David Roback, known to many as the co-founder of neo-psychedelia bands Mazzy Star (formerly Opal) and The Rain Parade, has passed away at the age of 61. A representative for the band has yet to share the cause of death.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Roback formed a band called the Unconscious, which included his brother, Stephen, and member Susanna Hoffs, later the lead singer and guitarist for the 80’s pop band The Bangles. He then formed psychedelic group The Rain Parade in 1981 with college roommate Matt Piucci and his brother Stephen while in Minnesota. The group and Roback himself, were considered active members of L.A.’s Paisley Underground scene, although, at the time, the term for the movement wasn’t well-liked by the bands being described. Rain Parade released their debut album’Emergency Third Rail Power Trip‘ in 1983 via the Enigma Records/Zippo Records (UK), with mixed critical reviews at the time which would later turn outstanding; critic Jim DeRogatis stated the LP “is not only the best album from any of the Paisley Underground bands, it ranks with the best psychedelic rock efforts from any era.”
Roback departed the introspective band after the first release, sensing limitations artistically, and spent a period of time in both Berkley and New York prior to founding Clay Allison with The Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith and drummer Keith Mitchell. After one 7”, they renamed themselves Opal and released ‘Fell From The Sun‘ and ‘Northern Line‘ EPs, which were later compiled as ‘Early Recordings‘. ‘Happy Nightmare Baby‘ was the first and only full-length album released by Opal in 1987, described as “at once drowsy, psychedelic, entrancing, and possessed of a sinuous spark” by reviewer Ned Raggett. Upon singer & bassist Smith’s departure of the group during the middle of a tour supporting fuzz-alt rockers The Jesus & Mary Chain, Roback enlisted Hope Sandoval as successor and Opal evolved into dreamy cult classics Mazzy Star in 1989. Roback was the composer of most of the band’s material, and frequently the producer, throughout their 29 year/four album/two EP history. Their first three LP’s, especially 1993’s ‘So Tonight That I Might See‘ featuring iconic track ‘Fade Into You‘, are extremely influential and critically lauded. ‘Fade Into You‘ reached number three on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks and peaked at number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1994. The single along with tracks such as ‘Into Dust‘ and ‘Flowers In December‘ have been featured in an endless number of films and television shows over the past twenty-something years. After a 17 year hiatus, Sandoval and Roback reunited with the release of ‘Seasons of Your Day‘, which had been on-and-off written over the course of the past decade. The band’s most recent release in 2018, EP ‘Still‘ was mainly favorably critiqued.
Outside of Rain Parade and Mazzy Star, Robuck wrote and produced the songs featured in Olivier Assayas’ 2004 film, “Clean” starring Maggie Cheung, and played the role of himself. Fellow artists have already started an outpouring of tributes on social media, here are just a few: Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles wrote, “Peace and love David Roback… my first musical partner and my very dear friend. You will be eternally missed.”
Noise rockers Sleigh Bells posted, “I love a lot of Mazzy Star songs but I don’t know what I would do without ‘Fade Into You’. RIP David Roback. Thank you for the music.”
Guitarist and vocalist of the Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn, stated, “It’s weird. I never knew David Roback that well. But I loved his songs and guitar playing and of course his band and mine shared a special time together. Matt Piucci of Rain Parade wrote this heartbreaking song when David left the band to form Opal with my friend and bandmate Kendra Smith. It hit me hard then and it still does today. And it’s strange and somehow sweet that I got to sing it only one week ago with Matt and David’s brother Steven in Oakland. RIP David Roback. We didn’t hang much but you were my friend.” The song posted? ‘You Are My Friend‘, which you can find down below as tribute along with Opal’s ‘Supernova‘, Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You‘ , and Rain Parade’s ‘This Can’t Be Today‘.