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Ty Segall: “I want to give my albums time to live”

The kid from Laguna Beach returns to acoustics with an album that is calm and anguished at the same time, made in his new studio in Topanga Canyon. Meeting with a musician in tune with his troubles.

How pleasant it is to grow old at the same pace as your favorite artists. The feeling of fulfillment is total when, in the light of the release of the new album of a musician whose winding journey you have been following since its infancy, you suddenly realize that the guy has arrived at the point where you are, right on the spot. intersection of our eternal existential questions and the affirmation without blushing of our aspirations to let go of ballast. Get out, leave the city, find in the hollow of a green canyon the emotions of a childhood spent curling up in the powerful rolls of the Pacific Ocean. Stay away from the frenzy of the times. Disappear, somehow.

There’s a bit of all of that in the latest album from Ty Segall, who recently made his home in Topanga, that counterculture hotspot, home to a certain Jonathan Wilson and where good old Neil Young lived a while, the time to box a series of timeless classics. kind of response to sleepinghis folk, twilight and bereaved album (Ty had just lost his adoptive father) from 2013, his new discographic delivery sounds as much like an attempt to reconnect with the sensitive world, as an introspective dive in search of acceptance. Hello, Hitherefore, a simple title as hello, which one would say thought in response next to the plate of the Hi how are you (1983) by Daniel Johnston. Meet.

Where are you calling me from, from Topanga Canyon?
Ty Segall – No, I just went on tour, actually. I’m in Tucson, Arizona. It’s scorching hot, something like 40 degrees in the shade. And again, under the palm trees. It will still go up.

How’s the tour going so far?
I’ll tell you after playing, it’s the very first show tonight! So far, everything is going very well. (The interview was done by phone on June 14, editor’s note).

Your new album is called Hello, Hi. A simple and direct formula, which sticks rather well to the idea that we have of a predominantly acoustic record.
It’s a bit like that, I just wanted to say “hello”, you see ? A way to feel connected to people, through a formula as simple as that. Sometimes that’s enough to feel connected to others. The title comes from there, from taking into account the people around me. I wouldn’t say that’s the whole point of this album either, but it was a pleasant state of mind to exalt.

Your albums always have a concept, even if it is sometimes tenuous, even anecdotal. What would be the concept of this album?
I would say that the concept here is simple: I wanted to write songs on acoustic guitar. I just wanted to embody the feelings that went through me when I was sitting alone in a room, playing this instrument. There are no great speeches or great conceptual history, but the idea of ​​giving an account of this intimacy.

There are few acoustic songs in your catalog in recent years.
I hadn’t written one for a long time, maybe three or four years. When I got back to it, the record almost made itself.

sleeping (2013), exclusively acoustic album, marks a first break in your discography. Would you say it’s the ideal format to express some of your introspective wanderings?
Hello, Hi could be the sequel sleeping, though, each of these two records is introspective in its own way. Despite the overdubs of Hello, Hiyou find the same feeling, that of a person alone in his room, with his guitar.

You live in Topanga Canyon today, where you have your own studio, the Harmonizer Studio. Even though you released the album harmonizer (2021) last year, I understand it’s Hello, Hi that you first boxed.
Yes, this disc is both before and after the last album. Most of the songs were ready before it came out: I had recorded a handful of demos to test the studio, actually. When we boxed harmonizerthe place had just been completed.

How conducive is life in Topanga to creation?
It’s an ideal place, but so is the city. You can play this kind of acoustic stuff anywhere, as long as you have a place of your own where you can take refuge, that you can close the door and let yourself be carried away. Topanga obviously has a different vibe to the city. There’s this little center at the top, it’s ten minutes from the beach, you’re surrounded by nature. It’s hard not to let go. I love that.

You paid particular attention to the arrangements and the vocal harmonies on this record. Is it something that, over time, has become crucial for you?
It depends on the songs. On some, I went off the cuff, with somewhat wild arrangements, in a slightly more weirdo vein and less focused on the acoustic and melodic aspect. But I love working on vocal harmonies. It makes me sing better. I take any excuse to work on my voice and spend hours on it. It’s another advantage to have a studio at your disposal, it’s a real luxury not to have to spend a fortune to spend hours there. When you have to rack up, you don’t work so much on that aspect of things, you just box the lead vocals. Today, I can spend four days on a song.

Do you spend more time than before on recording your records, by the way?
It depends on the songs. Some came out straight away, others came out after four or five days. I try not to spread myself too thin either.

Time is elastic on this disc, as if it were documenting 24 hours in the life of Ty Segall, with a unity of place and time. As if we went from the living room to the kitchen over your moods, at different times of the day.
I like this interpretation, there is indeed something like that. I like when things are ambiguous, I don’t prefer to explain the details of one track or another, but yes, there is a lot of that. The time you take to wander inside yourself, like in a projection of your own house, or those moments of finding yourself alone in a room thinking about this thing deep inside you, trying to find out who you es really… I realize that I sing a lot about it, it’s a recurring theme in my songs. It’s related to what you’re talking about.

Do you feel like you’ve been looking for something, an accomplishment, since you’ve been making music?
There are songs of love on this record, others that evoke pain and sorrow and still others that question who you are, what do you do and what relationship you have with yourself. . There has to be somewhere this idea of ​​acceptance and fulfillment, whatever that might mean. I strive to accept myself and find out who and where I am. But it is a perpetual quest. (laughs)

On this disc, you resume Don’t Lie from The Mantles, a cult band from Oakland, not very well known here in France. Why did you choose this title?
I had taken up this piece because I had been offered to participate in a compilation project of covers for the magazine Stereogum. And then, I like this title. While recording it, I thought it would go very well on this album; his spirit, the theme, it matched. He gave me this sensation, this familiar and pleasant feeling, straight from the past. It reminded me of those songs I used to write a long time ago. And, at the same time, everything here is different. Familiar, but different. It did me good, through this recovery, to revisit moments of my life. And then, quite simply, it’s one of my favorite songs and I would like the Mantles to be recognized for their true value.

You say this track took you back to the songs you used to write. How has your relationship to writing evolved?
I’m too close, I don’t know. You are in a better position than me to talk about it. I just hope I get better. I try to write differently every time I pick up a guitar. I don’t like backing down.

Do you intend to take a step back today, release less records at breakneck speed?
I’m trying to get people to stop calling me a prolific guy. (laughs) Because I think it’s to the detriment of my records, which are devalued. I want to give my albums time to live.

Interview by François Moreau

Hello, Hi (Drag City/Modulor). Released July 22. Concerts on August 18 in Charleville-Mézières (The Cabaret Vert), the 20th in Saint-Malo (La Route du Rock), the 24th in Le Havre (Magic Mirrors) and the 25th in Bordeaux (Square Dom Bedos).

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