Mother Hips '01
at KFOG Kaboom, May 2002. Photo: Koster.
2001 was a banner
year for California rock group Mother Hips. Maybe the best year
yet in their 10 year career.
The year saw the release of their fifth album, Green Hills of
Earth and unprecedented buzz for the band. For a band that doesn't
have a major label deal, and major financial backing, they had as
successful a year as possible. Critics and fans alike praised the
new album, tossing around words like "masterful", and "irresistible"
to describe it. The San
Francisco Chronicle's, James Sulliavan, called the album
the number one rock event of the year, stating the album makes "a
quantum leap, redefining Left Coast rock 'n' roll." Beyond
their Bay Area home, the Hips received some national recognition
when Rolling Stone critic, Bill Crandall, picked Green Hills
of Earth as the top album of the past year in the magazine's year
end critic roundup.
band leader, Tim Bluhm, recently explained how the year was
from his perspective. "Its definitely been an exciting
year relative to the several years preceding it because Green
Hills Off Earth got more attention, and I think it deserved
more attention than Later Days." He went on to explain that
the increase in buzz and album sales has led to better attendance
at the shows: "That manifested itself, and continues to manifest
itself, in higher attendance at the shows, which is really a much
more tangible thing in our lives. When we go to work, its
more successful. We see more people come through the door. And thats
just awesome. Its so good for our morale. Its good for
our music. It just motivates you to try harder. It makes it seem
like youre doing something thats worthwhile. I think
playing music is always worthwhile, but sometimes its hard--
no matter what youre doing its hard to see why
you do it. And weve had a lot of reminders this year
such a blessing."
attendence at shows, other reminders included high profile radio
San Francisco) sharing the stage with the likes of Wilco
and Blues Traveller, and playing bigger and better venues.
year began with a near fever pitch of buzz surrounding the Hips
- a cover story in the San Francisco Chronicle, a live appearance
on KFOG, an instore
record release, and a fantastic, sold out show at Slims. When
Bluhm came on stage that night donning Indian formal wear, fans
knew they were in for a special year. That week ignited the Hips'
year in the Bay Area and beyond. More matter of fact, than cocky,
Bluhm, explains the band's success in NorCal extended well beyond
the Bay Area: "The situation in SF definitely refelects whats
happening everywhere else
much to my surprise, actually! [In
SF] The KFOG support was unprecedented for us, selling out the Fillmore
was a rush, the KFOG Kaboom, was all-time for us! The situation
in San Francisco definitely refelects whats happening everywhere
much to my surprise, actually! I guess its not
that surprising, but its certainly fortunate, that everywhere
else weve gone, since about July or August, weve sold
out. And weve been playing bigger venues. Like in San Diego
we switched from a 200 capacity club to a 700 capacity club, and
sold it out. Twice. Thats just really encouraging to see that."
On the road again
Hips toured hard in the year 2001. Except for a brief respite in
the Autumn to allow for the birth of guitarist Greg Loiacono's newborn
boy, the band toured pretty much relentlessy all year.
the vast majority of shows were in California and western
the boys extended themselves outside of their home state venturing
into the mid-west, as far as Chicago and Minneapollis. Bluhm
commented how playing outside of their home state affects the
band -- "We dont have as much of a definition in
peoples minds there. Maybe theyve only seen us play
once, or only heard the record, or only heard a song.
fans, thats why they showed up, but theyre curious
more than fanatical." The
fact that these fans dont know what to expect is somewhat
refreshing-- Its cool, actually, because it gives
you a chance to slightly reinvent yourself because there arent
expectations. You arent anything yet, and you can become
something. You can define yourself." A couple different
tours through the Rocky Mountain states (Idaho, Colorado, Utah)
kept the odometer rolling on the tour van. Late in the year,
the boys managed a fairly high profile show in Denver opening
for kindred musical spirits, Wilco. By all accounts the live
show has never been better. The band kept things fresh and added
some new songs into the rotation (Red Tandy, Incredible
Man, Harnessmaker's Song) and resurrected some older
Hips' chestnuts like Bent Carousel, Mona Lisa snd
the Last Supper, and Can't Sleep at All.
Hips played a number of in-store appearences as well as many
appearence on Santa Barbara radio station, KTYD
show appearences in '01. These appearences helped spread the
sound, but proved challenging at times, playing for DJ's unfamiliar
with the Hips. "Its like it used to be in the old
days when were trying to prove ourselves on the spot.
Youre sort of like against the odds.
sitting in there and all you have is an acoustsic guitar and
your voices, and its usually like 8 Oclock in the
morning and youre not feeling so hot, and you try and
turn that person around and make him, and hopefully anybody
thats listening, understand why theres any little
bit of fuss about the Mother Hips, you know? But Bluhm
welcomed the challenge, stating, Its cool. Its
been really healthy for our musicianship and for our morale.
nights, early morning Radio shows, sand and surf:
But playing rock shows, record store appearances, and radio shows
can be taxing. The boys often found themselves booked solid, and
working harder than usual to promote an album. A weekend in November
was illustrative of their sometimes hectic schedule:
A lot of times doing these radio shows its pretty
grueling. You gotta play the rock show at night -- like this one
(KTYD, Santa Barbara) was scheduled for 8 oclock in the morning
after a rock show the night before in San Luis. We had to
drive to El Capitan (just north of Santa Barbara), after the San
Luis show and slept in the back of the van. Luckily it (the surf)
wasnt breaking, cause I wouldve been bummed! But we
got to the station about
7:45 and warmed our voices up and played. Then went to Leadbetter
Beach, swam, took a run on the sand. It was a good day.
Later that afternoon, the band did a record store appearance, a
plus hour rock show that night, and then drove to LA, for the
Three night stand
The end of the
year found the Hips booked for a bold three night run at San Franciscos
storied, Great American Music Hall. Playing these Christmas shows,
has become a Mother Hips tradition of sorts, something theyve
done the last eight years. I asked Bluhm about this seemingly bold
move of playing a three night stand and he replied, wearily, Its
definitely a deep dig. Theres a little anxiety. It sort of
reflects the optimism that the year has allowed us to feel. Well
see. I think its pretty optimistic. Turns out the three
night run was a big success, with two packed nights, and a full
house on night three.
On tap for
In addition to non-stop touring, radio and record store appearences,
the band spent some time in the studio to record more demo songs,presumably
newer stuff like Incredible Man and Grizzly Bear.
Bluhm and guitarist/singer Greg Loiacono, (the Tim and Greg duo)
also recorded songs for a forthcoming duo album, entitled, The
Ballpoint Birds. The record is done and will see its release
in early 2002. Ive been really stoked weve had
this period of productivity. Greg and I made the record, Ball Point
Birds. Probably ready to release in February. Does this new
releasea warrant additional touring by Tim and Greg? Im
sure well do some more touring
but its hard to
balance it with the Mother Hips
we dont want it to interfere
with what the Mother Hips are trying to do right now
The band will be off for most of
the month of January, as the hard
is out of the country and everyone is likely basking in the
success of 2001. But the group comes back strong in February.
With new recordings (Ball Point Birds), new songs coming
out, and a heavy road
schedule for February, fans have a lot to look forward to
in 2002 and the
bands next decade.
Special thanks to nd
Koster for all photos, except KTYD stuidos, courtesy of Tim
Click on any of the photos for larger versions.