Mary Hansen loved touring in America—which is to say she loved American thrift stores, vintage shops, antique shops and used record stores; loved riding her bike around (and getting lost in) strange towns; loved the lanky indie boys swooning at her feet when she sang. Mary played guitar and was one of two fine female singers in the U.K. band Stereolab.
Mary Hansen played in a super-hip pop band adored by people all over the world, and she had a voice like an angel. More than that, she was my dear friend.
I think this may be the saddest thing I have ever had to write, but on Dec. 9 in London, Mary Hansen was struck down and killed while riding her bicycle. She loved to ride her bike.
When I got the phone call, our mutual friend and band manager Martin Pike said, "I have some horrible news." I was thinking that perhaps the group had broken up, that someone quit. And then he told me.
I didn't want to believe it. I don't want to believe it now. She was taken too early in life, while enjoying something she loved.
A few weeks ago, I was moving into storage her "U.S. bicycle," the bike she rides during tours here. I was contemplating buying some new tires and getting it tuned up for her, even though it would be nine months before I would see her again. I was editing show recordings and listening to her sing at one of the hundreds of shows I saw her perform in.
I met Mary Hansen when I was hired as Stereolab's merchandise person in late 1999. Moving up to tour manager (promoted by the great Jackie Farry, their TM for many years) gave me the chance to become friends with everyone in the group. But Mary was more than a friend. Most people know her for her beautiful voice, witty stage banter and the years of great music she made with Stereolab. But she had a great soul. I found myself drawn to Mary by the simple fact that she was a great listener, a smart girl who always had the insight that might make your life simpler and happier.
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Whether it was rolling Rizlas with Mary (with tobacco, of course), mixing Kettle One Vodka with Ben & Jerry's ice cream shakes after a show, record shopping or just figuring out how we could ship a '60s-era thrift-store chair, an antique lamp or an entire vintage bedroom set from the middle of Montana to King's Cross in London, I loved every minute of it.
She'll be remembered by her amazing friends, band mates, musical collaborators and colleagues from the likes of Sonic Youth, Tortoise, Sea and Cake (shit! the entire music community of the city of Chicago), Jim O'Rourke, Papa M, Sleater Kinney, Broadcast, Elliot Smith, Ui, Dymaxion and the Blues Explosion, to name just a few. All the bands that got the chance to tour with Stereolab and anyone who had the pleasure of her acquaintance quickly knew she was the sweetest of the sweet, the kindest of the kind.
She will be sadly missed by all who knew her, perhaps especially by me . . .
Stereolab's U.S. Tour Manager