HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS: THEN YOU WAKE UP
illustration by bijou karman
Until the Hunter is Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ second album; the first was released back in 2009, which, in this age of relentless demand for content, seems like a lifetime ago. But this is typical for Hope (of Mazzy Star, of course) and Colm (O’Ciosoig, of My Bloody Valentine, of course) who do things when they want, how they want and the way they want. The result, naturally, is music that sounds like it comes from a better and even truer place, where the artificial pressures of the outside world dissolve into the mist and all that’s left is a long sweet dream. Colm and Hope joined us by phone—she in California, he in Ireland—to talk cats, castles and the karate lessons that helped change the course of modern music. Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions’ new Son Of A Lady EP is out now and they perform on Sat., Oct. 14, at the Fonda and Sun., Oct. 15, at the Desert Daze festival. This interview by Kristina Benson.
Hope, do you have any hobbies besides making music? Do you collect anything? Records? Instruments?
Hope Sandoval: Well, obviously I buy instruments—but no. I wish I could have a cat collection. That’s my fantasy. I’d be the crazy lady on the block with all the cats. I only allow myself one cat but I fantasize about having loads.
It’s really disciplined to only have one cat.
Hope Sandoval: I know! And I can barely handle the one cat. I didn’t tell you, Colm, but he didn’t come home until three in the morning. I couldn’t sleep all night and finally I heard his little door and I went to open the little door and he walks in and he’s limping. He is OK. He’s sleeping now and I’m just debating whether I should take him to the vet. He’s one of those cats who is just a fighter. He thinks he’s in charge of the whole neighborhood so he’s constantly getting into fights and this will be, like, the fifth time I’ve taken him to the vet and at this point they’ll probably call child services on me. It’s just strange. He’s a fighter.
If you did have a collection, you would be at the vet nearly every other day.
Hope Sandoval: Can you imagine the expense of having ten cats?
You guys recorded in a place called the Martello Towers. I looked that up on a map and it looks like there are three of them. What are they and why did you record there?
Colm O’Ciosoig: Well, there’s lots of them. There are more than three. There are about 23 in existence that are still there and are actually habitable. They’re not called ‘The’ Martello Towers. There is a type of tower that is called a Martello tower. They were built by the English in, like, 1803 to defend against Napoleon invading Ireland, which never happened. Actually they were originally designed by the French. We have a little portable recording set-up and we always try to find somewhere different to record in. You know—we’ve recorded in cabins and stuff in California. So we were in Ireland and we were trying to find somewhere we could record and play music. If you want to play music you want to be able to have some kind of soundproofing and not be bugging your neighbors, so we found these towers—we found one and stumbled across a second one later that were available to the public as a holiday rental. It was perfect because they’re isolated, they have eight-foot-thick walls and they have a really nice stone chamber on the inside. The acoustics were great. Really good for live tracking and for the kind of music that we do ourselves. You play into the room. If you were a really loud, noisy band, it might not work as well. It works to a certain volume. When you play into the room, it reacts nicely.
Did it remind you more of a crypt, a church or a museum?
Hope Sandoval: Neither. It was what it was. A tower over the ocean.
Colm O’Ciosoig: There were no religious connotations attached to it. It didn’t seem like there were any real ghosts there.
Hope Sandoval: I spent the night in a couple of them alone and I wouldn’t recommend it. You know—it’s a tower. It’s got eight-foot-thick walls. Nobody’s going to hear you if something happens. But they are beautiful. They’re really inspiring. I just wouldn’t recommend staying alone. Colm has stayed, I guess, many times alone.
Colm O’Ciosoig: Yeah, I quite enjoyed it.
Recently when you played LA, you played Hollywood Forever. Were there any graves that you visited when you went to play?
Colm O’Ciosoig: Douglas Fairbanks. It just seemed like a big kind of gothic tomb. Johnny Ramone, as well. The statue. That was kind of wild.
Hope, they tore down the 6th St. bridge, which I’m sure you know, because it was apparently unsafe. Is there something from your childhood that’s gone now that you wish was still here?
Hope Sandoval: No, not really. I had a horrible childhood in L.A., so take it all. Just remove it all. I’ve spent most of my time in East L.A. and still when I go to L.A. that’s where I go—so East L.A., even though I know a lot of people are moving out and a lot of other people are moving in—basically it stays the same.
What about you, Colm? Do you still live in Ireland? Do you divide your time between there and California?
Colm O’Ciosoig: I move back and forth. I was living in Berkeley for seventeen years and I recently kind of moved back here for awhile. I don’t see myself moving back to Dublin permanently. I have a cabin north of San Francisco and I definitely want to go back there.
You have Kurt Vile on this album and you had Bert Jansch on another. It seems like you’re really attracted to these very distinctive guitar players so … what are the chances of putting Billy Childish on a song? Could he be a Warm Invention?
