By: Dennis Cook
Hovering on the verge of their 20th anniversary, The Mother Hips have just released their seventh studio effort, Pacific Dust (out October 26 on Camera Records), and, to the surprise of no one who's spent a little time with their work, it's another end-to-end pop-rock jewel. The pleasurable consistency and solidity of the Hips suggests what might have occurred if the classic lineups of Badfinger or Big Star hadn't lost the script, a music of nigh indestructible musicianship, songwriting, and unforced, organic production. Pacific Dust goes down so smoothly that it's easy to miss what a quality thing they've created. Theirs is not a way prone to flash or spotlights, but instead a craftsmanship that's rare and enduring.
A compelling, easy to like bunch from the start, The Mother Hips, as a unit, have fully gelled in recent years, where the music on Pacific Dust and 2007's predecessor Kiss The Crystal Flake reflects the layers of weird understanding they share as people. "Sure, but definitely in a very weird way," laughs singer-guitarist-composer Greg Loiacono knowingly. Together with Tim Bluhm (vocals, guitar, songwriting), John Hofer (drums), and Paul Hoaglin (bass, vocals), Loiacono has built up one of rock's sturdiest catalogs and one of the most sterling live reputations in the industry. The Mother Hips are a band synonymous with quality, something brought sharply into focus by their new release.
"We went into the studio over a year ago, and there were ideas and a few songs. We put one mic up and just played. In fact, a lot of the songs that ended up on Pacific Dust were tried out and jammed on that first night," says Loiacono. "What we did in these sessions is go over a piece three or four times and then press record so we had one take as a reference to take home so everyone could remember their parts and what they were doing. We typically don't do that, however. Tim or I will often come in and say, 'Here's a song. Here's how it goes,' and then the other guys help fill it in. If there's a bass part the hands you want to leave that in belong to Paul Hoaglin. But the song 'Pacific Dust' is a really good example of the whole band composing a piece."
"'Pacific Dust' was actually created when we were out in Vail, Colorado two summers ago playing this weird, crappy little place. We were supposed to play this 200-year-old lodge but it burnt down a few weeks before. So, we ended up in the complete opposite – this underground sports bar with Schnapps girls. We got there for sound check early and were able to jam out. Tim had the little guitar figure for 'Pacific Dust,' then Hofer put in that totally unexpected drumbeat, and then we all started messing around," explains Loiacono. "We forgot about it until we were in the studio this time and then Tim started doing that riff and we all tried to remember what we were doing in Vail. Originally it was an instrumental, but because Camera Records was gung-ho for it to have words Tim took a stab at it. It has such a cool feel, sort of spooky."
The looser jam approach produced compelling results, like the smoky, dark edged swirl of the title tune.
"I loved it! It was delightful, and we hadn't done that in many, many years, but not on purpose. We just hadn't gotten around to it. It's neat to come up with an instrumental song and then develop lyrics and a melody to put on top of it. It's a great way to do it, except when you have to put it together onstage," says Bluhm. "The guitar parts don't go with singing parts very well because they weren't executed at the same time. It's kind of like learning to juggle for the first time. Your hands are doing one thing and your inner voice is doing another. It took a few days to figure out, but it's sort of funny to not be able to play your own songs."
Meet Paul Hoaglin
What is your favorite word? Rickenbacker.
|Paul Hoaglin by Andrew Quist|
What is your least favorite word? Compromise.
What turns you on? Jealousy and anger (my own.)
What turns you off? Feeling powerless.
What sound or noise do you love? The kids saying "Bad Robot" at the end of each episode of Lost.
What sound or noise do you hate? Fall Out Boy.
What is your favorite curse word? Bugger.
What is the craziest damn thing you ever saw? The movies on the insides of my eyelids before I would fall asleep as a child.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Any that would hire me. Something with absolutely no human contact would be nice, in an underground bunker with no natural light if possible.
What profession would you not like to do? Musician.
What is one album that you never tire of listening to? None - they all wear out their welcome for a while at some point, even the Beatles, believe it or not, although they last the longest for me on average.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? This was only a test. If this had been an actual life, you would have been given some small inkling of a clue what to do and where to go, and who to become. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Continue reading for more on The Mother Hips...