In-depth: So You Think You Know… Ty Segall

So You Think You Know… Ty Segall

Does this man ever sleep?! On the evidence of his millions of side projects, nope.

Whether he’s announcing his latest album by mailing out copies on VHS tape, releasing an EP pressed on a ‘playable pair of 3D glasses’, or lending his guitar and vocal proficiency as backing to The Kinks’ Dave Davies, Ty Segall is easily one of the most productive artists around. Never one to stick to convention, the artist has been performing and releasing music for over a decade – and there’s an incredible amount to show for it.

“Ty Segall doesn’t actually exist,” the musician once admitted in an interview with SYFFAL. “He is a collective of people wearing masks.” Given that the guy has eight solo albums, who knows how many EPs, and a seemingly endless series of bands, collaborations, and side projects that doesn’t stop bloody growing, that statement would explain an awful lot.

When he’s not recording solo material or working with his much-celebrated band Fuzz, Ty has a seeming inability to sit still. As such, diving into his back catalogue is a bit like entering a maze: there are countless directions to take, and all manner of tangents to veer off in; not to mention a very strong chance of running in circles. But with a musical history richer and more condensed than arguably any other artist of his standing, the challenge is its own reward.

Since ‘Emotional Mugger’ came out very recently indeed, we elected to do the diving for you. Sure, by the time we reach the end of this feature, chances are that Ty Segall could have a new band in the studio, another on tour, and a new solo record being saved to floppy disk, but until any of those are confirmed, there’s a wealth of old material to gently wade through, as we take a look back on Ty Segall’s non-stop history through garage rock n’ roll.

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The Epsilons

Taking up drums at the age of thirteen, and getting his first guitar at fifteen, Ty Segall formed his first band with then high school friend – and now long time collaborator – Mikal Cronin. Calling themselves The Love This, the outfit consisted of Ty on drums, Mikal on saxophone, and another friend switching between bass guitar and synth. The group were short-lived. However it wasn’t long before both Ty and Mikal continued to greener pastures.

Forming The Epsilons together, Ty exchanged drums for guitar and took up vocals, cementing himself in the role of the ever-charismatic frontman. The Epsilons’ grunge punk sound was what first brought Ty (and, indeed, the rest of the band, who went on to form Charlie & The Moonhearts, now called Moonhearts) to the attention of the public. The band put out two albums together: a self-titled debut, and follow-up ‘Killed ‘Em Deader ‘N a Six Card Poker Hand’. With a music video parodying ‘Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County’ – a reality TV show filmed in their hometown – the group demonstrated Ty Segall’s format-trashing tendencies from an early age.

Marking the first time Ty and Mikal would release music together, The Epsilons formed the basis for a lifelong creative connection that continues to be fruitful to this day.

The Traditional Fools

Never content with just one outlet, Ty joined The Traditional Fools whilst still playing in The Epsilons. Combining surf aesthetics and a punk mentality with an effortless sense of humour, the trio released one album in their time together. Featuring sunglasses-clad cheeseburgers as the artwork, their self-titled debut is raw and laced with enthusiasm, racing with a reckless abandon from start to end. Boasting a good-time temperament, The Traditional Fools show Ty Segall at his most footloose and fancy-free.

It was while in this band that Ty first decided to venture into being a solo artist. Stepping in to play an acoustic set when the rest of the band couldn’t make a show, he experimented with the equipment around him, and gave his first performance as a one man band. Discovering he could bring songs to the stage without a group behind him, he set about working on his first solo record.

Party Fowl

Taking on board a lot of post-hardcore conventions (with gothic font and screaming greyscale artwork practically yelling misunderstood angst), Party Fowl were all about the racket and ensuing riot. Once again showcasing the creative dynamism of Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, the outfit were celebrated for putting on the kind of shows that got the whole audience yelled out the room for the volume and the chaos that followed.

Presenting a more aggressive take on garage rock, Party Fowl were as livid as they were loud. Featuring Ty on drums, the group’s rapid-fire hardcore sound relied on the musician’s dexterity behind the kit. Thrashy and energetic, the band worked on two 7” releases of short, sharp sounds and explosive distortion together before turning their talents to different projects.

The Perverts

This probably isn’t a band we’d recommend searching on Google without caution. The Perverts put out a single single six-song EP, and the name hasn’t been heard from since. Born out of collaboration between Ty Segall and members of his backing band, the trio decided to record and release as a new outfit, keeping the music rooted in its own creativity. Harsher, faster, rawer, and rowdier than anything they’d previously worked on under Ty’s solo moniker, the EP marks itself out amongst the most visceral material the artist has put out to date.

