While the new normal for bands is to collaborate remotely, the upcoming Mother Hips album, “Glowing Lantern,” was built on old-fashioned, in-person hangs between primary songwriters Greg Loiacono and Tim Bluhm.
Loiacono explains that because “there was nothing else to do” during the height of the pandemic, he and Bluhm would meet for long walks, and they’d discuss new songs.
“It just came to be a good way to look at the material we had both been messing with,” says Loiacono, who like Bluhm plays guitar and sings in the band. “It ended up being more of a collaboration. There’s always a desire to do that. But having the time during everything slowing down, it really helped.”
It’s a throwback approach for the Bay Area band, which formed in 1990 and inevitably started to drift to their own corners when it came to composing new material.
“Certainly, when the band started and we were all living together, there was a lot more time spent together on songs and piecing them together,” Loiacono says. “As we got more busy and had different lives outside the band, when we’d finally come together to start to make a record, there was a period of time where it was a little bit more ‘This is a Tim song’ or ‘This is a Greg song.’ Of course, once we were in the studio we would all give our input, because we all have a lot of opinions.”
While the pandemic set the stage for the process of making “Glowing Lantern,” which will be released Friday, Loiacono is less apt to say it influenced the material itself.
“I don’t know if it was on purpose,” he says. “I think we were just gathering whatever we had. And it’s always a reflection of the time and state of mind that you’re in every time. So I’m more interested in hearing how it hits people, because the thing I’ve found about writing songs and listening to music — I do some other work where I listen to music in a group setting and discuss it — and it’s just amazing how one song can mean so many things to so many different people. I’m always curious to hear what people think: ‘It’s about this!’ And in my head, I’m going, that wasn’t on my mind at all.”
At the beginning of the year, the band marked its 30th year by reissuing its 10-album catalog via Blue Rose, Loiacono’s record label. The process gave the band a reason to look back on its early days as it was preparing to write “Glowing Lantern.”
“Tim and I would receive test pressings and listen to the first couple records; we hadn’t listened to them in a long time,” Loiacono says. “There was a lot of freedom. We really didn’t know what the hell we were doing. It was great timing for that to happen.”
In the runup to “Glowing Lantern’s” Friday release, The Mother Hips shared the singles “Looking at Long Days,” “I Don’t Want to Drive You Away” and “Clay Mask Clown.” “I Don’t Want to Drive You Away,” written by David Wiffen and recorded by Anne Murray in 1968, is the first cover song the Hips have released.
With the new album not even out, the band was already prepping more material, with Loiacono about to head to Santa Fe to workshop new songs with the band when we spoke in early November. “We’ve been rehearsing,” he says. “We have a batch of songs that we’re going to dive into. Some are kind of good to go. We’ll see.”
He’s also working on a follow-up to his 2020 solo album, “Mystic Traces.” He recorded the new one in Sonoma County with Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) on bass, Michael Urbano (Sheryl Crow) on drums and Danny Eisenberg on keyboards.
Photo by Andrew Quist