Mazzy Star: It's True, We're Still Together (and we have a new album)
September 22, 2013 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Mazzy Star are best known for their hazy, shoegazer album So Tonight I Might See (Grooveshark stream), which contained the single Fade Into You (YouTube). That album was released in 1993, and went platinum in 1995, providing an odd counter-point to the popular grunge sounds of the day. As a band, they made three albums in the 1990s, though neither hit the peak of their sophomore album. They disbanded (as far as the public was concerned*) in 1997, though there were a series of reunion tours in 2000. Eleven years later, they released a new single, Common Burn b/w Lay Myself Down, and the group toured in 2012. This week, they release their fourth album, Seasons of Your Day, and they aren't any cheerier (in responding to interview questions).

Mazzy Star is primarily the duo of David Roback and Hope Sandoval. Roback's musical history goes back farther than Sandoval's, to the early 1980s, as part of the Paisley Underground (era) in Los Angeles, a psychedelic scene that inspired Prince. David and his brother, Steven, formed the band Rain Parade, "the closest to being the real deal for their use of psychedelic flourishes throughout their first album." The group made four albums together in the 1980s and a couple more since, but David split from the band and after the first album. He joined with his girlfriend at the time, Kendra Smith, who was previously the bassist for another member of a Paisley Underground group, Dream Syndicate (lo-fi live clip, more info). They were joined by drummer Keith Mitchell and released one single as Clay Allison (YT, live audio from a show in 1984 with photo montage), then changed their group name to Opal, playing harder electric stuff, "right in the center of this giant wall of noise" (interview with David Roback, 1987).

It was here that Hope Sandoval joined the group. As told in this fictionalized history of the band, Hope first noticed David back when he was in Rain Parade with his brother, and their chemistry started then. As told by Sandoval, she was a teen-age Dream Syndicate fan, following Kendra Smith instead of David (third alternative: Sandoval was a devoted follower of Rain Parade, and she recruited Roback to produce an album by her folk duo). One way or another, Hope was involved with Opal in the late 1980sas seen in this video for Opal's "Nightmare Baby" song (YT; more history of Hope and Opal in the description of this video). The fictionalized telling captures Smith throwing her microphone down and storming off stage at Hammersmith Apollo in London, the third show of the tour opening for the Jesus and Mary Chain, Opal's big break. Smith did leave suddenly in that show, though the why isn't really known (or at least mentioned online). Sandoval replaced Smith (YT, low-quality live clip), and Hope's bio notes that after this tour, Opal became Mazzy Star.

Opal existed from 1983-1989, only releasing one album and a handful of shorter releases. Mazzy Star kicked off in 1990 with She Hangs Brightly (Grooveshark), which opened with the single Halah (YT video). The next two albums came out on a pretty solid three-year cycle, but the 1996 album Among My Swan (Grooveshark; Flowers in December music video) couldn't match So Tonight That I Might See from 1993. Both Sandoval and Roback went off to do their own things, though they have since said they never really stopped making music together, but they didn't make anything they wanted to share. In a 2009 interview, Sandoval told Rolling Stone "It's true we're still together.... We're almost finished [with our new record]. But I have no idea what that means."

But it's finally here, 17 years after their prior studio album. You can hear the entire album streaming on Soundcloud, thanks to The Guardian, or for a limited time as a First Listen from NPR.

If you're craving more of their past, YouTube user Bobjb999/Hermesacat has uploaded a ton of live videos and audio from Rainy Day, Opal, Mazzy Star, Hope Sandoval, and others.
posted by filthy light thief (30 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
 
More looking back: The Guardian also wrote up an oral history of Paisley Underground earlier this year, but neither David Roback nor Hope Sandoval are included as interviewees.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:58 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Mazzy Star although I can't listen to them because of Reasons. This, however, is an amazing post. Thanks, flt.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:11 PM on September 22, 2013


I've been falling asleep for a couple of nights to their album streaming on NPR; it's really great for that. (Though for some reason I cannot express I think "Seasons of Your Day" is a really bad album title.)
posted by threeants at 9:11 PM on September 22, 2013


This was a good post above the fold, and then I opened it, and now ... boy, I'll have to get to this in the morning.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:18 PM on September 22, 2013


(Though for some reason I cannot express I think "Seasons of Your Day" is a really bad album title.)

No, it totally is. As titles go, it's not as terrible as Among My Swan, though. I mean, come on.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:37 PM on September 22, 2013


Oh wow. Thanks, FLT.

Hope Sandoval would have been too young to participate in the Paisley Underground, I think. (I recall seeing her duo perform at Al's Bar in LA, and she was young, then, and that was a couple years after the bustup of The Rain Parade, and a couple before Mazzy Star formed, iirc. It's all hazy.) So that may explain why she wasn't interviewed in the Grauniad. Weird that Roback wasn't involved, though.

