Hope Sandoval has a reputation. The Los Angeles–based singer and songwriter is known for being a touch on the quiet side. Whatever impulse she has to express herself through music doesn't always translate to other areas, such as giving interviews. True to form, when the Georgia Straight reaches Sandoval at home in California, it makes for an awkward conversation. The artist doesn't come across as unfriendly, though—just reticent to talk about herself.
Which makes perfect sense when you consider the restrained nature of her music. Her most recent album, Through the Devil Softly, credited to Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, is at first blush an unassuming record, a resolutely laid-back wash of bluesy slide guitar and whisper-soft singing immersed in a warm bath of reverb, not far removed from Sandoval's celebrated work in Mazzy Star. But the beauty is in the details, like the delay-treated bass glissando that opens “For the Rest of Your Life” or the banjo and wood-block percussion that give “Fall Aside” its psychedelic-folk momentum.
Members of the Dublin band Dirt Blue Gene played on Through the Devil Softly and will also back Sandoval on tour. Her main partner in the Warm Inventions, however, is drummer Colm í“ Cíosí“ig, whose light touch here is seemingly at odds with his eardrum-punishing work in the infamously loud My Bloody Valentine.
“We met about 12 years ago in London and we knew each other's music, but we had never met,” says the invariably matter-of-fact Sandoval. “I wanted to work with him, and that's what happened. He moved out to California and we just started to hang out and play music together.”
In the Warm Inventions í“ Cíosí“ig doesn't confine himself to the drum stool. “He takes on whatever role he feels like taking on,” Sandoval says. “He started to play guitar in the past few years, and on the new record he plays a lot more guitar. He's the type of musician, he'll just pick up an instrument and he'll learn it in a few weeks, and in a few months he'll know it really well. 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.”
That's an important consideration for the singer, who has never been one to rush things. The new Warm Inventions album comes a full eight years after the first one, Bavarian Fruit Breadi>. That seems like a long time until you consider that Mazzy Star, Sandoval's partnership with guitarist David Roback, hasn't put an album out since 1996. Sandoval promises that will change; she and Roback have their very own Chinese Democracy in the works, but it won't see the light of day until the Warm Inventions have wrapped up their tour.
On that subject, the notoriously shy singer would like to clear up the general misperception that she hates setting foot on-stage. “It's not so much that I don't enjoy playing live—that's one of the best parts of playing music—it's that it's nerve-racking with 300, 500 people watching,” Sandoval says. “That's a normal reaction. I would imagine anybody would feel that way.”
Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions play the Red Room on Tuesday (September 22).