The list of bands that have continually recorded and toured for the last 30 years isn’t very long. Remove the bands that haven’t put out three new records in the last couple of years and you’re going to be left with Mother Hips and not many more.
Mother Hips wasted no time following up on 2021’s “Glowing Lantern” with their latest release “When We Disappear.” The album is a showcase of the California mountain country sound Hips front man Tim Bluhm has patented. Bluhm and Hips co-founder Greg Loiacono are riding a tidal wave of fresh music and creativity that started after Bluhm recovered from an almost fatal speed flying accident in 2015.
“When We Disappear” is a ten-song journey through a wide road of styles the Hips have traveled since forming as a college band at Chico State in the early 90s.
“The Mother Hips have been making a lot of records. We’ve made three in succession. And we just started another one,” Bluhm begins. “These were pretty fresh songs so there weren’t a whole lot of before versions for them.”
The album storms out of the gate with the title track, “When We Disappear,” a perfect example of Bluhm’s upbeat California country sound. He introduced this style through Mother Hips, solo records, and numerous albums he’s produced.
Another highlight of the first half of the album is a haunting, true-to-form cover of the Charlatans “Codine.” Bluhm admits adding covers in the last couple of releases has been long overdue.
“We’ve been putting other people’s songs on our last few records. It seems fun and old school,” Bluhm explains. “Greg and I heard that song when we were teenagers on a road trip in the desert. We always loved it but never played it.”
He adds, “During the pandemic, the Coffis Brothers came to my house for some livestreams. We were looking for new material and this one came up. We played it a few times. When we were recording for this album, it popped into my mind. I said, let’s record “Codine.” We played it. It sounded cool. I mixed it and it made the cut.”
With an abundance of new material being released in a short period of time, Mother Hips have avoided the pitfall of one album sounding like a clone of the last. For Bluhm, there are themes that appear album to album he tries to build on.
“When there hasn’t been a lot of time between recording sessions, there will be a direction or style from the last record. We’ll go back to that theme and say ‘I want to write a sister song to that. It worked well and I want to explore that theme a little more,’” Bluhm claims.
“It doesn’t always work out. Maybe half the time. I like to honor that. It keeps it fresh and interesting.”
The pace for the rest of the album slows down considerably as the Hips focus on more vocal driven tunes. “Almost to Idaho” and “Lost Out the Window” offer some of the best vocals on the album. For Bluhm, one song really captured his vision for the second half of the album.
“Leaving the Valley” is one of the most successful songs on the record. It’s groovy but not rocking at all. Greg and I really liked how it came out and we wanted to make sure it had a prominent slot on the record,” Bluhm explains. “Track one, side B is a pretty important spot. We were just recording a new song that goes along with “Leaving the Valley.”
For Bluhm and Loiacono, the end of the road for Mother Hips is nowhere in sight. Their label, Blue Rose, has encouraged them to release as much new music as they want. They’ve also allowed Bluhm to produce and release several other musical projects. He adds, “They’ve been so great. We’ve worked with a lot of labels. Blue Rose is responsible for inspiring us to keep putting music out. They’re always saying, ‘Let’s make another record right now.’ They push us to be productive. Writing songs is different when you get older. They’ve been super instrumental in getting us to keep writing. That type of support is rare, life changing and super cool.”
The success and longevity of the Mother Hips is a testament to the strength of the bond Bluhm and Loiacono have created since college. As Loiacono’s children grow older, it’s created extra time and desire for him to become more involved in Mother Hips and other outside projects. Something that’s not lost on Bluhm.
“I was pretty much the primary song writer. I sang most of the songs. Pretty much 75/25. These days we collaborate more. We enjoyed making this record because we had more time together.”
Bluhm concludes, “Greg and I have become closer and closer as the years go on. It’s really cool being the age I am. I don’t have kids. Almost all my friends got married, had kids, and in a way retreated into their family life for those 18 or 19 years. That happened with Greg. He had two children.
“Now that his kids are older, he has more time. It’s more like when we shared a queen-sized bed in a loft in Chico for 6 years. We see each other a lot and talk on the phone all the time. Running a business takes a lot of attention. We self-manage the band so we’re in touch. We have such a history; we know each other’s taste and sense of humor. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together. It’s cool. We keep getting closer as the years go on. We’re collaborating more than we have ever.”
Mother Hips “When We Disappear” Blue Rose Records 2023