Mother Hips, at 20, take sound to new level
“There are already more songs in the world than anyone will ever be able to hear,” says singer, songwriter and guitarist Tim Bluhm, who started The Mother Hips two decades ago with his musical colleague, guitarist, singer and songwriter Greg Loiacono. “When I’m writing, I like to let ideas and melodies float around in my head for a while. I usually drag out the process for as long as I can.”
Bluhm’s considered approach might be one reason that the band’s newest album, “Behind Beyond,” took so long to see the light of day.
“We spent three years on this record, although some of the songs were written before we even started to put the album together,” Bluhm says.
The album, just released on the band’s own Mother Hips label, celebrates the band’s 20th year as a touring and recording unit.
“I can hardly remember what I felt like when I was 20,” Bluhm says, laughing. “For a band to reach this age is pretty rare.”
The band is actually a little bit older. Bluhm and Loiacono started playing together when they were attending college at Cal State Chico.
“When we met, we were just out of high school,” Bluhm says. “We were ambitious in a way that you can’t be when you get older. We hung out in the dorms playing folk, blues, country and rock, trying to sing harmonies like Crosby, Stills and Nash. We realized we needed a drummer and a bass player to get attention, so we started a band and put on our own keg parties. Everything built organically from there.”
Their blend of roots music, psychedelia and Americana didn’t fit into any category when they started playing. Their country influences made them sound different from most California bands.
“When we played San Francisco, we felt like country mice from a college town nobody had ever heard of playing with the cats in the big city,” Bluhm says. “We were a little more rustic than the people down here.”
Bluhm and Loiacono decided to drop out, move to San Francisco and pursue music full time. After putting out a successful self-produced album, they were courted by the major labels, but decided to stay independent.
“We were young and stubborn,” Loiacono says. “We could have worked with big producers, but thought we’d get pushed in directions we didn’t want to go in. When you do it on your own, it’s more gratifying.”
The band continues going its own way on “Behind Beyond.” The collection still relies on the burnished vocal harmonies and guitar interplay between Bluhm and Loiacono, but it takes the sound to a new level of musical complexity.
“We co-produced the album with our friend David Simon-Baker, who was the main engineer and mixer,” Loiacono says. “He pushed us to come up with the intricate guitar parts that shaped the sound of the record. We played the kind of extended guitar solos that we drop into our live shows. It made the process challenging, but stretching out and taking chances made the record more dynamic.”