Ty Segall has been in search of irony-free, utterly joyful rock'n'roll that rules in the purest sense. And with his latest album, the relentless true believer may have cracked the code.
The conversation stops as a guy on roller skates glides across this intersection in San Francisco’s Mission District, just beyond Ty Segall's dented SUV. He's in tight black shorts and a black Dixie Cup sailor hat, proudly displaying a message hand-painted across his sleeveless sweatshirt: "Mitt Romney Is A Douche." Segall and I repeat the phrase simultaneously inside the car, as the man vanishes into a corner store.
"That fuckin' rules," Segall says. "It's comforting to live in a place where you can do whatever the hell you want and no one gives a shit, where no one's judging." He's beaming now. "That dude makes me feel at home."
It's a crisp, unusually clear September afternoon and we've just finished stuffing Segall's grey Toyota Land Cruiser with as many amps, guitars, and boxes of vinyl as it can hold, three days ahead of a three-week, North American tour with fellow San Franciscan lo-fi love children Thee Oh Sees that starts in Las Vegas. Tomorrow morning, the cyclonic, stupendously prolific, 25-year-old garage-rock hellion plans to drive several hours south for a pre-tour visit with his family in Laguna Beach, California, a small coastal community in Orange County made famous by the MTV reality series that took its name. His bandmates — drummer Emily Rose Epstein, guitarist Charlie Moonheart, and bassist Mikal Cronin — and their van will meet him there with the rest of their gear.
According to Segall, the success of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County triggered an influx of new money and tourism that would strip the town of all that made it unique, including a wealth of local, free-thinking personalities not unlike the gentleman on skates. "It just used to be so open-minded," he says of his hometown. "I remember being a little kid and seeing artists and hippies and acid-heads and burners and freaks all around. But they can't afford to live there now. And you can't get any of that rad, grimy shit back. Because someone's scrubbed it away."
Before that, though, in the late '60s, there was the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, an organization (area police called them "The Hippie Mafia") determined to inspire revolution through psychedelics, which infamous psychologist-guru Timothy Leary distributed from an orange VW bus parked outside a Taco Bell. More recently, there was "The Greeter," a cheery, white-bearded local who spent his days welcoming every visitor — Segall included — to Laguna's Main Beach, introducing himself as "Number One," brother to "Number Two," his identical twin. None of that made it onto TV.
But this month marks the release of Twins, the third full-length release bearing Segall's name this year and a solo adventure (he plays every instrument himself) that further charts his own evolving identity. "It's about split personalities in everybody, in all places," he says. "In you, in me, in California." The album is also Segall's most pivotal work to date, an adamantine, aerodynamic slab of head-splitting primacy that finds a gifted young songwriter coming to terms with the direction and impact of his voice, with what it means to be loud or quiet, clean or dirty, sunny or stormy, a battering ram or a breeze. If there is one constant to his career arc, it's the way in which Segall's all-welcoming, rock'n'roll-shaped worldview has proven a naturally unifying force when the notion of togetherness seems all too alien.
"[Ty] was talking to me about Jimi Hendrix the other day," says Rian Murphy, head of staff at the Chicago-based Drag City label. "And he was saying that, for the longest time, you couldn't really claim that you liked Hendrix in a straight way, because it had become a joke somehow. But he's so glad now that people can because that's the way he's always felt about it. To me, Ty's music represents a new place that people are coming from, where a lot of the irony and a lot of the battles of the 1990s are no longer issues. He's beyond all of that. He's doing this out of pure joy. A lot of people play music like a job, but he plays because it's the best time that he knows. And when people go to see him, they experience that, too."
"He has this way of saying 'Merry Christmas,'" says Mike Donovan, co-founder of San Francisco experimental psych-rock institution Sic Alps, a band whose lineup briefly included Segall on guitar. "Like, 'It's all good and you're all welcome here and we're going to treat each other right.' It reminds me of this one quote about the Beatles: 'They represented optimism and hope and a sense of fair play.' That's Ty."
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE.