, you might as well take it. Being from the east coast – we’re from Atlanta – touring around the southeast and the east coast is relatively easy. We can travel a couple of hours and we’re in another major city. If we travel another two, three, or four hours, we’re again in another major city. If we get the opportunity to go overseas, and it works out, I try to take full advantage of that whenever it presents itself.
Did The Chariot do a lot of overseas tours?
We did. It took us a long time before we got to Australia, but as far as Europe, we went right away, and tried to hit it at least two times a year. For most bands, that’s quite a bit, but we really tried to do it three times a year, although the opportunities didn’t really present themselves. A lot of it is waiting on getting invited in the first place. We would’ve gone to Australia right away, but there was never an opportunity that we knew of. But we traveled as much as we could, and with ‘68, we have the luxury of having the path with The Chariot, so it seems a bit easier to get your foot in the door and at least get invited to the place. Now it’s just a matter of maintaining that consistency.
Honestly, I just wanted something different for me. As soon as we had talked about parting ways in The Chariot, and even during that conversation, I knew I was going to do another band. I didn’t know what it looked like or necessarily even what it sounded like. I just knew I was going to keep the music. I just felt it. I thought about it and thought about it some more, and it was kind of just like, “Well, I’ve got a completely clean slate, what’s it going to look like? What’s it going to sound like?” I love playing music and I love playing shows, so I was excited, but it wasn’t really until I decided to make it a two-piece that it really started to fall into place.
I started being able to see the end result of the beginning since I’ve toured for quite a bit of my life; thankfully, I’ve been able to. It’s nice, I love it, and I have no complaints, but it was really nice to think of something to take it all and make it completely fresh again. When I thought about doing it as a two-piece, everything fell into place. It’s not comfortable for me because I have to play guitar and sing now, and I mean that in the best way possible. I enjoy the journey and shaking things up a bit; I didn’t want to get comfortable and stale and go through the motions. I like to stay on my toes and shake it all up; playing guitar while having to sing and worry about all my pedals is something I never had to do in The Chariot. Being a two-piece instead of a five-piece, I got excited about some of the limitations, but also some of the luxuries. Basically, it was just an attempt to make it all fresh and new again to my mind. When I came upon that is when I really started to see it falling into place, and thought to myself, “Oh, okay, this is what it’s going to look like.” That’s when the idea of it really started to ignite.
How much guitar had you played before?
I play guitar a lot. I’ve written the vast majority of The Chariot’s songs; in general, as far as the entire discography, on some CDs I wrote more songs than on others and on some CDs I wrote less. In general, I’ve written the majority of those, so I know what I want to hear on guitar, but as far as playing live, I’d only done it a handful of shows. It’d only be very select, specific shows where someone couldn’t make it, or if we were forced to play the show and would’ve been dumb to say no to it. We’d be writing for a record, and I’d be playing every day. I would just go ahead and record a lot of the songs that I wrote, so I’d be playing and playing for a couple of months, but then we would tour for two years on a record and I’d get dumb again on guitar. I wouldn’t even pick one up because we toured so extensively.
When I’d get back around to writing, it was funny. I’d have, in equal parts, me almost exploding to play guitar, write songs, and let ideas out since I hadn’t in so long, and then also all this relearning. Now it’s quite nice, since with ’68, I play every single day when we’re on tour, so I’ve obviously gotten a lot better at being a guitarist. The idea of it was definitely something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while. I’ve done a couple of little side things where I played guitar and sang, but nothing full-throttle like this. It’s always been something I wanted to pursue, and now’s the time.
The Chariot had a pretty fluid lineup over the years.
(Laughs) That’s a nice way to put it.
Do you envision adding more members to ‘68 at any point? Is this a first step or are you comfortable as a duo?
We’re definitely comfortable as a duo. In the beginning before I had actually toured, especially in interviews, I would keep it open. Since the idea of it and the reality of it are sometimes two completely different things, I liked the idea, but I was afraid I’d get on tour and realize I couldn’t pull it off. Or maybe it wouldn’t be what I envisioned it to be. If you’re lacking too much, it’s not worth keeping the idea. In the beginning, I think I was a little hesitant one way or another, but now that we’ve been touring the vast majority of this year, it’s definitely something that I intend to keep. I love it, especially somewhat of the struggle and limitations. Trying to make people forget that we’re only a duo is a nice challenge that I really enjoy, just seeing how much noise two guys can make. We’re definitely going to stay a duo.
Are there any other two-piece bands you look up to?
Oh, there’s plenty! I loved The White Stripes when they were around, and I’ve loved them forever. I like The Black Keys a lot, even though they’re not really a two-piece anymore as far as their live show. Royal Blood, who are kind of newer, are great, and they do a bassist and a drummer, which I think is really interesting. Those are the names that all stand out.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a decent amount of times, but I’m going to ask anyway. What’s the origin of the band name?
‘68’s definition, if you will, is that my father owned a 1968 Camaro, and he’s passed away now. I really enjoyed the idea of it; the rooting of our ups and downs is definitely something that I felt like we bonded over and could really hang out with. This idea of this super old car that he was really proud of and that I thought was awesome is kind of a memory of all the good things. I also really enjoyed the idea of just two numbers, because it doesn’t get lost in translation. When you see it, it’s an apostrophe, a six, and an eight. No matter what language you’re in, that’s still going to be what it is. I enjoy that about it as well, so it all tied together and felt like the right thing to do.
The two numbers thing, does that tie into the thing you did for Track 2 with the two videos that need to be played at the same time?
I never really thought about it like that. I did think about it in the sense that being a duo made that pretty easy; we could show the singer on most of it, we could show the drummer on most of it. For any five-piece, I would imagine that being a difficult thing. Making the video, I realized that I don’t know too many bands that could pull this off just because, with that many people, who do you show? Who do you give screen time to? As far as being a duo, I think that helped influence the video. As far as being just two numbers, I never really thought about it like that.
Are you already working on new music? I know the first album just came out.
I’m always writing, so in that sense, there’s a few songs that already exist. We’re definitely just going to tour a bunch. We’re going back to Europe in December, and we’re booked all the way into August of next year. I don’t know why, but I don’t think I can say more than that yet, except that the vast majority of dates are in the US. I’m excited to be able to stick to the homeland and get the word out with the hometown folks. We’re just going to tour heavily, and after August of next year, who knows? It might be time to start sitting down and writing a new record officially. It depends on what it feels like.
’68 will be playing the Metal Insider CMJ 2014 showcase on October 22, at The Wick in Brooklyn. Pick up tickets now!