Currently based in Athens, GA, guitarist Jimmy Hughes is involved
with a lot of bands, including a hip-hop group and seminal indie pop
band Elf Power. Most recently, he has been the mastermind behind
Folklore, a musical project that has allowed Hughes to finally
realize ideas that have been churning in his head for years. Hughes
talked to us about the endeavor.
Hybrid Magazine: My first question is: how would you describe
the makeup of this band? Is it a solo project, a collective, a full
Jimmy Hughes: It's a band. I write the songs, but there's
seven core members that all write [their] own parts. We play live
as a band and record as a band.
HM: Folklore's first two albums both centered around a central
concept. Could you explain that concept a bit?
Jimmy: Well, the story I wrote is based around tales of ghost
stories and stuff that passes through hearsay in a rural sort of setting.
So it's all of these stories that are basically different people's
points of view about this one central character that's sort of this
creepy old guy in town. All the songs are based around that as the
HM: Where did you get the story for this idea in the first
Jimmy: I went to school, and I have a degree in writing and
English. For a while, I was writing short stories and novellas, but
I don't really find myself spending time on that. This was one I had
in mind for several years. It wasn't really getting out on paper,
so I started experimenting getting it out in sort of a chain of songs.
Basically, it's a story that I've had a chance to mull over in my
head for years but never got a chance to write properly, but I think
the album was fun and it's still proper in its own right.
HM: How has it been different approaching the story from a
more musical aspect, as opposed to a more literary one?
Jimmy: It's fun for me because it opens up the lyric writing
for me. You know, a lot of people write songs that are personal, or
it has some kind of inside, emotional meaning to them, and not that
I don't have those ties to these songs, but it's not necessarily me.
It lets me get in the mind of these different characters and explore
writing lyrics that way. It's sort of the same thing as if I was writing
a short story, it would be exploring dialogue or something. It puts
you in the head of somebody different, which I kind of love. For several
years, I had a kind of writer's block where I wasn't really writing
anything, songs or fiction. I feel like having a sort of a combination
is what brought me out of that.
HM: Is there still more to this story, or are you going to
take things in a different direction now?
Jimmy: There is more to the story, but I think if I were going
to go further with this story, I would want to just flat out write
it as a short novel or whatever it was, to explain all the intricacies
of the story. I'm working on a separate story, and we've started recording
on some of those songs as well. So we're working toward another record
that'll be a whole new thing.
HM: And what can you tell me about that project?
Jimmy: I'm kind of laying a story that's looking at a future
of earth after the human race has died and after many of the animal
races have died, and there's just a few specific animal races that
have avoided extinction that are kind of roaming the earth. It's songs
HM: Where did that idea come from?
Jimmy: That was just sort of an idea that I've started to
think of in my head because I work at, like, a kayaking outpost. So
you see lots of little creatures roaming around, being out in the
country. A lot of it's based on man's effects on the creatures, and
I kind of just started wondering about life. I started expanding on
that and it became this story with a timeline and things that happen
throughout this theoretical future.
HM: How is it different writing a concept record as compared
to writing a straightforward album that's just a collection of songs?
Jimmy: I noticed one thing, with a lot of the other bands
I'm in or bands that I'm friends with. A lot of people will write
a batch of songs and never really think about what the order will
be of the songs on an album until all the songs are recorded and you
just kind of listen to them and arrange them how they sound, but at
least when I'm working on these, I feel like I have to already be
aware of that beforehand, because I can't take the songs out of order
or it takes them out of context in my mind. So I have to consciously
write songs that I will like in a linear order that will be the same
order at the end as it was at the beginning when it was conceived.
HM: You mentioned you've been in a bunch of other bands before.
I know you play guitar in Elf Power - is that your primary other endeavor,
Jimmy: Yeah, that keeps me pretty busy. That's pretty much
what I spend a lot of my time on now. I'm in a hip-hop band in Athens
also. We don't play a ton, but we play once in a while. That's called
Fairmount Fair. I've also been in a band called Bugs Eat Books.
That's an Athens band. Before I moved here, I lived in New York, and
I was in a band there called the Boys' Star Library.
HM: So how is Folklore different than those other projects?
Jimmy: I guess I feel like everything else is either someone
else's project that I help with, or in the cases of older projects
of my own, I was just younger and would do things differently. But
this project I feel like I have the most control over. It gets me
the most excited because it's something that I'm excited to do and
kind of push forward, which is how we ended up having two records
so close together, because we just kept creating. It was exciting,
especially after that writer's block drought.
HM: Aside from those other bands, what else can you tell me
about your musical background?
Jimmy: None. I'm self-taught. I had a few lessons with a guy
that went to my church when I was younger. Basically, I just liked
music enough to start noodling around with different instruments,
but I don't really have any formal music history. I've been playing
music since I guess I was about 16.
HM: How old are you now?
Jimmy: I'm 33. I just turned 33.
HM: In addition to Folklore and Elf Power and whatever writing
you're working on, what other artistic ambitions do you have?
Jimmy: I try to run an independent record label. We have releases
from time to time, sometimes more frequently than others. That's called
bumbleBEAR Records, so that's sort of a fun thing because that's getting
to share music with other people and working with other bands. It's
a pretty DIY-style thing. I like biking. It's not really creative
per se, but I like to ride my bike around.
HM: Through all this stuff that you've gotten done, would
you say Folklore has been your crowning achievement so far?
Jimmy: Yeah, I'm really proud of all this stuff. When we first
started recording the first album, it was this project that I wanted
to do, but I was asking a lot of different people to help me out.
We had a lot of different guests on that record. Just the fact that
it all came together, but also that it all came together the way I
had originally conceived it and wanted it to go, that made me really
happy. That everyone was so willing to help me and that it got done
so quickly and how I wanted it to go. It was like putting together
a little play and casting it. To have it end up the way you initially
envision it is, I think, a pretty good achievement.
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