Since World War II, the West Coast has been fertile ground for an exceedingly diverse array of music: surf rock, psychedelic rock, hardcore punk and grunge are just a few of the scenes that have flourished along the stretch between San Diego and Seattle. Ty Segall, a Bay Area native by way of Orange County, has quickly become a sought-after performer and collaborator, expertly balancing these colors and many more on his palette. Segall has released multiple records every year since 2008 and mounted international tours, all while working outside the confines of a traditional label deal. Instead, he serves his different projects by inking smaller agreements with multiple likeminded indies.
Segall had a very busy 2012: The first of three albums bearing his name was Hair, a collaboration with Tim Presley (aka White Fence) that came out on Drag City in April, followed by Slaughterhouse, written and recorded with his touring band and released by In the Red in June. The Ty Segall Band consists of longtime friends Charles Mootheart, leader of semi-eponymous garage outfit Moonhearts, on second guitar; Mikal Cronin, a gifted singer, songwriter and performer in his own right and recent Merge Records signee, on bass; and frequent collaborator Emily Rose Epstein on drums. Between tours, Segall stopped in at his adopted home base, recording studio Bauer Mansion in San Francisco, and finished a third album, on which he wrote and played almost all of the parts himself; Twins was released by Drag City in October.
Each of these records has its own distinctive character. Hair deals in electrified psych folk, Presley and Segall finding a home somewhere between T. Rex and The Lemon Pipers. Slaughterhouse is nearly the opposite, born from Segall's desire to explore the "evil space rock" of Black Sabbath, Hawkwind and other proto-metal heavy-blues groups who maintain a pop undertone, as Segall told Sound Opinions hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis in July. Twins strikes a middle ground between the two, taking Hair's gentle psych out to the garage, sharpening all of its edges, and bolting in a hot-rod punk motor under the hood. Despite their differences, each LP benefits from Segall's skilled blending of chaos and order, blasts of alien-death-moan feedback with melodies that would make Lennon and McCartney smile.
As showcased during their blowout set at the third anniversary celebration for local blog-slash-record label Nashville's Dead in September, The Ty Segall Band has become a brawny powerhouse, seamlessly integrating material spanning their frontman's prolific solo catalog. Starting around 1:30 a.m., they topped off a six-band bill, including a swath of local talent and fellow Frisco psych rockers Thee Oh Sees. Segall surfed the crowd several times, at least once while performing a guitar solo, another time taking the ultimate leap of faith from a speaker stack, several feet above the heads of the young punks whose outstretched arms broke his fall.
At press time, Segall was unavailable for comment, possibly due to preparations for tour, or maybe something to do with Segall and Mootheart's new duo, Fuzz, which just sold out the first 500-copy run of their debut single, "This Time I Got a Reason." However, Segall has strong ties to Nashville's rock scene, and to learn more about the extraordinary rocker's methods, the Scene reached out to local artists who have worked with him in the past year.
Among them was Tiffany Minton, former director of Southern Girls' Rock 'n' Roll Camp and drummer for local punk outfit Heavy Cream, who opened for Segall in fall 2011. Segall expressed interest in helping the band with their next album, and took on producing Super Treatment, recorded during a five-day stay at Bauer Mansion. The record hits the mark neatly: Its furious garage-punk blast is by no means overburdened with production, but neither does it feel like an afterthought.
"We had a few collective ideas and individual ones that we brought to the sessions, but most songs were written before we got there, and all production was done in the studio during those five days," says Minton. "I suppose there was an implicit agreement that we all shared the same direction. We didn't really do much to the songs, actually. ... We wanted it to sound like it was made in that studio, so we just went with what was there."
Minton describes Segall as a direct communicator, who relies more on his experience and intuition than technical details. He also relies on his extensive network: Segall is equally proficient with guitars and drums, but when an X-Ray Spex-style sax solo was needed, he reached out to sideman Cronin, who Minton says "nailed it in one take. That's when I knew 'The Jam' was going to my favorite song on the record."
That aforementioned dive from the speakers symbolizes the Segall ethos: He always looks before he leaps, but if he ever agonizes over a decision, it doesn't show in his work. When Sound Opinions' Kot asked him if there was a trick to making the predominantly one-man effort Twins sound like a full band playing together, Segall sounded surprised as he thanked Kot for the compliment, a smile in his voice as he replied, "I don't know if there's a trick. You just do it."