Portrait of the Mother Hips as a midlife band

Two decades in, the San Francisco band is older, wiser and still jamming

<p><b>“Where are my reading glasses?”</b></p>

“Where are my reading glasses?”

Photo courtesy of Ric D. Rudgers

The Mother Hips perform at 10 p.m. on Saturday, November 22, at PowerHouse Pub, 614 Sutter Street in Folsom. Tickets are $15. For more, visit www.motherhips.com.

For the better part of 23 years, members of the San Francisco band Mother Hips have churned out some of the best jam band fare in the country. Although often mislabeled as an Americana or country act, make no mistake—this band likes to stretch out its songs and play for hours on end.

The four-piece currently features singer-guitarist Tim Bluhm and guitarist Greg Loiacono—the only original members left. The pair met attending college in Chico. It also includes drummer John Hofer, who lives in Southern California with his wife and daughter and has played with the band since 1997, and former Frank Zappa bassist Scott Thunes; the Marin-based musician joined in 2011.

All those different addresses can make for a difficult touring schedule, but they manage and, in fact, the band’s scheduled to play the PowerHouse Pub Saturday, November 22.

The Hips’ current record, Chronicle Man, was released on the group’s own eponymous label earlier this year and while the band members say they enjoyed putting out two records on Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label back in the day—1995’s Part-Timer Goes Full and 1996’s Shootout—they now prefer running their own business and are in no hurry to work with a bigger label again.

“After being signed to American, there’s definitely some caution from [signing to] major labels,” Bluhm explained in a recent phone interview. “Until something comes along that knocks me out, we are staying put.”

There other projects to keep him busy, too. Bluhm is also a full-time member of his wife’s band, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. Over the last couple of years he’s put aside considerable time to concentrate on her music—and it’s paid off. The Gramblers became Internet celebrities of sorts after their “Van Session” videos went viral, something that pushed the band into filling large music halls.

While the Gramblers’ success has made scheduling Mother Hips shows difficult at times, Bluhm says he’s used to various outside projects causing such delays.

He’s also done extensive solo work, after all, something that prompted the Hip’s four-year hiatus between 2009’s Pacific Dust and 2013’s Behind Beyond.

It was a time for growing pains, Bluhm said.

“It’s kind of shameful as a songwriter. I think the band during that period was adjusting to me being a solo artist and having a lot of things going on with other projects as well,” he said. “These were transitive years.”

These days, however, the band operates at its own speed and the other members also keep busy with other projects.

Still, all those packed schedules haven’t stopped them from making new music together. In fact, they just finished a record at John Baccigaluppi’s new studio in Stinson Beach. Working with the former Hangar producer, Bluhm says, made sense.

“[The studio is in] a beautiful house overlooking the Bay. [Baccigaluppi’s] done so many bands including The Gramblers, My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and more,” he said.

The upcoming album will feature a mix of songs, Bluhm added. In addition, the band still has some tunes in the vault that may be released at a future date.

Whatever happens next, Bluhm says he’s more committed than ever when it comes to making music. There are benefits, it seems, to pushing past 20 years in the business.

“In some ways, being young is less serious,” he said. “As you get older, you start to understand the significance of art in people’s lives. We were raging partiers during the American [Recordings] years but we now control everything we do and it is work.”