Ty Segall: Demo. Trash. Repeat Until Perfect.

by | Nov 2, 2012 | Interviews and Features


Ty Segall is a Gemini.

The symbol for his zodiac sign – a twin – is meant to represent the Gemini’s dual nature: complexity and inconsistency.

Even on the surface, Segall seems to embrace his astrological characteristics. A laidback, slow-talking California native, Segall doubles as a hard-working, neo-psyche garage rocker who tours constantly, and has released five studio albums in a four-year career.

With his latest release, out now on Drag City Records, Segall wanted to leave behind the more stripped-down, sentimental nature of his acclaimed Goodbye Bread. Consistent with a Gemini’s inconsistency, he aimed to shake things up, show progression and keep people guessing. 

Of course, the new record is titled Twins.

“After I was finishing it, I realized that’s what the theme was…It’s kind of about split personality disorder in a way,” Segall says in our phone interview, just one day after the Twins track listing is released. “Twins, the good and the bad, that’s what it’s referring to. A lot of my music is kind of internal, just problems I have with myself and stuff. So I think [the theme] is mostly about me, but it’s definitely about everyone and dual personalities. I think everyone has both sides to them that come out in different ways.”

This thematic complexity is the growth from the songwriter who brought us the short, surf-tinged rock n’ roll spurts of Melted in 2010. But musically, Twins was also spawned from a simple goal.

“I just wanted to make a fuuuzzy pop record,” Segal says. “I have this fuzz pedal called an [Ultra Lord] and it’s like my favorite pedal I have. I just wanted to put that pedal on every song.”

The fuzzed-out tracks on Twins emit their own tinges of both good and evil. The bright, shiny openers “Thank God For Sinners” and “You’re The Doctor” are balanced with the dark metal moments from middle tracks like “They Told Me Too” and the breakdown of “Handglams.”

“I wanted to write songs that we could play live really well and have it be more of just a 1,2,3 punch, where each song is kind of more immediate and more how we sound live,” Segall says.“[They’re] punchy; less concept and less mellow, definitely.”

Though Segall wanted to stick to the fuzz, one acoustic track, “Gold On The Shore,” did make it on the end of the record at the behest of Drag City – an ode to the softer side he showed with the Goodbye Bread title track. But Segall wanted to release “The Hill” as the first single, which features guest vocals from Brigid Dawson of fellow hardworking rockers and tour mates, Thee Oh Sees.

“That song is pretty different,” he says. “We’ve never had a song with female vocals on it. That’s definitely the reason I wanted to [release] that song, and maybe throw people off a little bit.”

Segall himself has come into his vocal abilities since Melted, which he believes to have developed simply through experience and gained confidence. Working with San Francisco-based producer and friend Eric Bauer over the years has helped him to see the benefits of cleaning up his vocals, Segall adds.

“He was always like, ‘Try this, try a little of this, try it a little cleaner, try this mic,’” Segall says. “So over time we kind of cleaned it up. I don’t know, I think it’s just circumstantial that I got a little bit more confidence because of how much we play. But I still definitely don’t think I’m the best singer in the world.”

As a multi-instrumentalist still credited as a member of multiple bands – The Traditional Fools, Epsilons, Party Fowl, Sic Alps, The Perverts, and his own Ty Segall Band – Segall says he doesn’t think any musician ever really reaches their maximum potential. But when it comes to recording, Segall is a perfectionist.

“I do a lot of demos and multiple versions of songs before I lay them down,” he says. “Even in the studio while recording, I’ll always do a version, trash it and do it again.”

It’s a wonder Segall could bring us Twins, the third release he’s worked on this year, which also includes the Ty Segall Band debut Slaughterhouse and Hair, a collaboration with White Fence. Segall says recording is probably his favorite thing about his career.

“It’s cool because now it’s my full-time job, so I kind of get to treat it like a job,” he says. “I’ll record during the day or work on songs during the day while everyone else is at work.”

After touring to support Twins, Segall says he will be taking some time off. What that stuff is, Segall hasn’t really figured out yet.

“You know, I haven’t even had time to think about it,” he says. “I just want to do normal stuff like, I don’t know, maybe surf more, visit my family for a few weeks and hang out with my sister – stuff like that. I’ve been touring too much. I need to fill out the other side of it, balance out. That’s my goal.”


photos by Denee Petracek