Sitting around a firepit at The Woodshed with local folk-punk five-piece Folk Hogan is comparable to gathering with a troop of grizzled fisherman to swap tall tales—it’s a type of storytelling where the line between legend and truth is blurred.
“The real story of how the band formed is we are all gods from another section of the universe,” says dreadlocked mandolin player Moses McKinley. “And one day we were like, ‘Hey, you know who has good whiskey? Earth.’ So, we hitched rides on comets and then came here and proceeded to get wasted.”
Wherever they came from, these shanty-slinging interstellar pirates have chosen to make Salt Lake City their home, winning over fans with their party-centric live shows. And as I gathered with most of the band members (bassist Jared Hayes was probably fighting a kraken somewhere) for this interview, rapid-fire jokes, the drinking of much beer and plenty of heroic stories ensued—because according to McKinley, the philosophy behind Folk Hogan can be summed up in one word: “FUN!”
Whether you label Folk Hogan’s music as folk-punk or “super whiskey crunk folk music,” says squeezebox player Canyon Elliott, it showcases group-effort vocals, accomplished gypsy-flavored instrumentation and contagious devil-may-care energy. Their debut album, Band of Mighty Souls (2012), is made up of 12 drinking songs featuring lyrics like “We drink the liquor dry, all the whiskey, rum and rye/ When you’re a god you never die” (“March of the Drunkards”).
While Band of Mighty Souls is awesomely rowdy, hilarious and spooky, the best way to experience Folk Hogan is at one of the band’s many live performances, at venues both typical (bars) and unusual (laser-tag arenas). At the band’s Burt’s Tiki Lounge “Couch Show” in January, the band created a living room onstage, complete with couches, rugs and lamps.
Even with the band’s demanding schedule, one of Folk Hogan’s main goals is to have as much fun as possible—no performance can be too random.
“When you’re doing as many shows as we do, it’s easy for it to get tedious, and we’ve had the luxury of being able to break it up with really weird things,” McKinley says. When faced with the prospect of playing a spaghetti dinner for the Utah County Democrats, Folk Hogan embraced the opportunity despite the seemingly odd fit. “When that came up, it was like, ‘Oh my god, that must be an accident. We have to do it,’ ” McKinley says.
Complete with mystical fog machine—which “we take it everywhere we go; we’ve used it in the most inappropriate places,” McKinley says—the band members’ genuine love for their craft comes out in every note they play, and their maniacal energy is reciprocated and magnified by the audience. “We put it out there and it just comes back with the crowd, and it just maximizes and builds up into this awesome, awesome show,” says new drummer Curtis Stahl, who comes from a family of musicians. “It’s black magic, it’s threefold,” Elliott finishes.
“It is super cathartic,” McKinley says. “It’s absolute catharsis onstage. I think most musicians will say the same thing, that when you’re onstage, nothing else really exists. You’re just up there having a good time, going crazy, acting like an asshole in front of everybody—that’s what I do.”
As for what the future holds, Folk Hogan hopes to tour outside the state as much as possible and record a new album later this year. “We’ve got a lot of fans that are out of the state of Utah, and we wanna go hang out with them and drink whiskey at their house after the show,” says guitarist Nick Passey. On the upcoming album, “we’re doing new stuff, we’re not repeating the same thing,” Elliott says. “I think we’ve learned from our mistakes. And we’re trying to mess up on other stuff that we can learn from.”
Folk Hogan also hopes to tour internationally for the first time. “We’re working on going to Japan,” Passey says. “We’re working on getting out on the road as much as possible. We’ve been putting all of our money into fixing up the van—”
“It’s not a van, it’s a dragon,” McKinley interjects.
“—And getting it ready to go,” Passey says. “And it’s just about there.”
Cosmic origin stories aside, the musicians of Folk Hogan are down-to-earth and humble at their core. “[No bands] exist without fans,” McKinley says. “We would not exist without all of our awesome friends coming to see us, and family.”
244 25th St., Ogden
Saturday, May 18, 9 p.m.
$5, ladies get in free