The Mother Hips, one of San Francisco’s long time and most premier bands will be playing three shows over the weekend including two shows at the Great American Music Hall and one acoustic set at Slim’s. If you haven’t heard of this exceptional folk-rock band, chances are you’ve been living under a rock in the city. Just one listen to tracks like “White Falcon Fuzz” or even just any jam-sesh you can find on YouTube, will have you instantly hooked and buying tickets to the show. The Bay Bridged had a chance to talk to Tim Bluhm and ask him about the journey he has taken with his band since 1990 in the dorms of Chico State.
TBB: Hi Tim! Can you introduce yourself and the band members of the Mother Hips?
Bluhm: Tim Bluhm guitar and vocals, Greg Loiacono guitar and vocals, Jon Hofer on drums, Scott Thunes bass and vocals.
TBB: Take me back to 1990 and let me know how the band came to form. I know you started in college but did you know each other beforehand, or how did you discover each other?
Bluhm: We all just met in the off-campus dorms. I was interested in singing in a rock band but I was very inexperienced. I heard those guys practicing in a dorm room one day and I just kind of walked in and said hello.
TBB: When or how did you realize that you wanted to move on from house parties and covers to something more serious and unique?
Bluhm: Greg and I aspired to be songwriters from the very start. We knew we could compete with the popular cover bands that ruled Chico back then. We didn’t think we were serious or unique, we just liked to make up songs and try to play them as well as we could.
TBB: Was there any particular band that influenced you to do better or follow a certain style?
Bluhm: We got really into the Everly Brothers and wanted to learn how to sing like them. We also really like the Buffalo Springfield.
TBB: Listening to your songs on each of your albums, I’ve noticed a change in sound and craftsmanship from a more alternative rock style to something more country or folksy. Would you say that your sound has changed overtime? And if so, what caused this change?
Bluhm: We’ve changed our sound a little as we’ve gone, based on what we were listening to at the time. We’ve always had the freedom to mess around with whatever sounds we wanted to, as long as it was two guitars and two voices.
TBB: Do you or Greg butt heads over songwriting, or does the collaborative process run smooth?
Bluhm: We have our disagreements of course but over the years we’ve established a very smooth way of working together. We have our strengths and our roles that we’re good at and we understand that those are what make our band what it is; something greater than the sum of the parts. We respect that above all.
TBB: Can you tell me about any side projects going outside of the Mother Hips by any of the band members?
Bluhm: There are and have been many. I spent 6 years in Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, toured some with Jackie Greene as the Skinny Singers, play occasional shows with Brokedown in Bakersfield, a classic country cover band, I play occasional duo shows with Scott Law, and I produce a couple records every year for various artists. Greg has his trio Sensations that has put out some fabulous recordings and is currently finishing a new album.
TBB: As a group that is from San Francisco since the 90s, are you active in the local music scene today? Any groups worth mentioning that you appreciate?
Bluhm: We’re pretty active in the Terrapin Crossroads scene, playing in all kinds of combos down there. Bands like Phil Lesh and Friends, Midnight North, San Geronimo and Go By Ocean play there all the time. It’s an incredible community that Marin county is very fortunate to have. There’s free music every day, and it’s fun to just go out and sit in for a few tunes once in a while.
TBB: From what I understand, the Mother Hips help put together the Hipnic festival in Big Sur, can you give the readers a bit more information on that festival?
Bluhm: The Hipnic was started by us and Folk Yeah, a promoter from down that way. We’re in our 7th year I think. It’s a small, family-friendly festival that started as a kind of response to the bigger summer music festivals in California. We wanted to host an event that was laid back, uncrowded, not hot or dusty, and with only music that we like to listen to.
TBB: You guys are wrapping up the year with a show in Chico on NYE, can we expect anything from the Hips in 2016?
Bluhm: We’ll have a busy year for sure. Our new album will come out early in the year and we’ll do a bunch of shows in most of the major cities in support of that. We also have the Hipnic in Big Sur in May, the Hips High Camp in Sierraville in early summer, the Desert Dust-Up in Joshua Tree in September and a river trip that fans can go on with Greg and I in Idaho in June.
TBB: Where is the best place to play a show for you and why?
Bluhm: I like playing in Chico a lot, because it’s where we got started. It’s a pretty unique place to go and visit if you’ve never been. We’ve maintained good relationships up there and it’s always fun to be back in town. San Francisco is where we have our biggest shows, each December at the Great American Music Hall. That is a very special time for us as well.
TBB: If you could go back and change any one thing or moment during the band’s existence, what would it be?
Bluhm: I don’t really have any regrets at this point. I feel pretty damned fortunate to be where I am and to have lived the life that I have lived thus far.
Midnight North, The Mother Hips
Great American Music Hall
December 18, 7 pm
$25, All ages 6+
The Mother Hips: Playing Later Days in its entirety
Great American Music Hall
December 19, 7pm
$25, All ages 6+
The Mother Hips: The Hips Holiday Matinee (acoustic), The Moore Brothers
December 20, 3pm
$25 All ages 6+