Sound & Vision: Ty Segall Rings Bells at Treefort Music Fest 2024

Features, Sound and Vision
Martin Douglas
Photo by Eric Tra

This piece originally aired on KEXP's Sound & Vision on April 27, 2024. You can listen to the segment on the player above or read a transcript of the interview below.

EMILY FOX (HOST OF SOUND & VISION): This is Sound and Vision on KEXP, broadcasting from 90. 3 FM in Seattle, 92. 7 in the Bay Area. The prolific California indie rocker Ty Segall recently released his 15th solo album. It's called Three Bells. KEXP's Martin Douglas caught up with Segall at the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, Idaho last month.

They spoke about the sprawling new album and how Segall strives to balance domestic life with his music, even as his albums get weirder and more immersive. 

Ty Segall (and his band) at Treefort Music Fest // Photo by Jessica Ferguson


[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Watcher”]

MARTIN DOUGLAS: On a chilly Thursday night in Boise, Idaho's Julia Davis Park, Ty Segall and his band, figuratively, burned down the main stage at Treefort Music Fest. Just after nightfall, the Southern California rocker took the stage in a black hooded sweatshirt bearing the logo of the San Jose Sharks, a little nod to the time he spent in San Francisco. 

After all, it's the city where he attended college and cut his teeth in the now legendary garage punk scene of the late 2000s.  For the following 80 minutes, Segall and his touring group ripped through a set that almost mirrored his excellent recent album, Three Bells.  The performance presented its songs more or less in the order they appear on the full length, with a couple older favorites bookending the concert. 

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Reflections”]

Taking in a dense, sprawling album like Three Bells could definitely feel like a big request for a festival audience, especially since Idaho state law isn't the most lenient on cannabis and psychedelic drug possession. Ty Segall's latest album is a trip, to say the very least. Few times since the original release of Alice in Wonderland has following someone down a rabbit hole been so refreshingly weird.

In its hour-long running time, Three Bells runs through an array of styles. We're talking prog rock...

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Void”] 

white boy funk...

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Hi Dee Dee”] 

sparkling balladry devolving into a little Black Sabbath-esque proto-metal...

 [MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Wait”]

and in perhaps his greatest trick on the album, jazz fusion. 

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Denée”]

At 15 songs clocking in at an hour and five minutes, Three Bells takes up two vinyl records worth of music. It's one of the longest projects Segall has recorded. In an interview we did before his second set at Treefort Fest. He told me he seriously considered making the album even longer. His process for potentially making Three Bells a triple record came naturally, but he ultimately decided against it. 

TY SEGALL: I kind of like to make too much in general and then cut it down. I think that's a good method. Because if you only write 10 songs, then you gotta use all 10 songs. So usually for an album, I'll kind of have four or five more that I cut. But for this one, I cut like 10, 12; not all of them were finished, but it was pretty obvious to me, maybe 75 percent into the process, that it wasn't supposed to be a triple.

I mean, that's... talk about an ask. That's like a big ask. Triple record? I mean...  

DOUGLAS: And like many artists who pride themselves on the standard of quality, Segall's process is intuitive. He pays attention to the material and allows his songs to guide the direction of a project. I've been told by many great artists that they don't steer the projects, the projects steer them. Three Bells was no different for Segall. 

SEGALL: I mean, in general, the projects usually dictates the parameters, you know? So with Three Bells, the record was pretty much telling me like, "This is done. You should, you should stop." But you gotta listen to, you know, where the record's taking you. So you can have an idea and, you know, like an aesthetic intention or a musical place you want to get to, but then if it's not going there and it's going slightly somewhere else, you've got to go there instead. 

Photo by Amanda Morgan


[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “The Bell”]

DOUGLAS: Although Three Bells casts over a wide landscape of musical styles, it doesn't sound disjointed at all. The songs feel natural alongside each other. The album is much different than the albums that have immediately preceded it. Like 2022's almost entirely acoustic Hello Hi.

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Saturday Pt. 2”]

Or the previous year's Harmonizer, made entirely with synthesizers and no guitars to speak of. 

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Whisper”]

As an artist, Ty wouldn't have it any other way. 

SEGALL: I love that so much, the idea that each record is its own world, and it should be. And maybe to a fault, I don't know. I do that because I think that one kind of criticism I've received is that I should chase down maybe the thing that's working. And instead, I just go the opposite direction. Which is very rewarding for me, but it might be frustrating for people who like my music, but I can't help it.

