Ty Segall may seem like an anomaly to the 21st century zeitgeist, but he is actually more an output of its stratosphere. A musician first, he has other pastimes and jobs; he’ll take grunge over glamour, and bears no sense of entitlement; and his music, while novel, borrows from past and present keynotes. He is a grab bag with no predilection for the future other than he knows he will be ordering a draft of Pabst Blue Ribbon when he hits the bar.
“It depends on where I’m going though,” notes Segall. “Sometimes I’ll take a Long Island Ice Tea.”
From the looks of things, he’s going far. At 23, his musical work has already taken him across the U.S. and Canada, and this winter, he will showcase his distinctly indistinct music to crowds of all ages in Europe. He is kind of like Beck: consciously surprising fans, and perhaps even himself, with whatever hodgepodge of sound he creates in the studio, and letting that energy drive him to the next stop. His third album, Melted, was released on Goner Records last week, and succinctly leads the way through a freshly blazed trail in his subconscious.
“I would describe it almost like a photo,” he explains. “Picture Venice Beach with all those dewey, twisty, colored lollipops melting in the sun, covered in sand. Just warped, dirty, skuzzy… That’s what I’m trying to evoke through this music. It’s an older tape/vinyl sound melded with something new.”
Segall’s artistry is without a doubt unusual, described by him as “well thought out weird music.” There are tracks like “Girlfriend,” heavily synthesized and electric from start to finish, and others like “Lovely One,” with simpler guitar strumming and greater emphasis on vocals. He harvests his craft in San Francisco, a city still buzzing with relics of the ’60s psychedelic insurgency and flush of postmodern idealism, which heavily influence his work. He also dabbles into filth pop rhythms of the ’70s and ’80s, merging past musical merits with something more relevant to the times. His tools are basic—drums, bass, guitar, synth—yet his noise is abstract. Along with his band, a batch of indie alt-rockers of a similar mindset, he is like an artifact of the countercultural generation recycled in an era of uber technology. Imagine the Kinks in skinny jeans and hoodies, sipping Red Bulls with iPods connected to their ears.
“We create a pretty basic sound then fudge it with noise and special instruments,” he says. “It’s like little flourishes throughout each song.”
Goner signed Segall after he pitched himself in an email, and their relationship appears to be familial. He feels honored to be with a label that always tries their best to “do the right thing,” and has no lofty expectations of rising to musical stardom. In fact, he is relatively happy in his current position, which is a balance of work and music. He spends half his week in an office, and the other half in the studio or on the road.
“I’m lucky,” he notes. “I’m not banking off just living life as a musician, but I can travel for free which is something I never thought I’d be able to say. Right now, if I could go to Japan for two weeks, bring my girlfriend and my band, I’d totally be okay to stop.”
Though realistically, he would never put down his utensils; he is too great a junkie for such nonsense. His career goal is simply to keep having fun, try out new mechanisms, and continue putting out records. So far, such ambitions are within his scope. His work is satiable to fans across the gamut, from 15 years to 50 years old—an essential component to longevity in music. His personal taste is for music of his friends, other San Francisco bands like Thee Oh Sees, The Hospitals and the Sic Alps. They jam together, hang out, and likely put away endless coolers of PBR in some dirty garage along the winding hills of the city.
“My life is awesome,” he comments. “I just hope before I die I do something rewarding, like be a teacher. I’d like to die thinking I didn’t live a self-centered life, that I gave someone else something they can take with them.”
For those who sit around and write stream of conscious prose on their iPads, Segall has already granted them an inspirational offering. His talent is elevated by his generous spirit and sense of human decency, two rare qualities in the industry. Such beliefs, nonetheless, are likely attributable to his father.
“He told me it is better to be kind than to be right,” adds Segall. “And I live my life by those words.”
Upcoming Tour Dates
June 24 – Bar Pink Elephant – San Diego, CA
June 25 – Spaceland – Los Angeles, CA
June 26 – Howie & Sons – Visalia, CA
June 27 – Bottom Of The Hill – San Francisco, CA
June 28 – Comet Tavern – Seattle, WA
June 30 – Sled Island Festival – Calgary, Alberta, Canada
July 1 – Sled Island Festival – Calgary, Alberta, Canada
July 2 – Media Club – Vancouver, BC, Canada
July 3 – East End – Portland, OR
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– Courtney Garcia