While the three members of this band continued to play together, they never performed as The Perverts again; making this EP the sole chapter of their existence. “This 7” is loud as fuck, will melt your face off and do a line of blow off your skull,” Captcha Records say of the band’s stand-alone EP, “prepare to die.” Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

Sic Alps

The long-running project of Mike Donovan and a steadily rotating band of musicians, Sic Alps are prolific in their own right. Releasing five albums, the outfit built up substantial success over the near-decade they were active. With members linked to Thee Oh Sees amongst other bands (whose frontman, John Dwyer, released Ty’s debut solo album), Sic Alps were kicking about with a whole collective of acts that sat in the heart of the San Francisco music scene.

Ty Segall performed with the group for a stint in 2009, before returning to play drums in 2011. His creative commitment to Sic Alps may have been part-time, but performing as a two-piece for a short while, his influence was clearly felt. So much so, in fact, that when Mike Donovan set about creating with solo project Peacers, he got Ty on board to co-produce and co-perform.

‘Reverse Shark Attack’

After playing alongside each other in more bands than we’d want to try count, and following working together on a number of joint singles and covers, Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin finally put their names to a joint album. Having known, written, and performed alongside each other for years, the pair are natural collaborators – it shows. Their turmoil-tinged slant on garage psych is equal parts aptitude and sheer anarchy, and the duo control it like it’s their second nature.

Drawing on everything from the riotous energy of Party Fowl through to the surf-tinged refrains that flooded The Traditional Fools’ releases, their singles run with an unmistakable punk-centred drive, while their album sees the pair push their capabilities to the limit, before twisting and distorting, hammering their sound home.

‘Hair’

Another collaborative album, ‘Hair’ saw Ty team up with White Fence mastermind Tim Presley. Originally intended to be a split record, with each artist contributing half the tracks, it quickly blossomed into full-blown collaboration, with the artists performing on each other’s compositions before composing material together. Recorded over six scattered days, ‘Hair’ combines Ty’s distinctively overdriven garage distortion with Tim’s innate 60’s aesthetic.

It’s raw, immediate, and entirely exhilarated, inspired by everything from the swirling psychedelia of fifty years ago to the grunge-tinged bands that surrounded them at the time. Drifting from folk to skuzzed up guitars and back again, the duo play against each other, forcing their opposing strengths to take hold in an ever-evolving whirlwind of dynamics.

Whilst this is the only album the pair have written together, Ty recorded and featured on White Denim’s fifth album ‘For The Recently Found Innocent’.

Ty-Rex

Donning a glittery jacket, a feather boa, and a set of pointed boots (yes, really), Ty Segall paid homage to musical icon Mark Bolan in the best way he could: with two EPs of T-Rex covers under the name Ty Rex. Outfits aside (because let’s face it, who doesn’t want to look like Mark Bolan?), Ty never once falls into the lure of impressionism. Instead, he takes the already great material, and presents it in his own style. Whether he’s playing the most anthemic hit singles, or tackling the reserved early material, these songs aren’t rewritten, just re-presented. Now reissued as a full-length album, these covers are widely celebrated as a defining benchmark of Ty’s capabilities.

The Togas

Just one of many supergroups Ty Segall has formed over the years, The Togas are a rock n’ roll tribute band with the nifty gimmick of playing shows – yep, you guessed it – dressed in togas. Featuring Ty, Shannon Shaw (Shannon & the Clams), Philip Sambol (The Strange Boys), and Lance Wille (Reigning Sound), the quartet formed to perform on garage rock holiday festival ‘The Bruise Cruise’.

Born to perform, the outfit never recorded any material, though a few videos of live shows can be found online. Leading their crowds in “toga!” chants between songs, the group stirred up their audiences with a series of awe-inspiring 50s throwbacks, 60s classics, and punk smash hits. Taking on so many classics should seem like a risk, but watching a bedsheet-draped Ty Segall dive into the crowd, the band give the impression that they’re capable of just about anything.

Broken Bat / GØGGS

Who ever really wants a holiday? 2015 saw Ty Segall form not one, but two supergroups. The first, Broken Bat, featured Steven McDonald (Redd Kross, OFF!), and Dale Crover (Melvins). Uploading a fifty-three second “taste edit” entitled ‘Take My Medicine’ to bandcamp, the outfit whipped up a frenzy of excitement with their aggressively skuzzy sound, before vanishing offline.

In their place emerged GØGGS. After deciding to collaborate when Chris Shaw’s band Ex-Cult supported Ty Segall on tour, the pair recruited Fuzz bandmate Charles Moothart and got to work on a debut single. “This is not a side-project, it is a necessity,” Chris wrote in the band’s introductory statement. “GØGGS is three heads, one spine, circling the drain of the wasteland known as mother earth.” This image, though vivid, perfectly indicates the savagely raw nature of the band’s sound.

With a GØGGS album supposedly to see release this year (featuring Mikal Cronin, Cory Hanson of Wand, and Denee Petracek of Vial), Ty Segall is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. Tiring though he can be to keep up with, there’s a definite sense of reassurement in his constant creativity, and we can’t wait to see what concept he comes through with next.

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