"Nothing compares to 100 people in a room screaming the same lyric simultaneously, and that’s a moment where I truly have hope for humanity."
'Give Some Take Some', the new album from '68 is out now via Cooking Vinyl.
A garish and grooving beast of a record, it's a collection of songs that manages to capture the energy of seeing the duo live whilst also pushing the limits of what you would expect to hear from there. It's loud, lairy and littered with enough sweaty hooks and white-hot fury to get you off your feet and celebrating the joy of music without you even realising. It's also an album that feels like the electricity running up your spine as you step into the unpredictable world of live music, which is so vital at a time when we aren't able to experience it.
We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Josh Scogin to find out about where the roots of the record lie and how he set about trying to bottle the feeling of excitement that only live music can provide...
Just how long has the road to the release of this album been?
“It’s probably longer than people know. So we met Nick Raskulinecz, who we recorded with, in 2018 and by the end of the year, we were talking about recording in January 2019. What that means for us as a band is that we needed to have all of our songs ready to go by that time. I don’t remember what happened, but some things got pushed and had some tours come through. Then we had a couple of months off and changed a couple of songs around here and there as you do. So we officially started recording in the summer of 2019 by that point. Essentially we have had some of these songs ready to go since around then. There’s a couple we were even playing live to get the feel of them. So it’s been a long road. Then there’s everything that 2020 was. We were supposed to release last year, in March, and obviously, it was just bad timing. The world was trying to figure out what was happening and the last thing I wanted to do was be like, ‘Hey, rock and roll’. It didn’t feel right.”
Especially when you have an album made to be enjoyed with friends and in sweaty rooms together, if you can experience the base reason this band exists, then it’s not right…
“It felt forced and felt wrong. I tend to lead with my gut instincts, and my gut told me that it was incorrect. Like many millions of people around the world, I was going, ‘I don’t know how we are going to be able to pay for groceries. At that moment, it’s weird to be talking about rock and roll at that time. I have spoken about some serious things in my records, but there are also moments where I do try and not take things too seriously. Within all of that, I can’t be promoting an album when all of this is going on.”
What was the foundation of these songs then? What did you want this record to feel like?
“I approached this record how I approach most things. I won't pre-empt anything. I don’t force my hand. I’m just along for the ride. I’m always writing, musically speaking, but lyrics I usually save right till the end. So you write one song, and in itself, it doesn’t mean a lot to you. Then you write another and then another, and then it starts opening itself up to you. This album has almost a dance feel to it. You need to shake your hips to it, and I’ve never really done anything like that before. I saw that balance coming, and then the albums started to take shape and start to think, ‘This could be this’ or ‘This is looking a lot like that. There are many riffs here that are far out of my comfort zone, I’m playing a lot more notes in a short amount of time, and I’m by no means a shredder. This album pushed my talents and my abilities, though, which is something I try and do with every album. I never want to write the same album twice; I never want to write the same song twice if I can help it, so with that mentality, it’s always easier to scrap things or dance around them and make them feel different.
“So nothing was pre-planned or anything like that. It becomes its own animal after a while, and you have to shape it and mould it where it needs to go.”
So what were the themes that kept on cropping up when you started to add lyrical turns to these sounds?
"I always take two steps forward and three steps back whenever I write something. As an album as a whole, there’s usually something that will guide me and let me know what is going on, but then there’s something with each song and each part. What I mean by that is that when it did feel a bit more bouncy, then the thought was to have some more upbeat lyrics. Things like, ‘You only love me for my riffs’. Little lines that felt more appropriate and right for the sound.
