Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
by Aldin Vaziri, Photography by Koyoko Hamada
When Hope Sandoval and Colm O'Ciosoig, her musical partner in the Warm Inventions, were working on their debut album, Bavarian Fruit Bread, they spent a lot of time sleeping. It's not so much that the music on the record, all whisper-sung vocals and deliberately-plucked acoustic guitars, lulled them into an irrevocable slumber. It's just that the duo, wayward members of languorous independent rock icons Mazzy Star and My Blood Valentine, respectively, found most of their inspiration in that hazy place between the real world and slumberland. "I dream a lot about singing well," Sandoval says. O'Ciosoig, meanwhile, claims that sometimes songs came to him fully-formed while he was dead to the world. "It's happened a couple times," he sniffs. "I dream the most amazing stuff."
Despite the seemingly tossed-off title, Bavarian Fruit Bread is a gorgeous record, a low-key collection of back-porch ballads arranged with the sort of shadowy ambiance listeners have come to expect from its two primary players. "It's a clear day out," Sandoval sings over and over on "Clear Day," but her weary, distant voice gives no indication that she is interested in experiencing it herself. Later, on the harmonica and pedal-steel adorned "On The Low," her vague, bluesy drawl deflates with the resignation of lost love. "All this time I always held the light on for you/But I know I'm a fool." Let's be blunt. This is the kind of howling detachment and anxiety that you can only deal with when you're half-asleep.
Sitting at the farthest corner table of a small San Francisco coffee shop, comfortably out of reach from the late-summer sunshine, Sandoval and O'Ciosoig, much like the record they have created, are a quiet, angular, yet overwhelmingly genial pair. The blaring '80s music from above -- Missing Persons' "Words", The English Beat's "Tears of a Clown," and so on -- isn't helping O'Ciosoig's hangover. Nor is it conducive to picking up Sandoval's barely audible words. But they are trying their best. The duo just returned from Norway, where they finished mastering the last few songs on Bavarian Fruit Bread. Later today, they will go over to their friend's house to oversee the final details of the album artwork. They say they never really intended to record together, and actually knew each other a full year before even contemplating a collaboration. "We mostly just hung out and went to pubs and listened to records," Sandoval says. "I don't even really remember the first time we played together. All I remember is that it just seemed right and I felt comfortable enough to open up."
Recorded around the world whenever they felt inclined to enter the studio, culled from a jumble of tapes they had simply acquired, and completed entirely without label involvement (they signed to Rough Trade after finishing the album), the process of putting Bavarian Fruit Bread together marks a distinct change of pace for both Sandoval and O'Ciosoig. "It's been nice," she says. "These are little songs that don't have to be layered -- I love Mazzy Star's music, but it's nice to do something more subtle and understated." O'Ciosoig -- veteran of My Bloody Valentine's stop-start, white-noise symphonies and insanely extravagant production sessions -- tentatively nods in agreement. "Sometimes it's little bit hard for me to slow down," he says.
The coffee house stereo has mercilessly moved on to a room-clearing B-52's track. And just when it's time to move on, Sandoval and O'Ciosoig open up more than you would ever expect. "Hope's great," he says, head slouching forward. "Colm's great," she says. And it's not so much the words as the flash in their eyes that makes the heart sink for one breathless moment. "We're totally inspired by each other," O'Ciosoig says. "That's the key to the record."
Nobody would doubt them.