Since the early '90s, West Coast rock stalwarts the Mother Hips have proven their durability, weathering label shake-ups, lineup changes, and hiatuses with grace, nurturing a hardcore grassroots following, and consistently honing their unique mix of California boogie, power pop, psych, Americana, and jam rock over the course of numerous acclaimed releases.
From their early days on Rick Rubin's American Recordings and playing the H.O.R.D.E. tour to releasing independent standouts like 2001's Green Hills of Earth and 2009's Pacific Dust, the Hips have kept their footing and remained an ever-evolving creative force, even overcoming frontman Tim Bluhm's life-threatening 2015 skiing accident to deliver their 2018 comeback album, Chorus.
The Hips' initial lineup came together around 1990 while singer/guitarist Bluhm, guitarist/singer Greg Loiacono, bassist Isaac Parsons, and drummer Mike Wofchuck were attending California State University in Chico. After some time developing their chops playing covers at parties around campus, they began to focus more on original material and moved up to the club circuit, building a regional fan base in advance of their self-released 1993 debut, Back to the Grotto. Co-produced by Bay Area musician Paul Hoaglin, Back to the Grotto established the Hips as rising stars with legitimate buzz and before long, they'd earned a major-label deal with Rick Rubin's American Recordings imprint. An alternate version of their debut with some newly recorded material was re-released by American in March of 1995, setting the table for their follow-up, Part-Timer Goes Full, which appeared in August of that year. Expanding their fan base through national tours and appearances on the H.O.R.D.E. festival, the Hips also made quick work of their third album, Shootout, which appeared in 1996. In spite of their critical success, the band's output for American wasn't putting up the desired numbers and they were soon dropped from the label. Having moved from Chico to the Bay Area, the Hips saw their first lineup change with John Hofer replacing Mike Wofchuck on drums. This coincided with a move toward a more stripped-down, back-to-basics country-rock approach which they employed on 1998's self-released Later Days. Over the next few years, the Hips remained largely in California, touring occasionally up and down the coast and releasing another indie album, the more power pop-oriented Green Hills of Earth, in February 2001. In March of 2002, bassist Parsons left the group and was replaced by Paul Hoaglin, co-producer of the band's first two albums. By September of that year, however, Loiacono also wanted a break and, following a pair of shows at San Francisco club Slim's in February 2003, the Hips went on an indefinite hiatus.
While bandmembers took some time to pursue other projects, a pair of 2004 documentaries, Stories We Could Tell and This Is the Sound, covered the band's journey up to that point. The hiatus proved to be short-lived and by late 2004, the Hips had resumed gigging and in 2005 released the Red Tandy EP, whose title track was featured in the popular video game Rock Band. Their next full-length, 2007's Kiss the Crystal Flake, also had a pair of songs that were featured in Rock Band, further boosting their popularity. The band's 2009 album, Pacific Dust, was accompanied by a seven-song bonus EP of the same name for fans who ordered it from the Hips' website. Over the next two years, bassist Hoaglin had become increasingly unreliable due to issues with mental illness and was subsequently fired from the band in February 2011. In September of that year, the Hips issued the archival four-disc box set Days of Sun and Grass in honor of their 20th anniversary. At that point they had already begun recording their eighth album, Behind Beyond, and despite his departure from the band, Hoaglin was asked to complete his parts for the recording with his replacement, former Frank Zappa and Fear bassist, Scott Thunes, acting as the new live bandmember. The album was self-released in May 2013. The following year, a collection of unreleased outtakes and rarities from their mid-'90s stint on American Recordings was released as Chronicle Man.
In September 2015, Bluhm suffered a serious accident while speed flying (a mix of skiing and paragliding) and over the next couple of years, the group's activity was severely limited. Following Bluhm's recovery, the band entered the studio to record 2018's Chorus, their first new album in five years. ~ Timothy Monger, Rovi