Your post also reminded me that I need to rescue some old Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate, Opal, et alia vinyl from that damp basement.
posted by notyou at 9:48 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somehow I still haven't listened to this yet, so it'll be my nighttime listening. But I do admit to hoping her solo-project band The Warm Inventions isn't finished yet, as I've grown to like both their albums as much as, if not more than, any Mazzy Star material.
posted by chrominance at 10:07 PM on September 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well this is great news.
posted by Catchfire at 10:13 PM on September 22, 2013


I've been wondering about this album and now I know more than I could have imagined. Thanks for posting.
posted by immlass at 10:37 PM on September 22, 2013


Thanks, great post. I love Mazzy Star's first three albums, although Among my Swan is by far my favourite. I know it doesn't have the popularity of either of the other two but I really can't work out why not. Songs such as Still Cold and Look on Down From the Bridge are just amazing.
posted by deadwax at 10:58 PM on September 22, 2013


flt, you are a scholarly gentleman of sound and I thank you sir.
posted by peacay at 11:06 PM on September 22, 2013


Man, what is it with this amazing year? We get the first My Bloody Valentine album in what, two decades? A new Dismemberment Plan album after 13 years. Same with Deltron Zero. Boards of Canada. First Bowie album in a decade. A new Pixies EP (though it's apparently not great). Now this. And I'm sure I'm missing some. Is this as unprecedented as it seems to me or am I just paying closer attention than I have before?
posted by valrus at 11:16 PM on September 22, 2013


I was just thinking about Opal the other day, so I'm glad they got their props here.

Whatever happened to Kendra Smith anyway?
posted by ardgedee at 3:36 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasted puts up the hairs on the back of my neck every. single. time.

Thanks, flt.
posted by flabdablet at 4:04 AM on September 23, 2013


* YOUR ASTERISK DOES NOT HAVE A FOOTNOTE AND IT'S DRIVING ME CRAZY

(This has been your OCD PSA of the day.)
posted by archagon at 4:20 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know if it was a counterpoint so much as a counterpart. Grunge bashed down a lot of barriers, and let bands like this flourish in an incredibly healthy musical ecosystem. The radio stations that would play "Fade Into You" had no problem programming it back to back with "Jeremy" - similarly, Tori Amos and the Cranberries co-existed on the same playlist as Primus and NIN.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:52 AM on September 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


i agree with counterpart instead of counterpoint - hearing human behavior by bjork while waiting at the grocery store deli counter the other day really hit home how strange that whole era of music was - and how it's weird to hear some of it in such a sterile place.
posted by nadawi at 5:30 AM on September 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I only like Fade Into You and that song she did with Jesus & Mary Chain, but this is good news anyway. Hope's voice is amazingly good to almost 4AD levels.

Amazing post.
posted by Mezentian at 5:31 AM on September 23, 2013


Whatever happened to Kendra Smith anyway?

Kendra Smith recorded one album and one EP. Then supposedly disappeared to live in the desert in solitude. Damon Krokowski reported he bumped into her in a store or some place in a city a couple years ago on his blog.

Opal's early recordings are decades out of print but there are links to download them here.
posted by K.P. at 5:33 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


archagon: * YOUR ASTERISK DOES NOT HAVE A FOOTNOTE AND IT'S DRIVING ME CRAZY

YOUR ASTERISK DOES NOT PROVIDE A SUITABLE FOOTNOTE ;)

Sorry, it was late, and I wanted to complete my post before I went to bed, or the gremlins of sleep would rob me of my train of thought. Clearly, they were able to nab some of my ideas, as I did indeed leave that asterisk without a proper footnote.

My footnote should have been part of the 3rd paragraph, which states that Sandoval and Roback never stopped making music together.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:15 AM on September 23, 2013


Slap*Happy: I don't know if it was a counterpoint so much as a counterpart.

Good point.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:16 AM on September 23, 2013


Opal was nigh-perfect trip music (personally, I'd say around hour 5 or after; if you find yourself thinking that maybe the Luna cover of "Indian Summer" would be nice then Opal will also work), and She Hangs Brightly should have been more well known.

...and listening to any of them these days makes me sad. Because of Reasons.
posted by aramaic at 7:21 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mazzy Star were also referenced in Clean. Roback wrote the songs that Maggie Cheung's character, Emily, sings. He also appears in the film (as does Tricky).

She Can't Tell You
Down in the Light
Wait for Me
posted by juiceCake at 7:38 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Kendra Smith recorded one album and one EP. Then supposedly disappeared to live in the desert in solitude.

Yup. I have her work with Opal already, not to mention her solo album The Art of Disappearing. The latter is a brilliant, albeit extremely understated, piece of work. And the title was either prescient or a clear signal of her intentions.

Anyway, that only brings us up to 20 years ago, and in the time since a lot of things might've happened. Or not happened. Either way, when a talented artist makes a sudden departure, "where are they now?" is bound to be asked in the years following.
posted by ardgedee at 9:32 AM on September 23, 2013


Great thread, great new music. One of the few old people comebacks that I care about and enjoy, partially because the music these folks made was never young.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:03 AM on September 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nice post. Thanks, filthy light thief.
posted by homunculus at 10:40 AM on September 23, 2013


For anyone who missed this the other idea I have to recommend this FPP on bluedawn, a Korean group very much in this same vein.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:09 AM on September 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I only like Fade Into You and that song she did with Jesus & Mary Chain

Sometimes Always.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2013


Great band. Pity that Hope Sandoval is such a miserable live performer.
posted by jedro at 3:34 PM on September 23, 2013


as i much as i once loved Mazzy Star it's really still all about Opal for me.
listening to the Guardian stream, Hope Sandoval sounds more and more like Iris Dement; and i just realized that it's Dave Roback's guitar phrasing that i've loved these 30 years.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 6:50 PM on September 23, 2013


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