Friday, June 11, 2010

CB Q/A #38: Jimmy Hughes of Folklore

I'll admit it - I'm a fickle bastard. I get excited and grow tired of certain developments in this wonderful city more quickly than I should, but, well, that's just how it goes. What keeps me from falling into a pit of cynicism and selfishness, however, is when I see good work being done by good people in ways that I hadn't noticed before. Just like RA Washington's efforts in my own neighborhood get me pumped, Rachel Hart has been doing some good things on the west side, especially in bringing better and better talent to Cranky's Pub on West 25th.

There are oodles of examples I could point too, but instead I'll just give a shout out to the next one. On Saturday (ahem, tomorrow!), Athens GA/Philly PA's Folklore rolls through Clevo to play a gig with local heroes Afternoon Naps and Chicago's The Bears of Blue River.

Folklore is Jimmy Hughes and lots of his friends from Athens GA and Philadelphia PA, the two towns that Hughes calls home. A veteran to the Athens music scene where he plays as a full-time member of Elf Power and also toured playing with Vic Chesnutt throughout 2009, Hughes took the songwriter role when he formed Folklore back in 2005 to create the conceptual album, The Ghost of H.W. Beaverman (released in 2007). A grandiose tale, the songs sounds like they’ve appeared off different records initially but the fog will clear and you’ll find yourself traversing through the story many times over. The bonus of course is that there are splendid melodies to be found on every corner, with guitars, clarinets, strings, trumpet, trombone, digeridoo, and more forming the backdrop to songs that have been called poignant, provocative, heartbreaking, and haunting. 2008 brought the darker, more psychedelic follow-up album, Carpenter’s Falls.

The new album, Home Church Road (to be released in Summer 2010), is 16 songs telling the story of the Earth after humans have become extinct. Only a few species of mammals, birds, lizards, and bugs remain. They peacefully coexist on Earth until the day they discover, alive but buried in the ground, a human priest. His name is Loki. Mistaken as the last human, Loki is actually a shape-shifter, and his friendly manipulations and seductions will ensure the rebirth of the large carnivorous beasts and dinosaurs that once roamed the Earth. Such is the story of Home Church Road.

In 2005, Jimmy started writing the Folklore songs as an outlet for unfinished fiction, a collection of connected stories written as songs rather than prose. The Athens band was born and released two albums together. In 2009, Jimmy relocated to Philadelphia where he managed to find several people who wanted to continue playing as Folklore, and within months of moving there, the band was already playing regular club shows and house shows. So what would have most likely faded into a lost bedroom project is now a stronger than ever live band in Philadelphia: Jason Henn (drums), Chad Arnett (guitar), Scott Churchman (double bass), Avalon Clare (clarinet), Yianni Kourmadas (bass clarinet), Cheryl Nguyen (violin), Andrew Keller (viola). The Home Church Road recordings feature performances by all of the Philadelphia cast as well as all of the Athens players. This current tour will involve members of both the Athens band and the Philadelphia band.

I recently had the opportunity to do a little q&a with Jimmy - read on, he's a pretty interesting chap and a nice guy to boot!

1) How are things going with the Folklore project these days? What's next?
Things seem to be really picking up momentum. We have a new album in the bag titled Home Church Road that should be out in the Fall of 2010, we've been touring a lot, and our band (and friendship within the band) has been growing really strong. So it's been really fun being involved in Folklore! As far as what's next, it's hard to tell at this point. I guess it will all depend on what becomes of this new record and if audiences, fans, critics, etc respond to it. But even if the record just becomes another lost gem in a sea of albums, I hope that we make another one. We have already started discussing what our next concept album will be about.

2) What are you looking forward to most about this upcoming tour?
We'll be recording a Daytrotter Session ( so that will be exciting. But just in general, I think we are all excited to get out on the road and play with some awesome bands (The Bears Of Blue River, Poison Control Center, and more) and have a really good time. Most of the touring we have done recently has been short term regional shows which is fun, but it will be nice to get out on the road and stay out on the road for a spell. I like playing shows that way because I feel like it gives the band a chance to really get in a groove. We're also looking forward to seeing old friends in Cleveland, Chicago, and so on.

3) What do you think are your most significant inspirations on the forthcoming album, Home Church Road?
Birds, Lizards, Cows, Deer, Good, Evil, and the general idea that humans take the Earth for granted and will one day be erased from it. Musically, I have been inspired lately by bands like the Kinks and CCR and Bob Dylan, but I don't think that our sound can be directly linked to any one of those influences. That's just what I like to listen to. Also, all of these songwriters deal in story-telling and that is what Folklore's main objective is, so I guess I have to take a few lessons from the masters.

4) I noticed you did a Kickstarter project. I really dig the concept behind that program. What did you think? Would you do it again?
Kickstarter was an amazingly helpful tool for us to get the money to press this new album on vinyl (which we definitely wouldn't have been able to afford without the astounding generosity of our friends, fans, and family). I would definitely do it again, and Kickstarter is set up in such a way that it is easy and super user-friendly, both for us the band and for the people donating. If we had set out to do this on our own just soliciting donations from our friends via email, word-of-mouth, etc, there is no way it would have been as successful as it was.

5) Ever been to Cleveland before? Any interesting memories to share?
Yes, Folklore has played in Cleveland once before at the Beachland, and I have been through Cleveland before with other bands that I play in as well, such as Elf Power, Bugs Eat Books, and others. It was really fun last time Folklore was in town because we had a great show and then we got to hang out afterwards with my friend Paul at his warehouse studio Zombie Proof (which sadly I hear is no more). That was a really great night. One of these days if I find the time in Cleveland, I would like to visit the museum in the old house from A Christmas Story, but I don't know if we'll have time this time around. I like that movie though and that seems like it would be a fun visit. But in general, I don't think I have ever had a bad time in Cleveland.

Saturday's Folklore show is 18+ and costs $5 for legal drinkers, $10 for those not yet of age. Cranky's is located at 2527 W 25th St and the get down gets down at about 10 PM.

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