Listen to tracks off The Mother Hips new album here...

By Dennis Cook

The Mother Hips by ND Koster
Long before The Beatles met Sgt. Pepper, they were four boys who fell hard for rock 'n' roll. They loved it irrationally and gave themselves over to it with undisguised passion, mastering their instruments and exploring the genre's roots night after night in front of beer swilling loudmouths. More than 40 years on, their early efforts like "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Can't Buy Me Love" retain their charm because the fundamentals are in place – indestructible songwriting paired with skilled, enthusiastic playing and a good ear for tiny embellishments that etch a tune in someone's mind. Knock a few years off, change the song titles and you could be talking about The Mother Hips.

Tim Bluhm by Josh Miller
It's almost unfair to compare any band to The Beatles but in this instance the blue suede shoes fit. The power and potential of the basic rock quartet reaches fruition in this California institution. From their Chico State origins through their creative boom in SF today, The Mother Hips possess the same spirit that fuels McCartney and Harrison, Gene Clark and David Crosby, Tom Verlaine and Patti Smith. Despite not being a household name, their work stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best that's been. 1992's Back To The Grotto holds its own against any debut in rock, and their new album, Kiss The Crystal Flake (available April 3), may be their strongest yet.

The first time I got up the gumption to speak to the group's songwriter/guitarists, Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono, I sputtered, "In the jukebox in my head so often it's your music that's playing." That spontaneous outburst encapsulates a lot about their work. It isn't coy or clumsy. It's meant to be enjoyed in barrooms where folks sing along. It engages you with confidence and flair, taking your hand before you even realize you wanted to dance. Ladies and gentlemen, meet The Mother Hips.


The Mother Hips in 1991
Wofchuck, Parsons, Loicano, Bluhm
Like a painter who moves through his blue period then his yellow and red ones, the Hips have distinct phases but aren't defined by any one part of the band's history. For some, they're the loose, jam happy space cowboys of their youth. To others, they're the twangtastic, Haggard lovin' men of Later Days. Still others see them as classical pop maestros carrying on the line of The Hollies and early Bee Gees. The reality is they're all these things and more. Bluhm says, "It's true but it makes it a little tricky to get across. Context is so important in our band. We've had different eras but you can't really say we're a jam band or a country rock band. To anyone who knows, it just sounds ignorant."

Their early press repeatedly likened them to Buffalo Springfield. Bluhm snorts, "I wish we'd sounded like Buffalo Springfield! I wish we did but the fact remains that we just didn't [laughs]. It's so fun to try and sound like something you really like. Maybe we've indulged in that a little too much for some people's liking but look at fiction. That kind of thing is happening constantly, quoting someone or using their style, like Frank Norris used Emile Zola. In the end, it's only rock 'n' roll. Big deal. How far can you go away from it and still have it be rock 'n' roll? If you go somewhere like Brian Eno it's cool but it's no longer rock. We're a rock 'n' roll band. We never pretended like we weren't and always will be."

Hoaglin & Bluhm by Josh Miller
Bassist Paul Hoaglin picks it up, "From day one, the songwriting has been the important part. Between Tim and Greg, the fount of inspiration has never run short. When they write a song they have an idea of where it's gonna go. They may use guideposts or, as we call them, puppets, where you hear a song by the Bee Gees and you want to make 'Singing Seems To Ease Me' sound like 'In My Own Time.' The songs come with certain reference points that flavor things but always build from their own vision first."

Try as one might, it's impossible to tie their sound directly to any particular ancestor. Drummer John Hofer offers, "We don't have a formula. We all have really eclectic taste in music. I love George Jones AND King Crimson. It's tough [from a marketing angle] to be in a band that has all these different things going on. As weird as it sounds – and to some people this may sound awful – it's all in there."

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