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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 band?

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 story.

HM: Where did you get the story for this idea in the first place?

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 about that.

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, besides Folklore?

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.

-Adam Clair

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