‘All kinds of rock ‘n’ roll’ coming to Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL – Greg Loiacono and the Mother Hips, who play a free show in Vail Wednesday night, have built a career on being unclassifiable.
“Ever since we started as a band, people kind of wanted to know what genre we are or what kind of music or who we sound like,” Loiacono said. “You know, we can give influences of people that we liked during that time, but I think that we have fans from all different age groups and different categories.”
The Mother Hips’ wide-reaching fan base is at least partially due to the fact that the San Francisco-based band effortlessly straddles so many genres. Loiacono, who shares guitar and vocal duties with co-founder Tim Bluhm, said their music has been compared to bands ranging from the Meat Puppets to the Byrds to the Beach Boys. To Loiacono, though, these bands – and his – all have one thing in common. They play rock ‘n’ roll.
“We’re a rock band. We’re based out of rock ‘n’ roll,” Loiacono said. “We like all kinds of rock ‘n’ roll. We like hard rock, we like mellow country rock, we like sensitive ’70s rock, we like weird ’80s rock – everything.”
All these rock sounds are on display in the Hips’ music, especially on their new album, “Pacific Dust,” which includes blues-rockers like “Third Floor Story,” stripped-down ballads such as “Jess OXOX” and a couple of big, distorted, psychedelic jams, of which the title track is a prime example. To Loiacono, though, having different types of songs in one’s repertoire is just business as usual.
“I think that when you hear our music, there are some songs that are more songwriter-oriented … and some stuff is a little more heavy-handed, some stuff is more ballad-y,” Loiacono said. “But when you listen to bands – when you listen to really any band – people have got their more hard-hitting stuff, people have got their more straightforward rock-song stuff.”
Though the Hips are hard to pin down stylistically, Loiacono said every record they’ve made at least sounds like, well, the Mother Hips.
“I think if you listen to the records, there are transformations, but to most people, there’s a sound – there’s a particular sound,” Loiacono said. “A big part of that sound and the one common denominator from the beginning of the band is that Tim and I founded the band together, and our vocal harmonies and guitar interplay and the way that our voices fit together is definitely the nuts and bolts of the Mother Hips.”
Loiacono and Bluhm have been making music together since 1990, and they have released seven full-length studio albums and a few live albums and EPs along the way, all of which showcase the solid songwriting skills and serious guitar chops of the two musical partners. In fact, after almost two decades in the music business, Loiacono said the thing that’s most gratifying is that he and Bluhm’s friendship is still as strong as it is.
“What I’m most proud of, in thinking about it retrospectively, is the fact that we can play and we can still have as much fun as we do. There’s still a lot of humor involved in our relationships on and off the stage,” Loiacono said. “Even onstage, we’re always doing things to make the other person laugh, and of course, within that, having the musical relationship I’ve had with Tim for almost 20 years. I really look back with a lot of gratitude on that relationship, that we still connect the way we do.”
The duo’s personal and musical connection is an important element in the Mother Hips’ live shows, which are a mix of tight, polished pop songs, hard rock and experimental psychedelia, with some songs stretching for 10 or 15 minutes or more. Loiacono is careful to differentiate among the Mother Hips and jam bands, however – though the Hips do improvise, he said it’s more focused than the stereotypical jam band.
“It’s not the saxophone solo, and then it passes off to the guitar, and then passes off to the keyboard. If (a song is) going for that long, it had a reason, it had a purpose to go for that long,” Loiacono said. “There are some bands where it’s clear – this band’s a jam band. And what that means to me is that the band doesn’t have a whole lot of songs, and they noodle a lot.”
The Mother Hips do have a lot of songs, but they don’t seem to be slowing down, even after close to 20 years doing their thing. Loiacono seems happy with the success he has had, but he said the band is always striving to expand its reach.
“Definitely part of our goal in playing out and touring and making records is to reach as many people as possible,” Loiacono said. “For us, the way that it has gone, sometimes I wish that more people knew about us, and other times I’m amazed that we’ve done as well as we’ve done.”
Aaron Butzen is a freelance writer based in Denver. Check out more of his work at http://www.butzenmedia.com.