Lose yourself

Pub date September 10, 2008
WriterJen Snyder
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Every big city hosts its fair share of great bands that attract crowds with centrifugal force. While other performers flyer mercilessly only to play to the opening act and bartenders, some draw a crowd only money can buy. But money seems to have little to do with it — some acts are just really fucking good.

I sat down with Ty Segall in the Lower Haight last month to find out what he was putting in the water. "If I put out a hundred records in my life, I’ll die happy," Segall said after a good, hearty spiel praising Billy Childish.

Segall sets the scene physically. Onstage, the 21-year-old can be sighted in tight jeans and a striped T-shirt, crouched over a guitar in front of a bass drum with a tambourine duct-taped haphazardly to the front. The reverb is turned up so high you can hardly tell where the lyrics end and guitar begins. Then imagine it sounding great — almost like you’re listening to an old record. Every pause between songs is heavy with echo and the hiss of amplifiers. Suddenly you realize that punk’s not dead — we just weren’t doing it right.

"It’s all about the sound … the old, live rock thing," he explained. "Childish is famous for saying you don’t need more than a day to record something. That’s how I feel recording should be done. Quick, on the fly, fast — real."

The new sound is the old sound. In a media-saturated culture where you can listen to anything from GG Allin to the Shangri-las without having to have a cool older brother, the only place to turn is your roots.

"For me, there’s nothing better than oldies stations," Segall said. "All the girl groups and Buddy Holly — it’s real rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not even the song. It’s how it sounds. It’s got soul. The style of recording, the real, live sound, and the real feeling it portrays. You can feel the live, on-the-fly mentality."

Ask Segall about his influences, however, and you’ll get a lot more than Childish. You’ll get an array of genres and styles: surf music, glam, the Stooges, and local bands. Segall has basically jumped into a dream.

"I’m the luckiest person in the world," he said, referring to his upcoming US tour with indie greats Thee Oh Sees and the Sic Alps. "I’m touring with two of my favorite bands in the city. This is as far as I ever wanted to take this project, and I’m already there." And the man has gone even further: Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer is releasing Segall’s new self-titled album on his Castle Face imprint, though at this point he has released only one other recording — by his own band — on the label.

But then everyone gets carried away and forgets him or herself when they see Segall live. In fact, you almost forget to dance. His songs are so spot-on and inspired that you lose your focus on the surroundings. Instead you glue your eyes to his performance the same way you fix on a TV set when you’re hungover. People already consider Segall’s SoCal-ish lo-fi ballad "The Drag" a classic, and I have the hypnotic, Syd Barrett–inspired "Who Are You?" on every playlist on my iPod.

I mean, I don’t want to get all afterschool-special about it, but if you want to see something new and don’t want to waste an entire night, catch Segall the next chance you get. And you know what? If Segall puts out a hundred records in his life, I’ll die happy too.


With Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps

Thurs/11, call for time and price

Eagle Tavern

398 12th St., SF

(415) 626-0880

Also with Master/Slave and Girls

Fri/12, 9:30 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF