Josh Scogin charts a new, raw musical course with '68

Two parts viper

Josh Scogin charts a new, raw musical course with '68
Photo by Jonathan Weiner
’68 with Arms, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1, Backbooth, 37 W. Pine St.,, $13-$15

"I walked outside the venue – I think it was the Social – and our van and trailer were gone," Josh Scogin, vocalist-guitarist of '68, recalls. "I was convinced they were stolen because I didn't know at the time that you can tow a van-trailer combo. Anyway, after going mad for like half an hour, I called to check and sure enough the tow company had them. Once I realized they weren't stolen, paying the $350 dollars to get it back was not as big of a deal. That's the first Orlando story that popped into my head, but make no mistake, I LOVE Orlando. People there have always been very kind to me and the bands I have been in."

In years past, those bands have included the Chariot and Norma Jean, but these days Scogin fronts the explosive two-piece '68, alongside drummer Michael McClellan. "I had done five-piece bands before and I loved doing it, but I wanted something that took me out of my comfort zone and made things fresh and new for me," Scogin enthuses. This new musical journey defies categorization, throwing virtually every kind of influence into the mix and somehow making it all sound cohesive. "The music I make now has really just evolved alongside my tastes – '68 is closer to the style of music I would jam in a van on a long drive."

The '68 style is a flash fire of raw power that has its roots in blues, its head in garage rock and its gut in hardcore. Scogin's vocals will crack, the distortion will build and build and then blow out, and the song will sound on the verge of collapse right before it sweeps you away on a hard-edged, discordant melody. In an age where every voice is smoothed out and every photograph is sharpened, the imperfections inherent in '68's sound are refreshing.

"I don't want to hide the fact that I'm a human," muses Scogin. "It is the imperfections that make individuals amazing and beautiful; why would we hide that with the soul-sucking perfection of technology? I'm not anti-technology, I just think rock & roll is supposed to be a little reckless and impulsive."

Continuing with that line of thought, the pair don't use setlists onstage, but instead rely on a few hand signals and instinct to guide a performance along. "Every night can be its own entity. Instead of trying to copy/paste the same performance night after night that you manufactured in the comforts of a rehearsal space, it helps us to connect with the crowd and let the night itself dictate what the show should be like," Scogin asserts. "When it is done correctly, and everyone is connected, it can really be a magical moment," he explains. And even when it doesn't fall into place so perfectly, "then it can be a real train wreck, but at least it is still genuine."

For the '68, it's all about the moment: "Honestly I'm usually just trying to soak it all in while trying to be present. ... I know this train won't last forever so each show I attempt to absorb it all and hope that I can preserve that feeling in my long-term memory and keep it forever. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't."

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