Hope Sandoval: I don’t know who that is. Who is it?
Colm O’Ciosoig: Do you know Thee Milkshakes? It was a garage band way back in the ‘80s. I did a drunken interview with him. My band was leaving Ireland to go to Europe and we had no press so we decided to invent our own press and we invented a fanzine so we could have an interview in it but you have to make a fanzine seem valid. Thee Milkshakes were playing so I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll interview Billy Childish and then we’ll have a valid interview in there and it will make the fanzine seem like a valid fanzine.’ I didn’t have a tape recorder and I got a little drunk and I was there having this drunken conversation with him afterwards and scribbling down stuff. When I read it the next day I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I’d scribbled.
Did you have to make it all up?
Colm O’Ciosoig: No, we gave up the whole idea. We just thought well, ‘OK, we won’t have any press.’
It sounds like you put a lot of effort into faking it so that’s good.
Colm O’Ciosoig: Yeah, we tried. And failed.
What song on this record was the most satisfying to finish?
Colm O’Ciosoig: That’s an interesting question. That’s giving our secrets away. Mostly it’s been pretty easy but there was one that we did a couple takes on and eventually got it right. I can say that we worked a bit more on ‘Let Me Get There’ than most of the others. One of the songs was actually written and recorded in one take. Only one version exists.
Hope Sandoval: It was actually two.
Colm O’Ciosoig: Yeah, those two songs. They’re the only recordings of those songs. Well … actually there are a lot of them where there is only one recording, if you think about it. Most of the record is the only takes that exist.
Hope Sandoval: Oh, so it went from ‘one’ to now most of the record?
Colm O’Ciosoig: Thinking about it, yeah. We don’t have multiple takes of all the other songs.
Hope Sandoval: We don’t like to do that because we do that in our other bands and after awhile you have to go through all those takes. ‘Let Me Get There,’ we did do a few times. We rehearsed it and then another day we actually did the final recording.
So the way you do things is … you do what you want, when you want and how you want. That goes against everything the internet stands for—do you have to actively resist that pressure to constantly churn out music? Stand against the idea you’re supposed to be producing content all the time?
Colm O’Ciosoig: I think people leave us alone. We’ll go for awhile and then it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re back again.’ That’s why we decided to put our own label together. So no one could pressure us besides ourselves. We like to impose some sort of deadline so things don’t fall through the cracks—it’s good to get the whole machinery up and running and get things happening. But yeah—it gets stressful when you put deadlines in place and you have to approve the artwork and the test pressings and that kind of stuff. If there’s a problem then suddenly things get pushed back and you lose your release date. The extra pressure of having your own label means you have to deal with questions you’ve never had to deal with before.
Hope, you were on Capitol and Colm, you were on Creation. Who helped you the most when you were on those labels?
Colm O’Ciosoig: There were no personal relationships as such, you know? We were so busy recording and doing music that we didn’t really develop personal relationships with the labels. Well, I didn’t anyway.
Capitol called Mazzy Star the ‘quintessential artist development band.’ They said that Mazzy Star were real artists who should be supported and allowed to evolve, which nowadays is kind of rare.
Hope Sandoval: I can’t really remember anybody at Capitol, it’s sad to say. We didn’t really get to know anybody there. I think in general even now we’re pretty isolated. We just basically keep to ourselves and play our music. When we were on Capitol, we focused on our music and had that kind of arrangement with them. They knew that they weren’t really allowed into our world—that business side of things. I can’t really think of anybody although I have to say that when we would play shows and some of them would come out, they were all really nice people.
Who do you wish had made one more album and why?
Colm O’Ciosoig: Possibly Karen Dalton. That would have been good to have some more material.
Martha Stewart included Mazzy Star on a list of albums she’d like to play at a dinner party. Are there any world famous criminals besides Martha Stewart who you know have enjoyed your music?
Colm O’Ciosoig: There’s got to be but they haven’t told us.
What if you had your own dinner party?
Colm O’Ciosoig: We love Bert Jansch. He was a friend of ours as well and he’s got loads of music that’s really great. John Fahey.
John Fahey wrote a song for Hope. Would either of you ever write a song specifically for someone?
Colm O’Ciosoig: I think Hope writes songs for people. She doesn’t really make it obvious but you’ve written a lot of songs for people.
Hope Sandoval: They’re definitely all inspired by someone.
How much music do you actually listen to in your daily lives? I know an artist who doesn’t listen to any music at all while she’s recording because she doesn’t want to be influenced by it but I know other artists who listen all the time so they can get new ideas.
Colm O’Ciosoig: We don’t listen to artists for new ideas. We casually listen to stuff every now and again, to our favorites on and off. We don’t bombard ourselves with music all the time but we don’t ignore it either. We get into our own music when we’re recording. We drive around and listen to recordings of what we’ve been doing. We won’t be comparing it to other things. We’ll just be in our world of our music.