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “My Best Friend”]

DOUGLAS: Segall has made a fine living veering off course when people expect him to stay on a certain path. After all, Three Bells is his fifteenth solo album since 2008. This doesn't include his other bands like FUZZ...

[MUSIC CUE: FUZZ - “Spit”]

or GØGGS...


 …nor album-length collaborations like his albums with Tim Presley, aka White Fence.

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall & White Fence - “Good Boy”]

Segall's work ethic has turned into an adjective that you'll find in the first paragraph of every review and feature you will read on him until the end of time. Sometimes the first sentence. That adjective? Prolific. I asked Segall if he felt being described as prolific is a cliche nowadays. 

SEGALL: It is a little ridiculous, to me, to call someone who puts out one album a year super prolific. I feel like that is actually not prolific. Especially if you look back at the 60s and 70s, you know. I always say this, but, you know, the Beatles would put out two or three albums a year. Same with the Stones. Same with whoever, you know. And that's what the labels were demanding. That was normal. For me, if I don't put out one record a year, then all of a sudden I have four I'm sitting on, then all of a sudden I gotta put out three in a year, and then it's like, how'd that happen? Do you know what I mean? But no, it's like any craft, you have to, you know, stay in shape. You gotta do it. It's all about... what's that rule? Like 10,000 hours or something, you know, it's like that. 

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Void”]

DOUGLAS: Ty Segall is an artist who follows his own whims and follows them incredibly often. This mentality is ingrained in Segall's approach because, as the saying goes, you can take the kid out of the punk house, but you can't take the punk house out of the kid. 

SEGALL: I put the bondage belt away a long time ago.  You know, I still got the bondage bracelet though. I bring out every once in a while and the studded bracelet, you know. 

DOUGLAS: All jokes aside, Segall views punk as a spirit, an ethos, a mentality; not as an aesthetic or a lifestyle. When he was in the beginning stages of his solo career, he was part of a garage punk scene in San Francisco where nearly everyone made their own recordings and booked their own tours.

SEGALL: That was very much like, do-it-yourself, book the tour, go. There's no goals here. You're not trying to get signed. You're not trying to do this or that. And that, I think is a very amazing place to start. So I've always kind of had that hovering in the back of my mind. You know, there's been no, like, "We're trying to get famous." It's like not even a... I find that gross. 

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Denée”]

DOUGLAS: Another way Segall chases his inspiration is through his wife and close collaborator, Denée Segall. She's appeared on a number of Ty Segall songs over the years as a vocalist on his albums and through their band together called the C.I.A. 

[MUSIC CUE: The C.I.A. - “Bubble”]

SEGALL: She's my partner in life. She inspires me by just being her.  She's just a wonderful person. 

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Eggman”]

Collaborating with her  various musical things across the years. We've always done harsher, weirder stuff. But. But lyrically, as soon as I kind of started collaborating with her lyrically, I feel like we found a really specific way to collaborate where our two kind of lyrical voices, she's a more direct and kind of storytelling lyricist and I'm a more abstract kind of... less direct lyricist.

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “Move”]

SEGALL: So that collaboration is really, really great. And, um, also I trust her taste. I don't even necessarily trust my taste anymore, but her's... 

[MUSIC CUE: Ty Segall - “I Hear”]

DOUGLAS: Even as Ty Segall settles into domestic life with his wife, Their child, their dogs, and his fancy home studio. He just released his weirdest, most immersive record in quite a few years. He's described himself as a "regular guy" in interviews, even if he simultaneously happens to be the poster model for an entire generation of weird punk rockers toiling away in their garage. How does he reconcile those two sides of himself?

SEGALL: For me, I definitely am the kind of person that needs to like, for instance, like explore a harsh thing in order to enjoy a beautiful thing. Musically, that's always been kind of the case where it's like, I have to get loud and express something in that realm of loudness and, you know, um, volume and, and, you know, feedback and noise in order to write a pretty song. And I think that's kind of... in my life, it is a constant, I notice a lot of these dual scenarios where I have to wail on the drums and play some shows in order to relax. I am very much a Gemini in that, in that sense, you know. I do think there's very much two sides of my personality and mind. But honestly, the older I get, the more I just want to relax and chill. Be mellow. You know what I mean? 

Ty Segall and his band are on tour now. They play Harlow's in Sacramento, Calif. on May 11, 2024 and Carnation, Wash. for the Timber! Outdoor Music Festival on July 27, 2024.

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