Josh Scogin is doing new math on stage every night.
In previous bands, Scogin was a key figure at the front of the stage. But he was also one part of a pretty big whole. Scogin became a hero to hardcore and metal kids across the country first as the singer for Norma Jean, then as the driving force behind The Chariot.
Scogin’s newest band, ‘68, causes him to add, subtract and multiply — sometimes all at once. He and drummer Michael McClellan are the latest dynamic duo to make a big noise.
The pair refuses to sacrifice an ounce of sound to their smaller lineup; rather, ‘68 creates a full-bodied, pedal-down style that mingles punk, metal, blues and Southern rock — and also carves out space for spontaneity and improvisation.
On one hand, the two-man dynamic is easier to manage.
“Really you just have to connect with one other person,” Scogin said, “instead of having five people that have to have had a good day that day.”
Yet it has taken Scogin several years and a couple records to get comfortable with his end of the bargain. He essentially is the band's guitarist and bassist — he splits his guitar between left and right channels and focuses its low end through a bass setup.
It took a great deal of trial and error — and cost Scogin some time and cash — to find an arrangement of pedals and amplifiers that could make the sound in his head a reality.
The band’s sound is far more intense and immense than it has a right to be. Scogin credits McClellan for making the most of a relatively small kit; he expressed a sense of wonder, admitting he doesn’t know how the drummer does it.
“When it works well, it gets hard to convince someone that it wasn’t all choreographed,” Scogin said of the interaction between the two. “There’s times where it’s a trainwreck, but those are probably fun to watch too.”
The band is preparing to release its sophomore album, “Two Parts Viper,” early next month. If early tracks are any indication, it will be a sonic trip through shadow and light, visceral response and moments of meditation. Traces of Jon Spencer and Beastie Boys can be heard as can seriously grimy rock and free-form metal.
‘68 only has done support tours to this point — playing with the likes of Chiodos and Every Time I Die; a tour with the latter band stops in Columbia this week — and Scogin has enjoyed interacting with listeners who are too young to even know his earlier work.
For the most part, though, fans of his previous projects have migrated with him. That is no small coup; enthusiasts of The Chariot, for example, were just that — there were no casual fans of that band, only die-hards.
But something in The Chariot’s DNA endeared it to a more “open-minded” crowd, Scogin said. The band wasn’t trying to only do one thing or appeal to a “tiny, specific sub-sub-genre.”
Those fans have recognized the common ground between Scogin’s bands and have been willing to open their ears and their hearts to ‘68.
“‘68 lives in the same trailer park as The Chariot. Maybe opposite ends of the trailer park, but they hang out,” Scogin said.