Ty Segall is an artist that has hit the pavement running. Since parting from his high school band Epsilons (throw in his Traditional Fools and Party Fowl projects, as well), the now solo 23-year-old has drenched up enough Cali-sun-soaked garage rock to melt your record players. This year alone yields three record releases, including this summer's Goodbye Bread with new label Drag City Records.
With the label debut, the singer/songwriter chills out with some slower-strummed numbers and belts out the head-banging ditties that have become a Segall signature. While the heart grew fonder of prior material, such as "Standing at the Station" from 2009's Lemons and last year's "Girlfriend" off of Melted, Segall crafted his most balanced solo effort, with less crazy distortion and more crafted lyrics. He's shaved away the jaw bone bristle and kept the shaggy hair, so to speak.
Out on tour to promote Goodbye Bread, Segall makes his way to the Slowdown, Wednesday, Oct. 5. I caught up with him to talk shop on collabs, like the surf-wacky 10-minute B-side with tourmate Mikal Cronin on Reverse Shark Attack, andold Goner Records labelmates, Omaha's Box Elders. Oh, and lest I forget to mention, the Ty-Segall-and-friends take on an MTV reality show that barged in on his latter years of high school. (Ehem, Laguna Beach).
Hear Nebraska: Since going solo, you've been putting out releases at a pretty steady rate. What motivated you to step away from your previous band projects and move to something entirely your own?
Ty Segall: I had the opportunity to put out a tape, and I had all these songs that didn’t really fit anywhere else, so I just put it out on tape. From there I got asked to play a show, so I played a show. And then from there I got asked to put out a 7-inch — it just kind of snowballed. It wasn’t really like an intentional “I’m gonna go solo, man.” These opportunities presented themselves, and I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to make a single.” Like, holy shit. I’d love to go on tour, like that kind of a thing. It just kind of turned into what it is now.
HN: Your releases encompass not just a couple labels, but, like, a list of labels. Is this, or was this intentional?
TS: Yeah, definitely. Cause for me, it’s like, there’s too many great labels out there to only work with one. And I still want to work with a million different labels out there. I think it’s really cool because there’s certain styles of a record or certain vibes for a specific project you can do with a label that fits better with them than it would with someone else. So I’m really into changing aesthetically and stylistically, depending on what label I want to do something with. So you can get really creative and weird, and do a lot of different stuff. I love doing like ... putting out a really fucked up, weird record. Like we’re going to do a record with In The Red, like an eight-song record that’s just supposed to sound like what we sound like live, which is so loud, fucked up and noisy. But then I’m still doing the next record on Drag City, which is going to be a totally different sounding record. It’s awesome to have the opportunity to do so many things with different people.
HN: It just so happens that you released Lemons on Goner Records the same year the Omaha band Box Elders released Alice and Friends on Goner. Did you ever get into their music at all?
TS: Oh yeah, man, I know the Box Elders. For sure. They’re great guys. And I love that record. That record rules.
HN: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of people here that are ... sad, I guess you could say, that they’re not playing anymore. But, what can you do?
TS: Yeah bands, you know, break up. It happens. They were such a good live band. Ah, that drummer. He was really good.
HN: Was there anything certain you were trying to evoke or channel with Goodbye Bread?
TS: I just wanted to do something a little different from the other records. The other ones are more aggressive, just louder and in your face, kind of, in certain ways. I wanted Goodbye Bread to be a bit more dynamic and to have a lot more mellow stuff on it. It has like, still loud and crazy things on it. But also, I wanted to focus on the vocals and the lyrics more. I wanted to make it more of a song-to-song record, instead of like, a bash to the head. I wanted to make it more of a full record record.
HN: The kind of impression I get from the lyrics is that you’ve fully arrived to your present-day career as a full-time musician, and it almost kind of seems like you can justly reflect on a “normal person’s” living compared to yours as a musician.
TS: Yeah, I mean the song “Goodbye Bread” is loosely about that stuff. It’s more open-ended and left for someone to interpret. I mean, that song’s more about life and growing up, and stuff like that. For me, I write a lot about my brain — sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy. So I tend to write about that. And that definitely has to do with my lifestyle and being on the road all the time and touring a lot. I really like have a stable living situation and stuff like that, so there’s a lot of that on Goodbye Bread for sure.
HN: You graduated from the University of San Francisco where you studied media studies. Do you find yourself applying your degree to what you're doing now as a musician, like maybe with your presence on the internet?
