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Boys Star Library - Interview with Jimmy Hughes

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Boys Star Library - Interview with Jimmy Hughes


One day in 1994, four students at Binghamton University in New York decided to form a band. Naming themselves Wookiee, Jimmy Hughes (vocals, guitars, ukulele) Chris Bracco (guitars, electronics), Dann

One day in 1994, four students at Binghamton University in New York decided to form a band. Naming themselves Wookiee, Jimmy Hughes (vocals, guitars, ukulele) Chris Bracco (guitars, electronics), Danny Parker (bass, keys) and Mark Bassi (drums) started experimenting with sound and testing out their musical abilities. All their hard work resulted in them recording ‘Blast Shield Down’, an eleven track album, the quality of which proved that they were taking the right direction towards fulfilling their musical ambitions. As time went by, the band, driven by burning passion about music, couldn’t avoid changing and getting more experienced and, switching their name to The Boys’ Star Library in 1998 with Andy Veety (drums) joining the band after Mark left, hit the music scene with a truly amazing record ‘if i was born a girl’. To make the story even more interesting, Jimmy, the frontman, obsessed by music, took on a record label, started releasing other talented musicians, his friend attached an independent radio to the label… Okay, stop teasing you. Let’s find out how it all happened as Jimmy, the main man behind the whole story, speaks to Pennyblackmusic in an exclusive interview… PB: You started officially playing under the name of Wookiee. Did you play the same kind of music? JH: Yes and no! I think it’s the same kind of music, but we just approach it a little differently. We got some new toys and learned how to play our instruments a little better but that’s just my opinion… I think we sound better now. But then again, we thought we sounded good then. PB: Okay, so in 1998 you changed the name of the band from Wookiee to The Boys’ Star Library. Why did you choose such a name? JH: The Boys’ Star Library is taken from an old magazine circa 1900 of the same name. I saw the magazine in a sci-fi book from the 1960’s… the magazine ’The Boys’ Star Library’ was cited in the book as being ridiculous and outdated (on the cover it had a spaceship made out of wood planks and propellers). And at the same time, the book that I was reading was itself ridiculously outdated. I just thought it was funny and it stuck with me. PB: You’ve just released your first album under the BSL name ‘if i was born a girl’. The songs on it seem to follow one another. Did you decide to write them specifically for the album or were they songs that were already in the BSL roster? JH: Well, I didn’t intend to write them specifically for the album but it just sort of worked out that way. We wrote and recorded twenty six songs for the record (over the course of three years) and then we picked sixteen to go on the album. It could have been ten… it could have been twenty… but we chose sixteen because those songs seemed to all come from the same place, both lyrically and musically. And then when we sat down and figured out the order it just all seemed to work out in the end. So it’s sort of an accidental concept album, but I think the end result was a quality record. I have two more records in mind (one of which is near completion) and they should both be conceptual as well… and I want all of the records to play off each other too, kind of like a trilogy. We’ll see what happens. PB: There are also pictures on the sleeve to accompany the lyrics. Do they come together with the lyrics and are the plots from your own or somebody else’s life? JH: They’re semi-fictional experiences in my life. It’s all true, but there’s a lot of true stories hidden within a broader fiction… I guess. PB: … and did they all happen? JH: Yes? In a manner of speaking. I think with this record, it really all depends on the listener's interpretation. I think anybody could listen to this record and come up with a whole new meaning that was so far from what I was thinking when I wrote the song (or the album as the case may be). If you go by the pictures, then no… that’s didn’t really happen. In fact, the artist who drew those pictures (Josh Siegel) drew them without any real direction from me. I gave him the songs to listen to and the chapter titles and a ‘what if…’ statement and he drew pictures so that’s just his interpretation but in the end it all seems to work. And I think it’s fun if people can get into it enough to think about it on their own and come up with their own story. PB: I think of the CD cover as an essential part of the music on the album now. Did the idea of making it come alongside recording or later? JH: Well, the end result came later when I collaborated with my friend Josh Siegel who did the illustrations. But the band had talked all along about making the packaging some sort of book/story/thingy… it makes us feel like real librarians, instead of the fake librarian wannabes that we really are. PB: The way in which you sing all those beautiful songs on ‘if i was…’ and the music itself, are both very emotive. You actually feel that you are doing what is going on in the lyrics when you listen to it, and can really relate to it. Was that your intention? JH: Cool. I guess that’s kind of the idea that I was going for (like I was saying). So I’m glad. I know I like listening to an album a lot more if I can relate to it. PB: What is the situation with the band in NYC? Do you play a lot of gigs and have you got a fan base? JH: We play once every couple of months. We have a lot of friends here so there’s always people at our shows, but not so much of a following or a fan base or anything like that. It is getting better though. PB: I know you went on tour at the beginning of May. Did