Remembering David Roback
The leader of Rain Parade, Opal and especially Mazzy Star died at the age of 61.
A reclusive but cult figure has just died at the age of 61, on February 25, 2020. He was an icon of style whose name is, above all, associated with that of his most popular band, Mazzy Star. Although the chloroformed elfish voice of the band's singer Hope Sandoval is cult in itself, it's impossible to ignore the sound created by David Roback for the band's four albums, She Hangs Brightly (1990), So Tonight That I Might See (1993), Among My Swan (1996) and Seasons of Your Day (2013). Their universe of sound has been imitated countless times but has not often been matched. A weightlessly dreamy sound, which floats delicately above guitars full of reverb and tremolo, without which the shoegaze scene might never have seen the light of day. Beautiful, intangible, enchanting...
Having grown up in Brentwood, east Los Angeles, David Roback still had a life before Mazzy Star. At the dawn of the eighties, his band Rain Parade, formed with his brother Steven, was one of the pillars of the Paisley Underground scene, the Californian group of bands that were obsessed with the 60s, psychedelia and garage rock. But while most of them had a punk background, Roback seemed to only be interested in the 60s, notably The Doors, The Velvet Underground (from their eponymous third album), Love, The Beatles (post-Revolver) and also The Byrds (Eight Miles High!) whose sweet and hypnotic melodies he employed on the album Emergency Third Rail Power Trip (1983).
Then followed the Clay Allison interlude, a psych-folk combo that he launched with his colleague at the time, Kendra Smith, a bassist from The Dream Syndicate, another flagship band of the Paisley Underground. After only one single, and Clay Allison changed its name to Opal (inspired by the title of a Syd Barrett song, Barrett being another of Roback's idols) and released Happy Nightmare Baby (1987), their only album. Kendra Smith jumped ship once the record was released and the tour was completed with a new singer, Hope Sandoval. Mazzy Star was thus on the launch pad and would go on to be active between 1988 and 1997.
Sandoval would go on to intermittently lend her voice to The Chemical Brothers, Jesus & Mary Chain and Massive Attack before going solo under the name Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions. In June 2009, in an interview with Rolling Stone, she confessed to working with Roback again on a potential fourth Mazzy Star album. Two years later, a single (Common Burn/Lay Myself Down) was finally released and the duo toured Europe and America again. Their fans would have to wait another two years before that fourth opus finally did arrive...
Little is known about about what happened next, other than that the secretive and reclusive David Roback settled for many years in Norway. In 2004, he added a couple of things to his CV: some songs for the soundtrack to Clean, the Olivier Assays film in which he also appeared. In May 2017, Mazzy Star lost Keith Mitchell, guitarist on four of their albums... Fans are now mourning the loss of the iconic band's leader.