TS: Yes and no. The main thing I learned about media studies is how much I hate the media. Like news, and social media and the internet, and all these things. We really focused on how negative all that stuff can get. I wrote my thesis on cyber-bullying — not my thesis, just like, my main thoughts for a giant essay-paper, like 30-page-long thing. I guess you could call it a thesis, I don’t know. But the main thing for me is that I’m aware of the internet and how modern times work and stuff. But for me, college was always just like — the experience is what I took, mainly. Like actually growing up, and while there, being forced into situations you weren’t usually forced into, and forced to think differently than you would have if you didn’t go to college. And living in dorms with a bunch of people that are dealing with that all the time. Actual, like present, social interactions that you’re forced into that if you didn’t go to college, you would just not have those. I think that in that sense, that’s what effected me the most. And, you know, it’s way easier to deal with things when you get forced into situations that you’ve never been putting yourself in. Like, I would never want to live in a fucking dorm. But I had to. So, I think I’m way better for it now, because I was forced into that.
HN: Along with your somewhat intense discography, you've managed to release quite a few collaborations on splits and whatnot. Who have you most enjoyed releasing a split with?
TS: Mikal Cronin. That Reverse Shark Attack record is my favorite collaboration, because it’s so different and weird. And it was so fun to do, because it was a big challenge — we set off to do a concept. Yeah, I think it worked out the best.
HN: Any upcoming collaborations or releases in the works? I guess you mentioned that you’re already planning on your next album.
TS: Yeah, we’re doing a collaboration with White Fence, this guy named Tim Presley. I’m doing a whole record with him. And I’m really excited about that. He’s amazing. He writes amazing songs. He’s an insane guitar player. We’re like halfway done with it, and that’s going to be out on Drag City, probably, in February or March. That’s gonna rule. And it also doesn’t sound like anything that I’ve done, or that he’s done. So it’s cool. That’s the most fun about collaborating, is hopefully it’ll turn out to be something that sounds completely different than what you’re used to doing.
HN: As someone who's released a noticeable amount of vinyl, and even cassettes, are you yourself a vinyl fiend?
TS: Oh yeah, totally. That’s all I buy, it’s all I listen to, really.
HN: Are there any records in particular that you enjoy exclusively on vinyl?
TS: All of them. It just sounds better. There’s something about pressing something on vinyl, there’s just something to the music that sounds so good.
HN: Do you remember the last vinyl you bought?
TS: The last record I bought ... Ah man, I haven’t bought any records on tour. I’ve been trying to save money — trying to become a real adult. The last record I bought was Michael Yonkers’ Microminiature Love. Sup Pop reissued that. I don’t know if you’ve heard Michael Yonkers, he’s fucking awesome.
HN: In your opinion, is the cassette alive and well in today's new-music-releasing world?
TS: I think it is. I don’t think it’s a massively huge thing, like you’re not going to sell thousands and thousands of cassette tapes. But it’s a real thing, like the demo tape. I buy the shit out of tapes because I love listening to tapes in my car, or making mix tapes and stuff. I still have a lot of cassette tapes, [listening to tapes] is one of my favorite things to do. And it’s great for everybody because it’s so cheap. It sounds really good. And you can fit a lot of music on it. I think it’s definitely alive and well.
HN: And I saved the worst for last, I guess you could almost say. I uncovered an Epsilons Laguna Beach parody video that was posted on YouTube in 2007. Any comments on that?
TS: We were all just really pissed off at MTV. You know, they came in and my town was a pretty cool place. The beaches are amazing, and there’s still some cool people there. My family still lives there. But when I was a junior in high school MTV came — it was right during the big O.C. show, and they’re like, “We gotta find the real Orange County and do a reality show.” So they picked Laguna Beach for some reason. And it’s all scripted and fake and bullshit. So we actually went to school with those kids when they were filming it, for like my last two years of high school. So that was just our reaction of saying “fuck you” to that. When I went to college, it was weird because people distinctly treat you differently because you’re from a place. Like, “Ah man, fucking MTV. Jesus.” But that show’s long gone and dead, so it’s all good now.
HN: When you were making that video, did you ever think of having a cameo by one of the cast members?
TS: Well, we were not friends with any of those people, because they turned into assholes. [Laughs] I wish, but what are you going to do?
Jordan Minnick is a staff writer for Hear Nebraska. If there's one thing that's "holy crap" worthy, she thinks it's this year's massive and extensive Lincoln Calling lineup. Check out the roster and venue laundry list at their Facebook event page. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.