Interview: The Chariot

Throughout the past decade, an insatiable desire for experimentation – coupled with an unforgettable live presence – has established The Chariot as one of the most respected bands in the world of loud music. Relentless touring across the globe through thick and thin, delivering sweaty, chaotic performances night after night has continued to boldly solidify the group’s presence in the ever-changing underground music scene. While The Chariot’s music often eludes categorization, the members display an energy and general mentality that is unmistakably punk. The band’s new full-length album – entitled One Wing – is the fifth offering in the band’s impressive catalogue of noise, and it finds The Chariot exploring new sonic terrain more uncompromisingly than ever before. In anticipation of the LP’s release, vocalist Josh Scogin sat down with to discuss the details of the new record, and elaborate on how this release marks a milestone in the band’s career, as they continue to defy all odds and bring their passion and fury to audiences the world over.


One Wing is a very experimental record, even for you guys. Since you’re pretty deep into your career now, was there a conscious effort by the band to keep the writing/recording process from feeling routine or formulaic?

I’d say yes, but it’s the same mentality we try to have with every record. It’s just something that comes pretty natural for us. Because we don’t ever want to get bored, or tired, or complacent with our art in general. So yes, there is always a conscious effort to expand those boundaries and to break down those barriers. With every record, we just start writing and try to do what we want to do, whatever that looks like.


The album was produced by Matt Goldman, who’s worked with you guys on every album thus far. What specifically does he bring to the table that makes you guys want to continue working with him on each record?

There’s a lot he brings. He’s a great dude, he’s a personal friend of mine; when I’m not on tour, [I’m] either hanging out with him or working up at his studio. He’s a good dude, and there’s some producers that are like, “this is what I do, and you hired me, so I’m going to do my thing that I do”. And with him, he’s so much more than that. It’s not just like he has this one set thing that he does. So for that reason it’s very cool. Also, there’s no learning curve with him; he knows what we like, what we don’t like, and on top of that he refuses to fake anything that we don’t want to fake. He demands that we record the drums real, you know what I mean? It’s obviously quicker to just do the drums, and then let the computer fix them all perfectly and then sample them in. It takes a lot longer to spend a few hours and get the snare to sound just right. It takes a lot longer to make sure the drummer gets it right within a couple of takes. All of those things combined are what keep us with him, and as of now we’ll keep going with him. It’s always something different; it’s always something new. He lets us try any kooky weird thing we want to do. A lot of producers will be like, “That’s not going to be good” and him, he’s like, “Well let’s try it. If it sounds bad we’ll hit delete.” It’s not just one thing he does well; in general we are very like-minded with him.


Is there a theme, concept, or message that really ties One Wing together lyrically?

There probably is a very loose thread. It’s never a conscious effort and it’s definitely not something that I could even necessarily pinpoint for you. But we’re always writing music – we’ve already written a couple songs that’ll probably be on whatever the next record is going to be. But when it comes to lyrics – I’m always writing those as well – but there always has to come a time where I’m like, “I got to do my lyrics”. And so those are generally written around the same time. And so, I’m sure there’s sort of a loose thread that ties that all together, because it’s one time stamp of my life, you know? It’s one episode captured in words. Whereas the music can be a year old to a couple years old. So the music can be all over the place, but the lyrics tend to be much more of a precise timestamp. And just a side note that’s fun for me, we were in Russia for two weeks and I decided to try and write all my lyrics over there as much as I could, because being on our fifth record and everything, I’ll always try to throw a wrench in our machine. Something to change it up, to stir it up, to make it where I’m not singing the same thing over and over. And being in Russia, you’re very dependent on someone else. You’re very, very helpless unless you have your interpreter, unless you have your driver, you know? So it kind of threw this really neat little element into the lyrics, and again I can’t exactly pinpoint where and why those elements come out. There’s a couple, but for the most part I just know that it puts me out of my comfort zone and makes me write differently. It stirs the pot a little bit. We’re always looking to do that; we’re always looking for ways to do that that make sense.


The song titles on this record join together to form a sentence. Can you explain the significance of the message, and how it relates to the music on the album?

