THE CHARIOT are true artists whose determined passions lead them down winding pathways as they buck trends and avoid formulas. The noisy, rambling, shambling, Southern-fried, punk-infused, heavy metal hardcore band has long rejected the conventions of the genre that surrounds them by refusing to conform to established structures.
After all, THE CHARIOT is the band whose debut was recorded live in the studio in one take, whose frenetic and often destructive live shows are the stuff of underground legend and whose evolving lineups have generated a body of work as vibrant in the hearts and minds of those who’ve witnessed the mayhem live as those who own the discography.
THE CHARIOT’s sound and presentation owe more to At The Drive In, Refused, Nirvana or even The Sex Pistols in spirit and vibe than the formulaic processed sounds of their contemporaries. The burgeoning “Noisecore” movement of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s (Converge, Botch, Isis, Dillinger Escape Plan et al) informed them as well. THE CHARIOT is raw and real, but never lacks sophistication or intelligence in craft.
To fully comprehend THE CHARIOT, one must see, smell, touch, hear and feel a performance up-close-and-personal. One Wing, the band’s new album for Season of Mist, is the closest they’ve come yet to capturing their kinetic energy and boundless creativity for posterity.
“Wars and Rumors of Wars” (2009) and “Long Live” (2010) threw out the tattered remaining pages from the rule book the band started shredding with “Everything Is Alive, Everything Is Breathing, Nothing Is Dead, and Nothing Is Bleeding” (2004) and “The Fiancé” (2007). And with “One Wing things” are now even more wonderfully strange. When the band reconvened with longtime collaborator/producer Matt Goldman (Meg & Dia, Underoath), the only rule was that there were no rules.
“With this record, we were just like, ‘Let’s get weird. Whatever we want to do, no matter what, lets go for it,’’” revealed vocalist and founding member Josh Scogin. “We always have a little bit of that mentality. If we think we have a good idea, we won’t say, ‘Well, this doesn't feel like THE CHARIOT.’ At the end of the day we are THE CHARIOT, so anything we create will be THE CHARIOT.”
“There’s been times where in the past where maybe an oddball song would get dropped or put in an obscure spot on the record,” he elaborated. “This one, we just got weird. No preconceived notions here. The idea was that whatever we wanted to do, we were going to do it.”
Longtime observers needn’t fear the unbridled experimentation, as the band’s artistic integrity and authenticity is never in question. And true to form, guitarists Brandon Henderson and Stephen Harrison, bassist Jon “KC Wolf” Kindler and drummer David Kennedy pound, screech and devastate their way through feedback-drenched high-energy songs all over One Wing. But piano interludes and other manners of trickery abound on the album, adding new dynamics and texture.
“Having that level of freedom from the start and with the dudes in the band right now, we're exactly on the same page,” Scogin said. “Even our live show, we threw concerns about that completely out the window. There was never a discussion of, ‘How are we going to pull this off live?’ If we want to write it, we'll write it. We'll figure out the live show later.”
Ah, yes, THE CHARIOT live show. The place where the band’s dense, chaotic, at times disturbing and always-visceral music takes physical shape. A Chariot show is dangerous, combustible and always engaging. It makes sense considering the seeds of the band were planted during an unpredictable moment on stage. Just as his former band, Norma Jean, were blowing up in the underground scene, Scogin calmly announced on stage at a festival that he would be leaving the group, much to the surprise of the crowd and his band mates. THE CHARIOT surfaced not long afterward (the singer remains on friendly terms with Norma Jean).
Bizarrely, none of the men who’ve comprised THE CHARIOT’s line-ups over the years leading up into this definitive incarnation ever sat down to talk about how they’d perform onstage. “It's not something we've ever discussed, which sometimes blows peoples minds. I think people think we sit around and plan it step for step. But it's a very spontaneous, freedom-orientated thing. We’ll sometimes start a tour with a certain set list or an idea of what we want to do. But we've had certain shows where we'll feel something a little differently and we'll flip something around or change it to something totally different.”
“We're always able to stay on our toes and always roll with the punches and never stay the same,” Scogin continued. “It's never the same thing every night. For us, it keeps it exciting. That way when were performing and doing our thing it doesn't look stale.”
Certainly no sane observer of THE CHARIOT will ever accuse them of going through the motions. Having made several very personal albums touching on a wide variety of subjects (including “Wars and Rumors of Wars” and its darker tones following the death of the singer’s father), the unashamed but constructively critical believer and family man is well aware of the significance of the body of work he’s accumulating. He has plenty to say and he’s mindful of how he goes about saying it.
For “One Wing”, the singer experimented with writing some of the lyrics while the band spent two weeks in Russia away from the comforts of home. Some of the lyrics were written in the studio, as well.
“With our music [we often have] complicated beats or certain time signatures, a world that I don't even really understand,” Scogin said. “With pop beats you can finish out entire sentences, or even a whole thought and move on. Sometimes part of the challenge of being in a heavy band is, ‘Ok I have this thing I want to say, but how do I fit it with these weird time signatures that keep interrupting themselves, switching and flipping over?’ After you do that long enough, in enough albums, I don't want to ever get to the point where I rehash something. So anything I can do to sort of flip my brain or write outside of the comforts of my house or the practice space, I will do.”
With a family at home in Georgia and well over a decade of touring and recording under his belt (Norma Jean’s debut album, featuring Scogin on vocals, remains a highly regarded genre classic), THE CHARIOT’s frontman has avoided the moment of crisis that hits many touring guys when they choose to slow down and get a “real” job. Despite the changing scene, Scogin is full of purpose to continue on.
“When I was a kid, dreaming about being in a band, it was very simple. I'd envision myself playing the show and as I was playing the show I'd jump up on my bed and pretend it was the crowd. As long as you never forget your first love, it's very easy to keep excited about this. For me, it's the live shows. When I'm playing live, I’m just happy to be playing the show, doing what I always dreamed about.”
“Thankfully I’ve been blessed,” he noted. “I don't have a part time job but it's not a failure if you have to work at Starbucks to fund this hobby. People do it all the time; they work a job they don't like and it enables them to have an airplane hobby or sports. I would definitely go that route if that's what I had to do because I do thoroughly enjoy this. I enjoy the camaraderie of a punk rock show, the interaction of all these people and your band mates – the good, the bad, the whole thing.”
|Jon 'KC Wolf' Kindler||Bass|