you like playing in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cleveland? How did people react to your music? JH: Absolutely! It was great fun. I can’t wait to do it again. I’ve been travelling a lot myself since then… I can't stop. People were cool to us… and all the shows were well attended and well received. And it took a lot of preparation, so I was definitely glad it went well. We might try going to the West coast in the fall sometime. We’ll see. PB: If it’s not a secret, what have The Boys’ Star Library in front of them in the near future? JH: We’re working on a record. It will be a nine song Ep/CD called, we think, 'Sugar and Water'. It will be a little back story to the flying star-ball things on ‘if i was born a girl…’ and also an introduction to "dream studies" which is what the 3rd record will be all about. And we will play out as much as we can and tour as much as we can… and keep on keepin’ on. I just like making music so much so my only plans for the future are to keep doing that as long as I can. PB: As well as being the front man of The Boys’ Star Library, you also run the record label BumbleBEAR upon which the band appears. How did that come about? JH: BumbleBEAR was also formed in August 1999 along the same lines more or less. Our friend Bernard ran a label in NYC called Bear Records. He signed Wookiee in 1996 and put out one record. In 1999 he asked me if I would take over the label because he was finding less and less time to work on it. So I said sure, because why not, right? But my tastes are more ‘pop’ orientated whereas his are more ‘rock’ oriented. So I wanted to change the name just so that it was associated with the roots… but also its own label. So we changed the name to BumbleBEAR records and started counting from there (so the first official BumbleBEAR release was #26 in the catalog)… it’s like BumbleBear is the legacy of Bear Records. PB: BumbleBEAR features 7 bands at the moment. Are you planning on extending the label and putting out releases by more bands? JH: BumbleBEAR is basically a collective of friends all working together. I “run” the label, but everyone helps out. The main BumbleBEARs are myself, Ian (website and such), Chris (studio stuff and graphic design) and Will (studio stuff)… and the list goes on and on. So the bands that I put out are all friends of mine. If one of my friends wants to put out a record then we sit down and figure out together how we will split up the effort and that’s BumbleBEAR. I have only released a couple of things based on submission and those are folks who I knew were on the level and who were making great music… and we soon became great friends. So to actually answer your question… Yes, we’re always expanding. We haven’t released anything in a while, but there are several things that are soooooo close to being done. PB: Could you, in your role as owner, reveal what BumbleBEAR is going to be releasing next? JH: We should have a nice Christmas compilation out by November (that will be a split release with Planting Seeds Records). Also, The Emily Rock Group and Sabado Domingo have full length CDs done (both bands appeared on the recent Build Your Own Radio compilation). Also, my friend Graham who used to play in a band called Koko And The Future will be releasing a solo record with us under the name Gray Home Music. Then hopefully by spring, we will have the new Boys’ Star Library Record, the first full \=length CD from the ever impressive Bugs Eat Books, a special limited edition release by Veteran (old recordings from Bren of The Masters of the Hemisphere), and there is a compilation in the works that is a tribute to the music of Sean Tollefson (of Tullycraft, Six Cents & Natalie, Crayon)… it will be all songs done by fans of Tullycraft, etc… so it should be real fun for fans of the band. Tullycraft has really inspired me and Ian musically so that’s why we wanted to do a cover compilation. PB: How is it with BumbleBEAR independent radio? Is it also one of your own projects or is anybody else involved? JH: Ian does the web stuff so he is the creator of BumbleBEAR radio, as well as its caretaker. I don’t know much about it other than that I think it’s awesome. We also don’t play just BumbleBEAR stuff on the online radio station. You can hear all sorts of great indie-pop there… as well as other stuff too. The radio station is still in its early stages, so expect that to get better as time goes on too. Ian is currently working on an entire re-vamp of the whole website. PB: What was the best thing that has happened in your life so far? JH: I spent a couple weeks this summer with friends in Athens Georgia and I had such a blast that I’m gonna have to say that those two weeks were, at least, the best time I’ve had in a long time. College was pretty rad too. I made a lot of good friends there…. I just wish I had learned more. PB: Finally, an essential question. What if you were born a girl? JH: Some things would be better, some things would be worse… PB: Well, thank you very much for speaking to me. Good luck to you, BSL and the label! More information about Boys' Star Library and BumbleBEAR label website at BumbleBEAR's website www.bumblebear.com

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Boys Star Library - Interview with Jimmy Hughes

Boys Star Library - Interview with Jimmy Hughes

Boys Star Library - Interview with Jimmy Hughes

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Interview (2002)
Boys Star Library - Interview
Eclectic in tone, New York alt. pop trio Boys' Star Library have just released their second album, 'Sugar & Water'. Frontman Jimmy Hughes speaks to Olga Sladeckova about it, and recent developments at his BumbleBEAR label


Sugar and Water (2002)
Infectiously eclectic pop on second album from New York trio, Boys' Star Library
If I Was Born A Girl (2001)

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