Relating to the music on the album, maybe not so much, but it’s very much where I am as a person right now, and I think our band is. The first line – “Forget not your first love” – this is, again, our fifth record, and not that we struggle to remember that, but this is an ever-changing world. The music scene is always bouncing around you. You got contracts, and lawyers, and political this and political that, and scratch this back, and all this stuff. And then it’s like, in all that stuff, you just can’t forget your first love, man, which is playing shows, you know what I mean? And it’s not a struggle or us to remember that; it’s just something we want to always keep there – to keep that in our brains. And that’s so much more applicable to everything, not just music and dance, you know? Let the world shift and change around you, but don’t forget the initial thing that brought you to it – and that’s something that can almost always stay pure. And then the next line, “Speak in tongues and cheek”, like I said before, it’s where we are as a band. I believe in life there’s very deep meaningful sentimental things that we need to be able to do – fall in love, question life, ask why we’re here – very deep meaningful things that you need to take very seriously and explore to the best of your ability. But while doing that, don’t ever lose the ability to just laugh and just to goof off, and make fun of something, and to poke fun at something, you know what I mean? That’s where that line comes from. Like to speak in tongues obviously is such a deep, deep, deep almost controversial touchy sort of subject, and regardless of anyone’s thoughts on that topic at hand, that’s irrelevant. But obviously we’re making a pun on taking something as tongue in cheek. You’ve got to be able to laugh, you’ve got to be able to goof off, you’ve got to be able to have a good time. There’s no point in always being a raincloud. Sometimes you’ve just got to look around and be like, “You know what? I’m going to enjoy this life I’ve got” and laugh, and poke fun at things – like see the humour of stuff. And anyway, for us as a band that’s exactly where we’re at. That’s [what] we live and breathe every day, and as an individual that’s where I’m at, and I love the song titles just always reminding us of that, just always being there sort of in the forefront. And I think it’s very applicable to life, to people regardless of beliefs and regardless of background, and regardless of where you’re at. I think there’s some truth to that, and I just wanted something that spoke to me every single time I have to call out one of the songs live, that spoke to us as a band every single time we go to play a song, you know?

One of the songs on the new album features clean female vocals. Can you tell us who the singer is, and why you guys decided to include her on the record?

She’s a friend of ours; her name is Angela Plake. And we liked the idea of clean female vocals because it’s obviously a big contrast to my terrible raspy voice. Anytime we can have a dynamic that gives your ear something fresh, we’re open for it. And she’s a good friend of ours; she’s actually writing some music that I think is awesome. We all have nothing but high hopes for it; we all think it’s going to be exceptional stuff. I’m producing a few songs of it. So yeah, I think it’ll be awesome. But even more importantly than that, she’s just a good friend of ours and she sang beautifully, so we were just like, “Why don’t we get you to do this?” And the initial idea spawned from the Rolling Stones’ “You can’t always get what you want”. You know, they have that children’s choir right before the song, kind of an intro, but it sounds nothing like the rest of the song. And there are a lot of classic rock songs that do that. But yeah, I just was like, “I want to do something along these lines.” Something that just sets you up for something and then completely makes a hard left turn. So yeah, that’s where that sort of initial inspiration came from.


You’ve stated in previous interviews that the band doesn’t really write from a calculated or mathematical perspective, but nonetheless your music can be pretty complex. Does anyone in the band have a strong music theory background that helps with that?

No! [Laughs] not in the slightest. I think it’s more ADD-influenced than mathematical influenced. I was literally just yesterday talking to a friend of mine – he was listening to one of the songs, it was a song I wrote, and he said something like, “Oh, is this 7/7?” And I was like “What?” And he was like, “The snare drum is coming down at a weird [time]”, and I was like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I just wrote the song!” [laughs]. It’s funny because I never even dreamed we would be referred to as mathcore, but it’s definitely come up several times. I kind of get it, I guess, but to me it seems like mathcore is kind of preplanned. It’s like, “This sounds weird with this, because these can’t go together”. And for us its not like that at all. It’s like, “Hey guys, I wrote this riff that I like.” And obviously it’s not going to sound like your standard 4/4 beat kind of riff. Because that’s not what we’re into, so we just play it, and I have no idea what it is that we’re doing or anything. We just play it and that’s it; there’s never anything more than that. I think we get bored really quickly, so we’ll be playing something for a second and be like, “Okay cool, now we need to change”, so that we don’t get bored. So that it keeps it fresh, keeps it new. And then if we take a hard dip and just completely go into something clean, again I think it’s more ADD-inspired than pre-calculated mathematical inspiration. But I assure you we know nothing of what we’re doing [laughs].


Several bands in the heavy music scene have criticized people or bands who claim Christianity in order to gain some sort of personal advantage. Have you ever encountered a band that lied about their faith? And what specifically do you think motivates certain bands to do this?

[Laughs] money would definitely be the answer there. To me it’s a very wild topic. To me it’s such a wild thing that religion and stuff comes into play so much. Because I myself, I consider myself a believer, but that’s a very deep and personal thing. It’s something that I truly believe in; it’s personal and it’s deep. It’s not just some general blanket that you can just throw over an entire genre, or even a band. I was discussing this the other day with someone, and I was like, I know for a fact that these atheist kids covered one of our songs, so what does that mean? What is it then? I don’t get it; I don’t understand why that has to be a part of it. But having said that, yes, I do know officially a couple of bands here and there that – it’s not me judging them – they would say out loud to me, “Yeah dude, if you claim to be on this label or have this label attached with you, you can play these festivals and these shows, and you just can’t do that [otherwise].” And I’m just like, “Weird…” because it’s just weird to me. I don’t know if I understand it all – I definitely don’t. As a believer, for me it’s very scary to sort of throw out the name “Jesus” and reel in dollar signs. You know what I mean? Anyone that reads any part of the bible knows that that’s a very touchy subject, and not looked well upon. So for me, the fact that it’s come up so much with our band, it’s never been us, it’s always been the media that sort of throws it on there and classifies it. But having said that, if someone asks me about it I’m not going to deny it, because I don’t have any interest in that, either, you know? But it’s just weird that it always comes up with us, but I never hear about it coming up with, you know, some of the Beastie Boys are Buddhist and, the killers are Mormon. You never hear it coming up as a huge topic of discussion with any other religion or anything. It’s always very weird to me on how it even got started originally, but nevertheless you can call us what you want. I don’t really care at the end of the day. Because like I said, to me it’s a very personal thing and something I care very dearly about. Just giving an entire genre this classification of being saved by grace is such a weird concept to me, and I don’t know that I fully understand it.


