Ty Segall’s Sleeper Is a Dream-like Meditation on Loss

Ty Segall promises that his latest LP Sleeper will be his only solo release this year. That might be a strange statement for most artists, but most artists aren’t as prolific as Segall, who has released several solo records nearly ever year since he began releasing albums. His latest is a dream-like meditation on loss, with the Southern California songwriter grappling with both the death of his father and the estrangement of his mother with songs awash in acoustic guitars and heartache. For the latest edition of Tell Me About That Album, we chatted with Segall about the record and the resurgence of cassettes as a listening format. Segall plays Neumos this Saturday (9/7).

Being so prolific, when you’re writing do you generally sit down to write for a specific project or do you just write and figure it out later? Usually I just write and figure it out later unless I’m in the middle of a record and just know where I want to go or have a hole I want to fill. Halfway through a record I’ll start sequencing and decide, “Oh, I need another one of these kind of songs.” It just depends on where you are in the process.

The album is called Sleeper and has a dreamy, sleepy tone. Was that the plan all along? No, I didn’t have any idea. It was a different experience because everything that I was writing was that vibe and then when it was done I didn’t write any music for like three or four months, which is kind of long time for me.

You had a tough year with the death of your father and a falling out with your mom; it may make for a good record, but does it make for a difficult tour or press blitz as you submerge yourself in all this stuff? These were the songs that came out when I was dealing with some hard stuff. There wasn’t any thought behind it. I don’t talk about this stuff that much with anyone besides my super-close friends, so it is a weird thing to talk about, but it’s what came out and I felt like I should put it out there because it felt honest.

Are you reminded of all those things as you’re up there singing the songs from this record? That side of things is never a negative for me. You can take with you parts of songs that are negative or sad but I’ve always chosen to not take those with me onto the stage because it makes the show a different kind of show that’s not as enjoyable. I don’t have a problem playing these songs live.

The album is being released on cassette in addition to vinyl, CD and digitally. How do you feel about the resurgence of cassettes? I have a tape deck in my car and if you only want to spend five bucks on an LP of new music and you want to jam it in your car it’s pretty rad. I dub all my LPs onto tape when I want to listen to them in my car anyway. For me, the mixtape has always been the number one way to listen to music in your car. I’m super-stoked on it.

Do you not do digital music? It’s interesting that you dub your LPs to cassette rather than ripping them to your phone or iPod. I started buying records as a kid when I was 13 or 14 and it started off just being because they were so cheap. I could get a record for like a buck. Back in like 1999, no one liked records at that point. I think that was maybe the lowest point of the vinyl market.

What were you buying then? I was just getting into classic rock stuff like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath and Cream.

Were you equally interested in that era’s contemporary music? When I was 12 or 13 I was more interested in older stuff. Then at 14 there was that whole dance-punk thing happening, like the Rapture and GSL label stuff. I kind of got into no-wave punk stuff and then the older I got the more into older music I got. I was into pretty modern, weird music when I was 15.

You’ve said you have no connection to contemporary music these days but I can’t imagine that’s true across the board, that there aren’t any current rock bands you’re into. I really like No Age, I dig what they do. To be honest, what my friends do I’m really stoked on.

But you don’t seek out a lot of new music? I seek out new bands but I’m not scavenging the Internet for new records. If someone’s like, “Dude, you would like this,” I’ll check it out.

Have you seen Woody Allen’s 1972 film, Sleeper ? I have seen parts of it. I need to watch it. I really like the costumes.

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