Instantly infectious is the way to describe listening to Hair for the first time. The synergy is apparent between White Fence and Ty Segall on their full-length album released on Drag City Records this week. Give it a few more spins, and much like hair, it’ll grow on you, but like a shaggy, unkempt mane. Here, LA- and San Francisco-born musical chops combine for a multi-layered, psych-soaked and even at times—crunchy sound collage.
Tim Presley (White Fence's mastermind) explains how two kindred spirits’ melded under one roof at SF’s Bauer Mansion and knocked out this solid collaborative effort in roughly six days.
Was there something musically you kept referring to during the recording process? Anything you’d been obsessing over?
The best part about recording this was that we didn't need to speak or talk about anything. We both knew exactly what we wanted to hear. We shared the same brain. We have the same blood type. Also, it helped that Eric Bauer engineered it so well, and his studio was so comfortable and perfect sounding.
You and Ty are both vocalists on this right? If so, your voices are freakishly similar. How were singing duties split up? Whoever wrote it, sings?
Yes, whoever wrote the song or whoever had the lyric or melody first. But there was no ego trippin’ with that. We both sing on the songs we wrote together. I'm pretty sure in "Time" we are hard-panned–me in one speaker and Ty in the other. I think we both understand that if you write the song, you should probably try and sing it. Your feelings went into writing that, so the conviction and emotion will come out very real. I would feel weird having someone else sing "I'm Not a Game" because they weren't there. They would have no idea the feelings that went into the lyrics or the intensity.
“The Black Glove/ Rag” (a song you wrote) has the distinction of being the one that sticks in my head after a few listens. There’s power in the simplicity of the two repeated lines, “As frequent as the rain” followed by “And enjoy everything.” Where did this song come from?
I actually had a recorded version I did at home that had more layers, over-dubs, and harmonies. But because of the sounds and tones Eric Bauer and Ty got, we felt it was cool without all that. I can go a bit crazy adding tons of other elements to my music while recording at home. Sometimes I forget it can be just as good or effective simplified. It’s about dealing with life issues as a young adult versus dealing with them 10 years later. There will always be troubled teens, but if only their older selves could tell them that some of those issues are superficial or that most of those worries or problems don't really matter as time goes on. I try to remember how I dealt with problems as a teenager and how I deal now.
How do you go about songwriting? Is there a ritual? Deadlines or a backlog of ideas? What was your first song?
It's just a spark of inspiration. You either get it served to you or you don't. You can’t force feed or else you'll choke. I have many songs where I’ve forced the inspiration and I get embarrassed to hear them. Almost like getting caught in a lie. I don't really remember the first song I wrote, but I do know it was in Spanish.
Ty’s prolific nature is often noted as he’s well-received. How did this collaboration come about? Did you feel pressure? Was it competitive? Any one-upmanship?
First of all I'm not 14, so I don't get star-struck. If any of those things you mentioned entered the equation, we probably wouldn't have done this. He approached me with the idea. He was into the White Fence records and he asked if I’d want to do a split with him. I said okay.
We write and record very similarly. It's fast and honest, almost like if we don’t record it now, it will be lost forever. That’s why I enjoyed it so much; it was like having an extension of myself, another brain. Sounds narcissistic, but it’s good for production. There was no competition at all. I think we brought out things in each other that we don't usually do alone. To be honest, I wasn't aware of his "well -received-ness". I don't follow blogs much. I wouldn't know where to start. I think my cat has a blog. I knew he was a rock dude and I had seen his old band and I heard his new music and liked it. I liked his spirit.
You can see Ty Segall and White Fence live with Shannon and the Clams and The Mallard for the nice price of 10 bux. Maybe a cat will blog about it!
At the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF, Wednesday, 5/2, 8 pm. $10