While you guys have enjoyed a successful career thus far, it’s been a slow and steady build. Are you content with the band’s current level of popularity, or do you think you’re deserving of wider recognition?

[Laughs] I have no idea how I’m even sitting here talking to you now, so to me to be able to say that The Chariot is on our fifth record and I’ve been at it as long as I have – man, that’s too awesome to me. It’s very humbling, and I take every single day and thank the good lord above for it, because I don’t know how I’m here, you know? So I’m very excited about where we’re at. There are a lot of other things that come with proper fame and popularity, and I don’t know that I would ever be ready for that, or okay with it to some degree. But I love where we’re at, you know? We’re able to tour and we’re able to pay the bills, and for me that’s awesome. Again, like I said before, I probably shouldn’t even be here, so the fact that I am is awesome. [Laughs] I definitely don’t deserve anything else, I’m just very content!

I heard that you guys are trying to set up a collaboration with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. Is this true, and if so how are your efforts going?

Yeah, we were for One Wing. I’m a huge fan of Smashing Pumpkins and a few other things that Billy’s done. We reached out and were actually able to get in touch with him. We got an email back that said something along the lines of ,“I love the band, I’m very interested in it. Unfortunately due to my schedule I can’t make anything work at this moment.” But he did sort of go out of his way to say that he liked the band, so he said no, but we were all just like losing our minds. Like I said, we’re just dorky kids that still enjoy music and still nerd out to plenty of things. So for us it was awesome, but we were just trying to get together for a song or something for One Wing. I don’t even necessarily know what it would look like, we just had the idea of us write half a song, and him write half a song, and piece it together. Or have him produce a song, or produce the album, or who knows. We just wanted to at least open that line of communication. Even though it didn’t happen, I would say it was very successful [laughs]. Just to be able to even see that email.


So there’s still a glimmer of hope that that’ll be coming up in the future at some point?

Yeah, well I hope so; I’d like to think so. We plan on sending him the CD. And so who knows, but if he gets it and actually enjoys it and kind of goes, “Oh man, I could have done something on that!”, who knows, maybe on the next record he’ll be able to do something.


You guys will be embarking on a US tour alongside Every Time I Die, Letlive, and Kills and Thrills throughout November and December. What are you expecting this expedition to be like, and what can fans expect to experience at these shows?

Man, just pure fun. That’s what I expect it to be like. I love Every Time I Die; they’re some of my favourite dudes. I’ve only met Letlive a couple times, but they seem like the best of guys, and we’ve met Kills and Thrills a couple times. So yeah, I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a tour in a long time. It’s very rare that you get the full package of friendly, good shows, good bands, you know? Like as fans we just love these bands, and as people we just think they’re the best. So there’s nothing more you can add to that; there’s no way you can make it better. So yeah we’re beyond excited for that.


Is there a lesser-known band, artist, or company that you’d love for readers to check out?

Last album we did a song with Listener – Dan Smith from the band Listener. I think they’re exquisite. And I think a lot of people were able to check them out because of that, but nevertheless I think that band rules. And there’s an artist – she’s maybe more along the lines of a Fiona apple – but she’s definitely a good friend of mine and I produced a lot of her work; she’ll be releasing an album in a month or so. Her name’s Carina Mia, and yeah, she’s awesome. Like I said, she’s totally different than us, but I think people will be into it if you like passionate music nevertheless.


I know you guys get pretty wild when you play live. Which member of The Chariot is the most likely to do a face plant during a live performance?

[Laughs] I’d say Brendan Henderson, our guitarist, stage left. He’s the best dude, but man, he just leaves it all out there and some shows are just like, “Dude you blah blah blah!” and he’s like “Really?” And you’re like, “Yeah, you don’t remember?!” And he’s like “Yeah, I dunno, I just went for it”. So yeah, I’ve definitely seen him face plant a handful of times. Everything is so impulsive and so spontaneous, there’s plenty of times where it doesn’t go how you would imagine it going.


Now I have to ask you a very serious question. Who would win in a fight: a taco, or a grilled cheese sandwich?

[Laughs] house rules, or street rules? I’m going to go with the taco, because I would most likely eat the grilled cheese sandwich, and I don’t know how it could fight after I’ve just eaten it.


Are there any words you’d like to leave with fans who are going to be reading this?

Man, just the humblest of things. Like I said, this is our fifth album, and I never in a million years imagined – we don’t write music for the masses, it’s not for everyone -so the fact that we’re her right now and everything, that’s awesome. And the people that come out to the live show, come on out and say hi to us, let us know your name, and just talk with us for a while, because it’s the best thing to get to hang out with folks and get to know people. So yeah, something along those lines. Thanks!

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