Here's Hoping

Fri, Oct 23, 2009, 01:00

She finds live performing strange, dislikes interviews like this one, and rarely hangs out with other musicians. Luckily, Hope Sandoval makes gorgeous music, writes TONY CLAYTON-LEA

HOPE SANDOVAL is on her way to Denver, and there are things on her mind. First, there's a new side project album ( Through the Devil Softly); second, there's the on-going job of an album for her band Mazzy Star album (out next year), and then there's her apparent liking for Irish musicians.

Currently working under the band name of the Warm Inventions, 43-year-old Sandoval is touring the US and Europe with a band consisting of blokes from Tallaght. Although known for this tour as The Warm Inventions, the lads (Al Browne, Charles Cullen, Dave Brennan, Mick Whelan, Paul Brennan) normally go by the name of Dirt Blue Gene. Factor in, also, that Sandoval has collaborated on a regular basis with My Bloody Valentine's drummer, Colm Ó Cíosóig, and Atlanta-based (yet Drogheda-raised) guitarist Paul McQuillan, and it's a reasonable assumption, surely, to note that Sandoval is partial to a bit of green-hued company.

Not that she will give anything away on this subject; indeed, Sandoval will give very little away on any subject, for she is a most reticent interviewee. Like another notorious Ticketinterviewee, Ray LaMontagne, Sandoval's casual impulse to express herself through music doesn't always translate to the demands of promotional duties. But it's a long way to Denver and we've got loads of time, so as the minutes pass, we ease into something that approximates a conversation.

A new album, for instance, is always something that even the most button-lipped musician will talk about, and so it proves, although whether she's prodded by a sense of guilt or commerce it's difficult to tell.

Through the Devil Softly, admits Sandoval matter-of-factly, is slightly different from her previous work by virtue of the presence of Dirt Blue Gene and Ó Cíosóig. The former, she says, were introduced to her by a mutual friend; she and the band clicked and began to co-write. She met the My Bloody Valentine drummer about 12 years ago in London, stating that she had always admired his band but wanted to work with him specifically. When the drummer moved out to California, he and Sandoval started to hang out together and play music. She is fulsome (or as fulsome as she can muster) in her praise for Ó Cíosóig.

"He takes on whatever role he feels like taking on. He plays bass, he plays keyboards, he plays guitar, he sings. He's always been creative, and he's always played music, but I think now it's a little more organic."

Organic is an apt description of Sandoval's work ethic. She seems to work only with people she feels empathy or sensibility with, and she freely admits that she doesn't actually know very many musicians. Sandoval, then, takes her time with things. For example, the new album is the follow-up to 2001's debut Warm Inventions album, Bavarian Fruit Bread. Eight years seems a long time until you realise that the forthcoming Mazzy Star record (which she is making in partnership with her long-time cohort David Roback) is the follow-up to 1996's Among My Swan.

Ask her why projects she commits to take so long, and she'll think about the question for some seconds, play for time, and gradually reply with something as (frankly) insultingly vague as, "I don't really know, we don't really keep track of time."

Despite her lack of enthusiasm to talk, there is something fascinating and gorgeous about her music; Sandoval's whisper-singing glides along streams of bluesy slide guitar and soft reverb - it is mellow in the extreme. It's very Mazzy Star, inevitably, but there are enough imposing, impressive psychedelic folk moments on the new record to compensate for her slo-mo answers and the boho abstractedness.

Of course, such an approach works subtle wonders on stage. Her live shows are a display of utter fandom as well as an acknowledgement of the artist's right to remain silent between songs. In short, Sandoval doesn't seem comfortable with performing live. (Indeed, two weeks ago, at New York's Bowery Ballroom, she stormed off stage, visibly upset at what appeared to be a continuing sound problem.) What is it about live gigs that doesn't suit you?

"It's difficult for me, awkward, as it would be for a lot of people," she says. "When you get up on stage and are in front of 300 to 500 people, and they're just watching you for an hour, it's a strange thing to be doing. I'm not a born entertainer, and I don't have a huge ego, so I'm not sure where that leaves me."

And with that, it's back to driving towards Denver, looking forward to the next gig, and dreading the next phone call.


Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions play Galway's Róisín Dubh on October 29th, and Dublin's Vicar Street on October 31st. Through the Devil Softlyis on Nettwerk Records.