One of San Francisco's finest purveyors of deliciously fuzzed out, psychedelic garage rock, Ty Segall, is coming to Australia for the first time. Taking a break from his usual freakish prolificness, Segall has recently knuckled down and spent a lot of time penning the pensive Goodbye Bread (out locally through Popfrenzy); the follow-up to last year's epic garage extravaganza Melted (Goner Records).
Segall speaks down a crackly phone line from his parents' house in Laguna Beach, California (Orange County), where Segall grew up and started the punk rock band Epsilons. "Yeah, we were all friends that went to high school here. It's a surfer town, and people just surf. We were the music heads." Segall says their musical education came about when they started making the trip north to downtown LA to see bands at DIY all-ages venue The Smell. "That really pushed us, and made us think 'we really need to start a band and start playing.'"
Epsilons lasted about two and a half years, with Segall relocating to San Francisco some seven years ago. After an initial solo cassette release, Segall released his debut self-titled record on John Dwyer from Thee Oh Sees' label Castle Face Records. Segall met Dwyer in the basement of a record store, as the latter introduced himself after seeing Segall perform. The two became great friends, and have regularly collaborated and inspired each other musically since.
His next two releases, Lemons (2009) and Melted (2010) followed in quick succession, but Segall wanted to slow down and consciously make an effort to take his time with new record Goodbye Bread. Segall spent six months refining the sound in the studio with his band. "We were experimenting with a lot of different types of recording and how to put the songs together - I was writing a lot of the songs while we were recording them. There were a lot of styles going on, and it took me a while to hone-in to exactly what I wanted to do with the record."
Initially Goodbye Bread was intended to be a concept record. "That fell apart because I thought that was going to be cheesy," laughs Segall. His intention was to draw attention to the lyrics on the album, and make people focus on what he was saying for the first time. "I really wanted to tell a couple of stories and give a couple of anecdotes, and do that kind of thing," he explains. "I haven't really been able to do that before - I've never really focused on that much before.
"With this album I really wanted the lyrics to stand out the most; at least equal to the music. In the past, the music has been stronger than the lyrics. I mean I've definitely said some stuff before!" he qualifies. "I just wanted it to be stronger."
Segall's need to reflect could be seen as a natural process of maturation, or just simply a bi-product of growing older. "When you get older you reflect more: on what you want to say and what you want to do with your life. That's what this record is about. It's funny because it kind of turns into this commentary on the Californian 'numbness' - a numb existence of just haphazardly just wading through life: doing your job, coming home, going to sleep, doing your job, eating food… that kind of thing.
"I guess as a young person I'm a bit more idealistic than others, but I truly think you can say 'fuck that' and do what you want to do with your life."
While it could be argued that Segall is making a cynical statement against consumer culture he argues the message of the record is definitely positive too. "It's definitely cynical at times, but it's definitely positive too. It's a little more melancholy and dark, but there's a definite twist of humour too, because the sadness in life is a fucking joke too - that's how you deal with it, you laugh about it. It's definitely not a bummer record though."
Segall made a concerted effort to move away from his garage roots with Goodbye Bread, opting for a more-mellow, introspective approach. "You don't want to be tied-down by one sound. I was a bit sick of that garage-punk aesthetic, and a little sick of the aggressiveness. I wanted to do a non-aggressive record. That doesn't mean I'm not going to not get really aggressive on the next record, it's just nice to balance it out and do something different."
Segall is tight-lipped on his plans for the next record however. "I have some ideas, but I'm not sure. I definitely don't want to make the same thing twice. That's a constant thing I'm trying to think about. I definitely want it to be different."
Fans of Segall's earlier material will be pleased to know that while he is focusing predominately on the newer material for his shows in the States, Segall is planning a "mix of everything" for the Australian shows. "The US tour will be different, because we've done like ten US tours." Segall will be bringing his full four-piece band along for the tour too. "Oh yeah, it's going to be heavy," he boasts.
TY SEGALL plays The Tote with support from Super Wild Horses and Chook Race this Saturday July 9. Goodbye Bread is out now through Drag City / Popfrenzy.