"Anything that ’68 does and anything that I do, it all starts with the live show. It’s all about what we do live and how much we love that. So how do we put that into an album? I throw out tonnes of little lines, little James Brown-isms, like, ‘Yeah’ and, ‘Woo’ because that’s what feels right at that moment. Though there are so many tracks that feel so bouncy that I think how much of a fun challenge, it would be to see how deep and dark I can sing and what lyrics can be worked with. You can sing about more personal stuff if the song is so upbeat that the audience takes it at face value. So for myself, I can get deeper and darker with my lyrics if I assume that the listener will hang out on the surface. I’m then able to sneak up some stuff that feels mentally therapeutic for me to sing that every night.
"When I take that step back and look at what the common thread is, a lot of the album is based around the idea of bridging the gap between the band and the audience. We’re all in this together, so let’s continue to build this together. What an ironic thing to sing about only to have the 2020 rug yanked out from under us, and we’ve now sat alone with no audience to connect with. I look at life like it’s a pendulum, and if you just let it do its thing, it will balance out. But 2020 yanked that pendulum real tight. Though right now, I feel as though we are on a very positive spin right now, and when people are going back to shows, these lyrics are going to feel even more powerful. It’s going to be a lot of humans together, now just us on stage and y’all out there. We are feeling the energy, and we are all on the same vibration. I cannot wait for that."
It feels like from the very beginning of ’68, you’ve been trying each time to create the soundtrack that embodies that very energy and each time, you get closer and closer…
"I don’t think we will ever do that perfectly. Nothing compares to 100 people in a room screaming the same lyric simultaneously, and that’s a moment where I truly have hope for humanity. There’s nothing that can substitute for that, especially if you’re trying to recreate that on a device or through Spotify or whatever. There’s just no way to take all of that tangible energy and boil it down to an mp3. I want to keep on trying to obtain that and get closer to it with each opportunity."
It’s almost been a decade since the ’68 story started, which is pretty crazy to consider. How do you reflect on that from the position that you’re in now?
"I am notorious for trying not to look back. I think that nostalgia can be very dangerous. It may feel comfortable, but as an artist, you never want to feel comfortable. You’re probably not in the right spot if you are. But reflection has almost been forced upon us, so I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought about it during this time. Honestly, I’m just very grateful to be here. Bands have a short shelf life, and somehow I have been able to continue doing this. We are all on a one-way train and in one direction, which is another reason humans should get along more. But I will use my time to make something new or breathe life into something that's new and fresh for me. It’s just about keeping us on our toes. That’s what is most exciting about art."
The whole point of setting out to make art is to find challenges and to face them. Why would you bother if you’re not pushing yourself?
"Comfort is, by definition, comfortable. But the only way you’re going to find where the line is if you go over it. If possible, what I like to do is go over that line a bunch within my world. That’s in private and with the doors closed, within my demos and the stuff nobody hears. Then I can feel like I can always go back. Sometimes I feel like I want to go over the line and be free-floating in a space that I have no idea if anyone will catch me. That is terrifying but also exhilarating.
"There is a spot where I will go someday, and people will say, ‘That just doesn’t work’. It’s bound to happen. I don’t know what it looks and I sure would like to. The thing is that I will do this for as long as I’m allowed, whether it’s a hobby or it’s paying my bills. Both are fine with me because when I was a kid, I said, ‘I want to play music, and that’s what I’m doing.”
So what has it been like having these songs ready to go but almost marinating through 2020?
“I think that they have intensified. They haven’t changed because they started in that same area, but because that area was taken away, it has gone from, ‘This is something I feel’ to desperation almost. I think we have learned that we humans need other humans. I find myself being quite introverted when I create, and I’m okay with being alone with my thoughts. But I feel that the most introverted people are now saying, ‘It would be nice to go and grab a bite to eat with somebody’. I think more than anything, the first show back is going to be this beautiful and glorious explosion of humanity coming together in our worlds. I don’t know if it’s going to be in front of 12 people or front of 2000, it fully depends on where we are. Or it could be us completely overdoing it and having to travel to that release before dialling things back a little. There are songs that are meant to be played here, after all; this isn’t just intense stabs of emotion. I’m very much looking forward to it, whatever it is.”