Formed in: 1989, Los Angeles, California
Key Albums: She Hangs Brightly (1990), So Tonight That I Might See (1993), Among My Swan (1996)
Mazzy Star are a duo from Los Angeles renowned for their slow, psychedelic, narcotic music. They're best known for their breakout single, "Fade into You," which became an unlikely crossover hit in1994. Spurred by the interest in "Fade into You," their second album, 1993's So Tonight That I Might See eventually chalked up platinum status in the USA; unheard of territory for a melancholy, shadowy act notorious for shunning interviews and publicity. "If it were up to us," Roback told Alternative Press in 1996, "we'd do maybe one interview per album."
David Roback had a long history in the Los Angeles music scene before Mazzy Star. From 1981-84, he played alongside his brother Steven in Rain Parade, one of the defining acts of the Paisley Underground scene. Roback left Rain Parade following their first LP, 1983's Emergency Third Rail Power Trip, after he felt it "became a drag."
Roback immediately formed a band with his then-girlfriend, Kendra Smith of the Dream Syndicate. First called Clay Allison, they settled on Opal, although Opiate might have been more appropriate. The band played doped-out, psychedelic songs at a funereal crawl, heavily influenced by the solo records of Velvet Underground ingenue Nico.
Mexican-American teenager Hope Sandoval had been a devoted follower of Rain Parade around LA, and, in 1983, she recruited Roback to produce an album by her folk duo, Going Home. Though never released, it lead Roback and Sandoval to becoming friends, sowing the seeds that would become Mazzy Star.
When Opal were touring with the Jesus And Mary Chain in 1987, Smith stormed off stage in the middle of a show in Hammersmith, England, and completely disappeared (she'd later end up living in a remote Northern Californian cabin without electricity). Roback roped in Sandoval to replace Smith, and the duo continued as Opal for two more years.
Roback and Sandoval also become lovers; the former seeing them as kindred spirits. "We were both sort of alienated, that's what we had in common," he told Rolling Stone. "All through the '80s, there was, like, this big party going on. Hope and I were never invited to this party," he'd later recount to Musician.
Though Sandoval joined Opal, and the pair continued playing under that name, Roback insisted there was "no past, no other band, no progression; it was just [their] own thing." When working together on an Opal LP to be titled Ghost Highway, they decided to re-christen the band Mazzy Star, and for it to become its own entity. "When I started working with Hope, it was very exciting because she wrote a lot and was really into what we were doing," Roback told Raygun.
Mazzy Star's debut album, 1990's She Hangs Brightly, introduced Sandoval's glorious, drawling voice to the world. More acoustic and melodic than Opal, the album showed a rooting in blues, with Roback playing slide guitar. Released on Rough Trade in the UK, the record drew the attention of Capitol Records in the US, who signed Mazzy Star when Rough Trade went bankrupt.
With the release of So Tonight That I Might See in 1993, Mazzy Star released their first-ever commercial single, "Fade Into You." The song slowly grew into a genuine hit, reaching the Top 50 in the US and Europe. Capitol then issued a single of "Halah," from She Hangs Brightly, and interest in the two singles slowly pushed Mazzy Star into huge sales territories: their first album going Gold, their second Platinum.
"It's not like The Beverly Hillbillies or anything," Roback joked, to Alternative Press, of that astonishing success. "It's very abstract... not really real. We just make music. We would do it at home if nobody cared."
"Fame," Roback said, "can screw up people's heads." It seemed to Mazzy Star's. With crowds flocking to see them, Mazzy Star shows found the shy, reserved band standing on a darkened stage, rarely talking to the audience. Sandoval, in particularly, dealt with crippling anxieties. "It's not so easy to get up in front of people and perform music that's so personal," she told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I just feel uncomfortable. I wish I could feel more relaxed."
By the time the band released Among My Swan in 1996, the few interviews they granted often found them lamenting the "negativity" that came from critics, both in regards to their painful interviews and unfriendly live-shows.
Coupled with the burden of following up a huge hit, and the record-label pressures that came with, Mazzy Star slipped out of sight in 1997. "It seemed record companies wanted bands to be creative because they didn't know how to manufacture underground music," Sandoval would later recount. "We could do our own thing and go at our own pace. But that changed when major labels started wanting bands that would sell 7 million records. They had a formula. And suddenly all these people wanted to come to the studio to keep track of what we were doing and make sure we were following that formula. So we got out."
Hiatus and Return
After going off the grid in 1997, Mazzy Star were entirely dormant for well over a decade. Sandoval released two solo albums as Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions: 2001's Bavarian Fruit Bread and 2009's Through the Devil Softly. Made in collaboration with her boyfriend, Colm Ó Cíosóig of My Bloody Valentine, the albums are sparse, melancholy acoustic sets.
In interviews for both records, Sandoval maintained Mazzy Star still exist. "We've always had big gaps between records," Sandoval told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2001, "generally we just play music when we feel like it."
“I don't really notice the time; we don't keep track of the days and months. And the years," Sandoval said, to Rolling Stone, in 2009. Of Mazzy Star, she offered: "it's true, we still exist."
The band proved their existence in 2011, returning with the single "Common Burn" b/w "Lay Myself Down," the first taste of new music in 15 years. After spending 2012 playing big summer festivals like Primavera and Coachella, in 2013 they finally announced the release of Mazzy Star's fourth album, the much-anticipated set Seasons of Your Day.
Seasons of Your Day had the feeling of picking up where the band left off, 17 years before; staying so true to the classic Mazzy Star sound that it felt like a timeless return.