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Talking the Grateful Dead and the Smell with Ty Segall

Talking the Grateful Dead and the Smell with Ty Segall
Photograph: Courtesy Kyle Thomas

Ty Segall’s new self-titled album takes a sweet and unexpected turn in its closing third: After a string of songs defined by chaotic guitar licks and wavering wails, the 29-year-old musician concludes with a set of acoustic numbers. “Orange Color Queen,” a standout ode to his girlfriend, might come as a surprise, but, “who would want to live in a world where you can’t write a love song, right?” says Segall. “Take me out right now if that’s the way it’s going to be.”

The acoustic and amplified contrast doesn’t phase the self-described desert man, who paradoxically considers himself a good rainy-day songwriter.

“I’m not really a person who feels like there are any strong rules in rock & roll anymore,” he says.

But he does chalk up the charged feel of Ty Segall (not to be confused with his first album, also titled Ty Segall) to the experience of recording live with his band—a changeup from the thick haze of overdubs on his typical solo efforts.

 

 

Both styles find a comfortable home on Segall’s latest album. Since his 2008 debut, the garage rocker has released an astounding 16 records, both under his own name and through collaborations like GØGGS and Fuzz.

“A rule for this band [which featured on the record] was to just be free,” says Segall.

That’s translated into an album that owes as much to T. Rex glam ballads as it does to extended Grateful Dead jams. (When he was recording the extended jam “Warm Hands,” Segall says he wanted to “get Dead on [that] shit.”) It also means crafting a live show that makes room for acoustic interludes and fuzzy freak-outs, something the O.C. native has previously kept to separate performances. Regardless of the sound, both sides of Segall’s contrasting repertoire work toward the same end.

“When I was a kid going to rock & roll shows, punk shows, I’d feel a physical change in my body,” he says. “I remember that feeling. That’s my goal: to create a physical change.”

 

 

Segall grew up playing in underground Laguna Beach bands before striking psychedelic success in San Francisco. But he found himself back in L.A. a couple of years ago, returning to his musical origins.

“I grew up going to punk shows, the Smell and that scene. It was like going to church. It was very important to everyone there,” says Segall. “And that was a cool thing to realize was my church. I still believe in that stuff. I don’t necessarily think I’m the guy that can lead the congregation. But I can still try to have those feelings at our shows.”

Ty Segall plays Teragram Ballroom February 2 through 4 and the Hi Hat on January 28. Ty Segall, his latest self-titled release, comes out January 27.

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