Just as ’68 finished recording their 2020 EP Love is Ain’t Dead, and a tour with Korn and Faith No More had ceased to exist around the pandemic, the alt-punk duo of Josh Scogin and Nikko Yamada initially halted release of their third album Give One Take One. Originally written in 2018, Give One Take One surprisingly reflects days and lives drenched in angst, isolation, and desperate for hope.
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Following up the Atlanta pair’s 2017 release Two Parts Vipers and debut In Humor and Sadness in 2014, Give One Take One reflects a new era of ’68—the duo’s numeric moniker, an ode to a 1968 car Scogin and his dad used to work on. Spiraling through a blissful swelter of riffs, improvised noise, and gritty pulsating punk, Scogin aptly opens “The Knife, The Knife, The Knife” in a howl, and it’s on. Interspersed through its 10 tracks, are meatier pieces, from the scratchier “Bad Bite,” featuring a video hand-drawn and animated by Scogin, who leaves some subliminal messages of a “2020 experience.”
Throughout Give One Take One, there’s a method to ’68’s madness, pummeled by Yamada’s drums and twisted around swaggered instrumentals. Propelled by the explosive “Nickels and Diamonds,” and melting into grungier ”What You Feed” and “What You Starve,” everything ebbs for a moment on “Life And Debt,” before picking back up on “Lovers In Death,” and “Nervous Passenger.” Bookended and split in the middle by three triad songs—“The Knife, The Knife, The Knife,” mid-way through with “The Silence, The Silence, The Silence,” and closing on “The Storm, The Storm, The Storm”—are tracks initially inspired by an interview Scogin found of the late folk and blues singer Lead Belly, who was discussing all the various uses of a knife.
“It’s the idea of the knife taking on these forms, so I took that and sort of ran with the idea of the knife being three different things, depending on what you need,” says Scogin. “It’s the same with the ‘Silence’ and ‘Storm.’ There are people who are silent, because they’re arguing with each other, and there’s a silence of ‘I took your breath away,’ and the more speechless silence. There’s a storm that’s the physical thing that happens, or the storm that’s mental when your own mind is cloudy and crazy. Each word can mean something very different.”
Produced by Grammy-winning producer Nick Raskulinecz (Rush, Foo Fighters, Deftones)—with recording wrapped up prior to the pandemic—some songs, says Scogin, started reflecting the current state of the world over time.
“When I wrote the record, lyrically speaking, I felt everything that I said,” shares Scogin. “I always have to believe in all this stuff I’m saying, but at the time, it was just a truth, or a thing that I needed to get off my chest.”
On “The Knife, The Knife, The Knife,” for example, Scogin sings step aside and let the audience just sing along, and explores our need for each other. “This isn’t just us up on stage, and you being entertained by us,” says Scogin. “When we’re at a show, and we’re performing, it’s all of us together—the energy and the vibrations that we’re all connecting on. It’s beautiful, because now we’re all in this together, in this sort of time stamp moment.”
Scogin adds, “When I was writing that it was very true is very true to my heart and something that I believed in, and then all of a sudden, fast forward a year and a half to no shows with this no communication and no touching humanity sort of thing. All of a sudden, it went from just a truth that I believe in and something I really enjoyed to more of a desperation for connection.”
In piecing together Give One Take One, all the songs fell into place. “Sometimes songs just step up to the plate,” says Scogin. “I can always tell you what’s going to be the first song when I’ve written it, because they just fall into place. It’s like watching a puzzle being put together. Ultimately, the decision is my own, but I honestly feel like I’m along for the ride. They just demand to be where they want to be.”
Reflecting on the nearly eight years since forming ’68, Scogin, former frontman of Norma Jean and The Chariot, admits that their first album was more a result of “winging it.”
“I was just writing songs, and had no knowledge of guitar effects, pedals and how they work,” says Scogin. “Then with the next album, I knew how to work pedals and guitar effects and how to make them become part of the songs. I think with every album, as your knowledge grows, and as you grow as a person and as a musician, it’s always going to be a little different. I wouldn’t say easier, but it’s definitely different.”
Constantly writing, Scogin says there’s never any formula. Maybe there’s a riff, lyrics, or a drum beat, but some songs just keeping coming out, while Scogin is still searching for the right ending for others two years later.
“I don’t put any constraints on anything,” says Scogin of the music. “If a song wants to come to me, then I’m open. It can show up in any form that it needs to.”