Hope Sandoval: We listen to Erykah Badu maybe … but we know we’re never going to sound like that even though that would be amazing.
Irmin Schmidt from Can said that TV programs are obsessed with the political opinions of pop stars, but he said they didn’t like doing interviews because anything they thought was important was in the music already. Do you feel that that’s true for you?
Colm O’Ciosoig: I think so. That’s a very good way of describing what music is. We are kind of inspired by Can as well. It seems weird to have to explain your music. It seems contradictory to what the music is itself. It’s like if you see a painting and somebody has to explain what the painting is … It’s better to experience it. We don’t like to dissemble the music too much in words.
What were the first shows that you ever saw where you knew that you were seeing something different and special?
Colm O’Ciosoig: For me as a 13 year old punk rocker in Dublin, I was going to punk rock shows. All-ages shows I used to go to and you had to pay 50p to get in.
Hope Sandoval: I’ve been to a lot of really good shows but the music that I was into in the 80s were bands like the Rain Parade and the Salvation Army and X, people like that. It’s still old fashioned rock ’n’ roll. We went to see Connan Mockasin recently and that was pretty out there and inspiring. Yeah, it was amazing—really, really good. Colm hung out with him after the show. I don’t know where I ended up but it was a really good show. I don’t really go out that often.
Colm O’Ciosoig: I go out sometimes but not loads. Things appear and you go, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ We’re not really chasing scenes down.
Hope Sandoval: We also saw Kurt.
Colm O’Ciosoig: Yeah, we have to cherry pick our shows.
What do you miss most about the past? What do you love most about the future?
Colm O’Ciosoig: Well, the past … the innocence and the energy that you have for looking at everything.
Well, that’s grim.
Colm O’Ciosoig: And the future? What do I look forward to? Making really good music. I feel like we’ve only just started making music and I think there’s some better stuff that’s going to come out at some point. There’s more inspiration and I feel like the journey’s just started.
Hope Sandoval: I don’t really miss the past. The future? Yeah, I mean—what’s next? Who will I work with next? I’m so lucky to work with all these amazing musicians and what’s next?
What do you think about lucid dreaming? Can you control your dreams?
Colm O’Ciosoig: I’ve never experienced lucid dreaming before. I tend just to sleep.
Hope Sandoval: I definitely think people can control their dreams.
Hope Sandoval: To a certain extent. And then you start controlling it and then you wake up.
What is the best bar you ever spent an evening in?
Hope Sandoval: Which one have we not spent an evening in? All the bars are fabulous as long as they’re serving drinks and playing good music. We used to hang out a lot at this place called the Owl Tree in San Francisco. It’s still there but it’s not the same.
Colm O’Ciosoig: It used to be really cool. They had loads of taxidermied owls in it and it was really dark.
Hope Sandoval: And it had velvet wall paper in the hall upstairs on your way to the bathroom. It was a really cool bar. We used to hang out there a lot in the ‘90s.
Colm O’Ciosoig: There was a speakeasy we went to in San Francisco that was really cool. The bar was in an elevator. It went up and down.
The bar was IN the elevator?
Hope Sandoval: Yeah!
Colm O’Ciosoig: It was a warehouse space but the bar was in the service elevator and it would come up and then it would disappear.
So Colm—did you really do karate as a kid? Or did you and Kevin Shields make that up as an origin story?
Colm O’Ciosoig: Yeah, I did. Kevin was doing karate and I got into doing karate after I met him. I met Kevin through a kid who was doing karate with Kevin and I was in an art class with him. He’s the guy who brought us together and we all ended up doing karate together.
Do you still do karate?
Colm O’Ciosoig: No, I don’t. Kevin still does but I don’t.
Karate is one of those things that I already wish I knew how to do. The thought of learning it now isn’t that appealing. I feel like I’d be in a class with a bunch of five-year-olds.
Colm O’Ciosoig: Yeah—a creaky old person trying to do some moves.
HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS WITH PEAKING LIGHTS ON SAT., OCT. 14, AT THE FONDA THEATRE, 6126 HOLLYWOOD BLVD., HOLLYWOOD. 9 PM / $33 / ALL AGES. GET TICKETS HERE! AND WITH SPIRITUALIZED, UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA, THE ALLAH-LAHS AND MANY MORE ON SUN., OCT. 15, AT DESERT DAZE AT THE INSTITUTE OF MENTAL PHYSICS, 59700 TWENTY NINE PALMS HWY., JOSHUA TREE. 7:45 PM / $99-$3499 / ALL AGES. GET TICKETS HERE! HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS’ SON OF A LADY EP IS OUT NOW ON TENDRIL TALES. VISIT HOPE SANDOVAL AND THE WARM INVENTIONS AT HOPESANDOVAL.COM.