Mary Therese Hansen was born on 11 January 1966 in Maryborough, 255 kilometres (158 mi) north of the state capital, Brisbane. Her father, Brendan Percival Hansen, OAM (21 August 1922 – 19 December 1999), was a unionist and Australian Labor Party parliamentarian – both federal (member for Wide Bay from 1961 to 1974) and state (member for Maryborough from 1977 to 1983); and her mother Moira Ann Hansen (née O'Sullivan), was a light opera singer and is contributor to the Maryborough arts community. Her parents are both descend from Irish families, Brendan's parents were Percy Hansen and Mary Ann (née Rowley). On 11 June 1960 Brendan and Moira married at St Mary's Catholic Church, Maryborough. Mary Hansen was one of eight children, with her three brothers John, Tim and Jerry and her four sisters Jenny, Maureen, Susie and Kate. Hansen was trained by Moira and entered eisteddfodau, she left secondary school at age of 17 and worked in a bank.
By 1988 Hansen had moved to London and soon became a backing singer with the Essex-based indie band, The Wolfhounds. She met Tim Gane, a guitarist, when The Wolfhounds played alongside his indie pop band, McCarthy. Gane formed an alternative music group, Stereolab, in 1990 with Lætitia Sadier (ex-McCarthy). Hansen joined Stereolab as second vocalist and guitarist in 1992, she also contributed percussion and keyboards, and occasional lead vocals. As a member of that band Hansen recorded six studio albums from Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements (August 1993) to Sound-Dust (August 2001).
Outside of her work with Stereolab, Hansen sang on records by Brokeback, The High Llamas, Moonshake and Mouse on Mars. She was a record producer for the London group Chicano. In late 1999 Hansen combined with Seattle-formed space rock group, Hovercraft to formSchema. They performed both vocal and instrumental tracks, with Hansen also adding some synthesiser. An eponymous maxi-EP/mini-album was released on 19 September 2000 on avant-garde Kill Rock Stars imprint, 5 Rue Christine. Allmusic's François Couture described their style as "space rock, psychedelic rock, ambient pop, and artsy avant-rock" with the feature track being "Echolalia... Curvilinear" with its "ethereal female vocals, lots of guitar noise, and a driving rhythm section".
On 9 December 2002 Hansen was hit by a truck and killed while riding her bicycle in London. She was 36 years old. She had remained a member of Stereolab until her death. The band's subsequent release, Margerine Eclipse (2004) is part homage and part eulogy for Hansen. In particular, the lyrics of the track "Feel and Triple" begin with, "Goodbye Mary, goodbye Mary" and end "You will sing forever like an angel who flew away". It was written by her band mates, Gane and Sadier.
In 2004, Hybird, an EP of some of Hansen's music, was released posthumously. It also featured her artwork, contained three tracks which had been released in limited editions before her death, and a final track which was finished by Stereolab's Andy Ramsay.
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