Ty Segall is a 27 year old indie rock wunderkind from San Francisco. Ty has released eight studio albums, beginning with 2008’s Ty Segall and continuing thru to 2014’s rocker Manipulator, building a solid fan base of these last seven years. In addition, he has released more than two-dozen singles and EP’s and played on as many albums by other indie bands. The man is prolific – just this week shipping a live album on vinyl appropriately titled Live in San Francisco, adding to this lengthy catalog. We caught up with him here last week, for the second of two packed, fantastic shows at the Great American Music Hall on January 30, 2015.
Ty’s influences come from rock, glam and punk heroes of the past (think T-Rex, Velvet Underground, Stooges, and the Ramones) with some garage rock, space rock (Ty lists Hawkwind as an inspiration), psychedelia, and alternative thrown in for good measure. These influences are skillfully mixed into his unique sound, ending up in a fresh new stew of melody and noise. Multiple guitar tracks bring fat power chords and ferocious solos that build to intense crescendos along with shimmering symbols and melodic bass. Ty’s vocals are clear and strong, sometimes treated, and recalling a young Marc Bolan. Ty even titled two of his EP’s Ty Rex.
Over time, Ty’s work has become more refined. The latest studio release Manipulator, is a watermark album, brimming with ideas. Check out tracks like “Feel” (arguably his best to date) or “Tall Man and Skinny Lady” or bass riff driven “Mister Main” as examples. The work is accomplished, and while still muscular, has started to lean away from his more punk roots – a journey common to many before him, and one that often results in very interesting developments, which is the case here. It’s one of our favorite records of 2014.
Ty made a triumphant return to the stage in his original hometown of San Francisco having just completed a fairly extensive tour of the UK and Europe last fall. We arrived at the venue with great expectations. From the first note it was clear that Ty’s punk roots remain strong. Hard core fans populated a mosh pit up front, slowing to rapt attention only during some of the new numbers, and building to a fever on the rest. The performance was energetic and unrelenting, as Ty, dressed in workman’s jump suit attacked both guitar and vocal leads with aplomb, recalling an early, angular Pete Townsend, though channeling less anger, more excitement (he is from California after all). With nary a break, he led a three piece backing band through a blistering set culled from his packed catalog, including opener “Wave Goodbye”, “Finger”, “Girlfriend”, “and mid-set placement of “Feel.” Herein lies a key takeaway – Ty’s work is maturing – as his new compositions favor groove over grind, his audience will grow and change as well. Despite a mid-set trio of tracks from Manipulator, on this night his focus was on the grind. No acoustic guitars or keys, though one can see that coming, as Ty expands his palette. Instead we were treated to the best of his white hot rockers feeling as though we caught this young artist at a perfect moment, as he steps onto a larger, global stage.