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Artist Deep-Dive: Making Mazzy a Star

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Mazzy Star is famously known for their euphoric and ethereal mood music, bound to make any teenager in the 1990s swoon. With their calm way and lyrics of love, Mazzy Star has impacted the masses to this day. Creating songs like "Fade Into You," "Halah," and "Blue Light" the group has managed to reach viral status on TikTok this millenium, helping the earlier Generation X divulge in what they brought to the table back in the 90s. The question remains: How did Mazzy Star rise to fame?


Photo courtesy of Saman Awan

Mazzy Star started as a duo founded in 1989 in Santa Monica, California. The friendship of vocally gifted lyricist Hope Sandoval and guitarist David Roback, who composed for the group, quickly took a musical turn. Mazzy Star emerged when bassist Kendra Smith left Opal, one of Roback's other bands. At that moment, the start of something revolutionary began; Mazzy Star was born.

Mazzy Star began their journey when signing with Record Trade, where they produced their debut record, She Hangs Brightly, in 1990. They shifted gears when signing with Capitol. Sandoval later admitted in an LA Times interview, "I had to beg to get out of my contract with Capitol. They wanted me to work with big producers. I wanted to produce my music, and they weren't having that. I'm sure they were happy to let me go". She Hangs Brightly was re-released on November 4, 1991, and audiences were introduced to"Halah" and "Be my Angel".

Sandoval and Roback prided themselves on being low-profile and introverted. They made music out of pure joy and love for their craft, rather than for the purpose of gaining popularity or fame. Things came to a head when platinum hit "Fade Into You" grew to an audience favorite, remaining the band's top track even 30 years later. The band's mystery made them all the more attractive to these newer audiences. On their 1993 album So Tonight That I Might See, "Fade Into You" became the group's most mainstream content. The tune is still so popular that Hollywood continues to push it in shows and movies. "Fade Into You" has appeared in Gilmore Girls, Burlesque, Roswell, American Horror Story, Riverdale, Dopesick, and many more productions.

The familiar first notes on the acoustic and slide guitar, the purple hue of the album cover, and the first angelic lyrics of the song, "I want to hold the hand inside you," is the distinctive sound fans have come to know and love.

"I want to hold the hand inside you."

Early followers wanted new music and Mazzy Star obliged. In 1996 they dropped Among my Swan before taking a long hiatus until 2013. Among My Swan was not as well received as So Tonight That I Might See, and members of the group eventually went on to explore other opportunities that came their way.

They each had other independent projects that they maintained while also remaining loyal to Mazzy Star. Hope Sandoval had a solo career performing with Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, while David Roback and William Cooper Glen had continued making music with Rain Parade and Rainy Day. Nonetheless, the original band never fail to devote their respect to Mazzy Star, and have not officially split up to this day.

While Sandoval and Roback were the faces and originators of Mazzy Star, other members of the group filtered in and out over the years. Suki Ewers was a formar Opal member who came to Mazzy Star to play keyboards, rhythm guitar, and bass, and she left in 1993. Jill Emery was the group's bassist from 1993 to 1996. Keith Mitchell remained Mazzy Star's longtime drummer before passing away in 2017. William Cooper Glenn, who originally started out in Opal and dabbled with Rain Parade and Rainy Day, but whom consistently performed with Mazzy Star played strings, bass, guitar, and keyboards before passing in 2001.

After their almost two decade long hiatus, Mazzy Star released their 2013 LP, Seasons of Your Day. The group recognized that people had not stopped listening to them and decided to create the album for their proud, loyal devotees. With the same recipe as their previous three albums, Seasons of Your Day is filled with the dreamlike, gentle, neo-psychedelic effects to which shoegazer buffs have grown accustomed.

Mazzy Star wrote pieces for every kid who burnt a CD in hopes that the subliminal messaging in the lyrics of "Fade Into You" would provoke their crush into action. The enticing concept and romantic feel of Mazzy Star's music act as a reminder of the past and current loves that listeners consumed wholeheartedly. Mazzy Star's cultural impacts have stood the test of time, feeling just as relevant now as they did in the 1990s.

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