Of all the ways to describe Folk Hogan’s sound, I’m sure the only description they’d be satisfied with is some kind of majestic tale about god-like beings overcoming incredible odds against an ancient evil, and, in the end, everybody gets drunk off Two Buck Chuck. That story would not be so different from the kind of stories that their songs tell. “It roots really heavily in the fact that this is a folk band, and folk music is about telling a story,” says mandolin player and founding member Moses McKinley. Sure, it’s folk music in that they play folk instruments, but their stories are told like Woody Guthrie singing through the vocal chords of Flogging Molly’s Dave King. Their sound effectively yields punk just as much as it does folk. “When somebody asks, ‘Hey what does your band sound like?’ I look at them and just go, ‘I don’t know. There’s an accordion, a mandolin and a banjo. Here’s a flyer,’” says guitarist Nick Passey.
The band got its start when longtime friends Moses McKinley and accordionist Canyon Jack Elliott had the idea to pair a mandolin and a 50-pound accordion (which Elliott refers to as “Thor’s Hammer”) together to write songs. Originally, the band included Tanner Bray on banjo and Jeremy Adams on drums, both of whom eventually left the band, replaced by rotating drummers Curtis Stahl and Mike Lewin, and Box on the banjo. Along the way, the band picked up Jared Hayes on bass and Passey, effectively rounding out Folk Hogan’s distinct punk and folk sounds. This band is full of dedicated musicians, but ask them and they will tell you they’re more than that. They’re entertainers by nature. “You don’t have to try to be an entertainer. If you’re enjoying yourself, people are just entertained,” says Box. Hayes poses the question: “What is music if it’s not entertaining? Is it worth putting your time into?” The members of Folk Hogan agree that it isn’t.
Music is something every member enjoys completely, so it’s not difficult to understand why they’re able to create so much energy onstage. You can catch them playing most frequently at their home base, The Woodshed, causing all sorts of mayhem and increasing Jameson sales. They’re coming up on their 50th show soon, and one thing Elliott says they can always expect is dedicated fans and dedicated drinkers at their shows. “You can’t underestimate our fans. They’re a heavy-drinking crowd. They spend a lot of money and love folky music,” says Elliott. That combination can lead to a great many things—usually chairs being thrown or band members falling off the stage—which is something Passey, in particular, has more than enough experience with. Elliott says, “When we go onstage and we behave like assholes for an hour and a half, it’s a completely different mind state. It’s just fucking fun.” Passey relates being in Folk Hogan to his daily life as being much like the famous Bret Easton Ellis novel: “It’s kind of like in American Psycho, where he goes to his regular day job and then, the next scene, he kills a homeless man, and then he goes back to his job,” he says.
Folk Hogan has released two albums to date. Their debut album, Flight Training, features 11 tracks, which consist of mostly live-tracking from their practice space, but with a couple tracks recorded live from a show at Bar Deluxe as well. The track “Skeleton Scramble” depicts a gravedigger who digs deep enough to uncover a mass of skeletons dancing to an undead band and is eventually pulled down into the grave. They continue this style of epic storytelling on their proper studio album, Band of Mighty Souls, which was released this May. “Brad McCarley of Salt Lake Recording Service gave us exactly the experience we were looking for with this album,” says McKinley. “We worked really hard on it and had an awesome team from beginning to end.” Both these albums can be found on their website, folkhogan.com. Due to the large number of band members causing scheduling issues, they have yet to tour, but recently bought a 15-person van and plan to take some weekends around the West this fall and winter. Folk Hogan are currently halfway through the production of a third album, and, at this time, are happy right where they are, on their home turf among fans, friends and family, doing what they do best: playing music that’s loud, rude and vulgar. Folk Hogan are Utah’s own, quintessential, outlaw folk band.