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From a grimy Laguna Beach surfer kid to a San Francisco garage rock fixture, with five studio albums and a handful of side projects in between, Ty Segall has certainly helped define and revamp a genre. Grabbing the attention of Pitchfork, Spin, and Rolling Stone with his deluge of harsh, lo-fi records, the 25-year-old artist began his summer of 2011 with the release of the mellower and “more groove-based” Goodbye Bread (2011). After an insane year of touring including FYF, Outside Lands, and a period in Europe, I got to catch up with Segall in October on the day of his sold-out show at The Bowery Ballroom.

So you were on tour for pretty much the whole summer up until now, how’s it going?
It’s good. You know, we’ve been basically touring almost nonstop for a year and a half. We kind of all quit our jobs halfway through.
Oh, really? What did you do?
I made cabinets. Yeah, it was cool, but not as cool as going on tour. But yeah, it’s been really great, really tiring, and awesome. There’s that thing where you have to realize you need to take a break. Go home and buy some groceries, you know? So yeah, that’s where I’m headed. Need to buy some groceries, make salads and stuff.

With Goodbye Bread, it’s a lot different from your past albums—way more slowed down and relaxed. Why did you go in that direction, or what spurred that?

Well, I guess just you know, you got to mix it up every once in a while. I just didn’t want to make another really like aggressive or abrasive record. I just think I’ve made mostly those. I wanted to try my hand at focusing on the lyrics, maybe looking at it more seriously. So that’s what I was trying to do.
Is that why you spent a little more time working on it than you normally would?
Yeah, definitely.
What’s up with the dog on the cover of Goodbye Bread?
My ex-girlfriend found that picture in Denmark, and it was just one of those things where as soon as I saw it I was just like, ‘That’s a record cover.’ Because honestly it looks just like the record sounds to me.
Yeah, definitely the colors.
Yeah, this vibrant but kind of melancholy, almost sad dog. Like this lovable and awesome dog, but he’s kinda sad. I don’t know, it just fit.
What bands and musicians are you listening to a lot right now?

Sighs. Way too much stuff. Human Eye, Mikal Cronin. Pauses. I don’t man I’m all over the place, but I’ve been really listening to like all the old school stuff I used to listen to all the time. It’s kind of cycled back, like Black Sabbath and really heavy music like Pentagram. I’ll throw some black metal in there. I’m kind of not listening to very much garage rock at the moment; I’m kind of burnt out on that stuff. More like super tripped out psychedelic music, funk and soul and reggae, and whatever, punk, The Dead Boys.

What’s your favorite band from the 70s?
Dude, they’re all—so many good bands. I would probably say Black Sabbath, because they’re just like one of my favorite bands.

Photo /Jack Clarizo

What are your creative influences?
My friends. Watching my friends do awesome stuff. When you’re there watching someone, like I got to watch Thee Oh Sees go from a band where like 50 people were there at their shows, to then all of a sudden I’m at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with 800 people freaking out. Just that moment of like ‘Holy shit, that’s amazing.’ Like that’s the kind of thing where I’m like, ‘Fuck, I got to step my game up.’ Or like watching my buddy Mike Donovan from Sic Alps record a vocal track and then play it back and be like, ‘Wow, that’s fucking insane.’ You know, that kind of a thing. Plus like all the music I’ve ever listened to.  But, you know, your life and your friends. At least for me.
What did you listen to in high school?
In high school I was just really into like ’77 punk kind of stuff, and like early 80s hardcore. Also like surf music and rock ‘n’ roll, garage rock like The Sonics and The Troggs and The Kinks.  I was way into The Kinks; they’re still like one of my favorite bands. I don’t know, I was just a surfer skateboarder kid, so Black Flag and The Ramones, and stuff like that.
I know you graduated from USF with a degree in Media Studies, but did you ever see yourself becoming a full-time musician?
No, never. It was never like ‘Oh, I want to be a musician!’ It was like ‘Wow, I really want to put out a record.’ Then once you put out a record it’s like ‘Holy shit, now I really want to play some shows.’ Then you’re like, ‘Whoa, now I want to go on tour.’ Then you’re like, ‘Wait, now I get to make another record!?’ Before you know it then you’re like, ‘Holy shit, I’m in New York. I’m on tour, this is what I do as a job.’ It’s like ‘What the hell?’ I always thought I was going to be some like, I don’t know. I wanted to be a recording engineer, and I still want to do that, but I always thought I would just work at a clothing store or something like that. I’d be figuring it out for 10 years, that kind of style. So I’m really happy it turned out this way.

Yeah, definitely. Do you have any more projects coming up, or are you working on your next album?
Yeah, I got a lot of stuff going on. You know that band White Fence? They’re really, really great. Tim—it’s mainly this dude Tim Presley. Their first two records are the two best records that have come out in the past couple years. Yeah, but we’re doing a collaborative record. Like him and I are basically just writing songs and recording them together. It’s going to come out on Drag City in like maybe February or March. We’re almost done, like 75% done. Then I’m doing a record for In the Red, like an eight song record with the whole band. That’s gonna fucking rule because usually I play everything on the records, but they’re the best so I was like, ‘Dude, what the fuck? Let’s have a record with everybody on it.’ Like live in the studio, so it’s really cool we get to go record that with Chris Woodhouse who did Thee Oh Sees record and stuff. And then, I’m doing another LP with Drag City that I’m working on.

Since you’re only in town for one night, what do you when you come to New York City?
Usually, accidentally, we all get way too drunk, and then like freak out over the humidity. It’s like ‘Oh shit,’ one of those things where you’re like, ‘What the hell?’ But I have a couple of really close friends here and we usually just hang out. It’s one of those things where I don’t really get to see them unless I’m around or they come to San Francisco, so it’s not like we go do any touristy things or go bar hopping or whatever. We just buy a 12 pack and you know.

Selling out The Bowery Ballroom, that’s wild. Has that ever happened to you before in New York?

We’ve sold out places, but this is crazy. It’s huge, like we’ll play something this size in San Francisco, but that’s about it. Maybe LA, but like New York for some reason, it’s so crazy. To sell out a show in New York, it’s a feat. It’s tough here. I remember the first time people moved at our shows here.  ‘Cause they were like (crosses arms), ‘Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It’s got a lot of reverb, I like that. Pretty cool.’ But then there was like, (bobs head), this, and we were like, ‘Oh yeah look at this, I see some heads bobbing!’ And now this, so it’s cool. It’s awesome.  Holy shit. It’s pretty fucking cool.

What’s your favorite beach?
There’s a beach in Laguna Beach where I’m from called Totuava. You walk down 10th Street and go to the right and climb over some rocks. It’s this little place where my friends and I used to go all the time. It’s beautiful.
What do you get when you go to In-N-Out?
I get a grilled cheese Animal Style, well done fries, a side of peppers—you know—and extra spread. Sometimes if I’m feeling really crazy I’ll get a Neapolitan milkshake. Most of the time I stray from that, because it’s pretty gnarly. Sometimes I won’t get the fries and I’ll get two grilled cheeses, one Animal Style and one regular with extra onions. Pretty awesome.
What’s the best advice that you’ve even been given that you’d like to pass along?
‘It is better to be kind than right.’ That’s something my Dad told me.

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