Dream pop, post-folk, neo-psychedelic, whatever category you label Mazzy Star with, it seems to fall short of describing their very unique and delicate sound. The core duo formed from the ashes of Santa Monica based band Opal in 1988. Opal had been a key figure of the so-called Paisley Underground movement — a genre of music that was ostensibly native to California during the 1980s and seemed to revive some of the psychedelia of the 1960s with a darker hippie hang-over feel to it by incorporating elements of punk rock.
Opal had been originally fronted by the singer Kendra Smith as the band set about creating a sound precursory to that heard on later material as Mazzy Star. The sound would be a slow droning fusion of acoustic folk, blues and psychedelic otherworldliness. During the mid-’80s, while Opal were touring, high-school youngster Hope Sandoval and her school friend Sylvia Gomez were embarking on their musical career with their project called Going Home. The duo showed promising talent and they secured gigs supporting the likes of Minutemen and Sonic Youth. Upon hearing Going Home, David Roback of Opal was very impressed and agreed to help them produce their debut album, which unfortunately remains unreleased to this day.
In the late 1980s, Sandoval was brought in as a member of Opal. Shortly after her arrival to the group, Smith exited the band under undisclosed circumstances in the middle of a tour supporting The Jesus and Mary Chain. It is assumed that Smith’s departure was related to creative and directional differences with the rest of the band. After Smith had left, Sandoval was brought front and centre as Opal’s replacement lead vocalist.
Under obligation with Rough Trade records to produce a follow up to Opal’s debut album, Sandoval and Roback persevered with Opal’s unfinished material to produce one final album as Opal before Sandoval expressed her dissatisfaction with the current direction and stated that she wanted to “start something completely new”. The pair subsequently detached themselves from their previous work renaming themselves Mazzy Star and would begin proceedings as a duo.
Quickly setting about recording new material, the duo released the debut album for Mazzy Star named She Hangs Brightly in 1990. While the album wasn’t a mainstream success, it has since been regarded as important in launching them into public consciousness with the lead single ‘Blue Flower’ receiving salubrious air time on the California radio waves. Three years would pass until they released their masterpiece So Tonight That I Might See in 1993 which was buoyed by its hit lead single ‘Fade Into You’ which saw the pair enjoy their first appearance on the Billboard Charts reaching number three on the Modern Rock Track’s Chart.
The song shows a band mastering their realm of music. The simple but effective folk-inspired rhythm underpinned with blues-style slide guitar solo sections seems to meet Sandoval’s demure and haunting vocals in an orgy of dream-pop bliss. The track is synonymous with the band as their biggest release of all time and poses testament to the creative powers of the late great Roback and the perfect idiosyncrasy of Sandoval’s voice.
Listen to ‘Fade Into You’ below as never before with Hope Sandoval’s beautiful isolated vocals.